Friday, July 27, 2012

Psychologists, Ethics and Torture

Below is a live tweet record by @BrandonHamber of the panel discussion at the International Congress of Psychology 2012 in Cape Town.

The panel began with the screening of Doctors of the Dark Side followed by a discussion on the ethical issues facing psychologists given the controversy about psychologists involved in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, and the American Psychological Association (APA) stance on the issue.

On the panel Leslie London (South Africa), Stephen Behnke (APA Ethics), Paul Kimmel (USA), Mike Wessells (APA), Chair: Umesh Bawa (South Africa) and moderator Norman Duncan (South Africa)

@BrandonHamber Tweet Record 27 July 2012

Just watched Doctors of the Dark Side. Films about role of physicians and psychologists in detainee torture #icp2102

There is now a panel discussion on the issue of torture and psychologists role in allowing it to happen #icp2012

Leslie London speaking first from South Africa #icp2012

London notes the failure of accountability is striking for psychologists who oversaw torture in Guantanamo Bay #icp2012

Failure to hold health professionals accountable will result in abuses in the future says London #icp2012

London says at least 29 doctors reported for involvement in apartheid, only one ever investigate #icp2012

Cannot have ethics without human rights says Leslie London #icp2012

Stephen Behnke adresses accountability from APA perspective. Says we cannot do anything about non APA members #icp2012

Stephen Behnke is the Director, APA Ethics Office #icp2012

Behnke says organisations have a responsibility to offer support to psychologists in these difficult positions #icp2012

APA made a list in 2007 of practices that are forbidden including water boarding. APA took to long to do that says Behnke #icp2012

When to know when to pull out of a situation or not is a difficult issue says Behnke #icp2012

Behnke uses the death penalty as an example. It is legal in US, APA has intervened to prevent it in some cases #icp2012

But it is difficult to know if we should pull out entirely or if we should have intervened in some cases says Behnke #icp2012

Discussion very polite so far, does not capture the massive tensions in the APA there have been over the years on this issue #ico2012

Mike Wessells former Director of Psychologists for Social Responsibility now talking #icp2012

Wessells says we need to think systemically because torture is an issue that is still not over, there are systemic pressures #icp2012

After 9/11 in US a distortion of issues and psychologists were not immune from the images and manipulation of Bush administration #icp2012

George Bush distorted the nature of law about torture #icp2012

No laws should throw out human rights says Wessells. Human rights standards have to be above national law #icp2012

Wessells says we need support for whistleblowers and accountability #icp2012

Torture does not happen because of bad apples, systemic and enabling factors need to be addressed says Wessells #icp2012

A coalition of all psychology associations is needed that rises above our own membership and offer moral guidance says Wessells #icp2012

It was unethical for psychologists to be at Guatanamo Bay because it was decreed beyond international standards says Wessells #icp2012

Floor getting heated, someone saying that surely we should have just been out of this altogether #icp2012

Another person from the floor asks if the APA should apologise for any of its actions #icp2012

Nora Soveass from UN Committee of Prevention of Torture raises the issue that convention also talks about prevention #icp2012

If there are no rights in an area, like the ICR not being allowed into a place, we should no be there says Sveaass #icp2012

Behnke now speaking. Says he agrees with Sveaass. There are no exceptional circumstances #icp2012

Behnke says the Bush memos on torture were horrific #icp2012

Behnke says APA was too slow, we took too long. But as we move forward, never again will US psychologist be involved in this #icp2012

Wessells on again says Sveaass reminds us that the specificity of what was happening in Guantanamo was known #icp2012

We need to do an honest retrospective and admit that big mistakes were made, we need a broader vision and not tinkering #icp2012

Another question what is being done to prevent this from happening again #icp2012

Behnke: APA is clear. No torture or involvement in this, and clear psychologists have to report torture if they're aware of issues #icp2012

Behnke says he agrees with Wessells we need to think systemically #icp2012

But Behnke says APA has not agreed about the issue of where we should be or not be, that is more controversial in the organisation #icp2012

Leslie London says international human rights law is our benchmark, without that we end up asking how much torture is torture #icp2012

Wessells says as long as we use language like do what is safe and legal its a problem, we need ethics that transcends national law #icp2102

Paul Kimmel ends and says we don't need lawyers but we need to be humanists, and go back to that to prevent torture #icp2012

Umesh Bawa, Chair from South Africa says we must remember we have said never again after Nuremberg and there was Rwanda etc. #icp2012

Bawa notes that there is continuing torture around the globe and calls for us to remember that as it is going on #icp2012

Bawa says we have to commit ourselves to defending human rights in all situations #icp2012

Panel ends. Will it make a difference? I don't know? Better we have it, but so much to be done and is the system as Wessells notes #icp2012

And here is a photo of the panel for good measure #icp2012

Here is a piece "The Ghost of Jeffrey Benzein Lives On" that I wrote about torture and professionals a while back, read here.

The discussion on APA and torture still bouncing in my head #icp2012

The more I think about it the more ridiculous the notion of lists of acceptable and unacceptable practices seem to me #icp2012

The fact 'torture' lists are needed suggests a moral and ethical vacuum at the core of the APA and training of psychologists #icp2012

Mike Wessells is correct there is a systematic problem in the profession and wider society #icp2012

Other resources:

Psychologists for Social Responsibility Documents on Torture

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

10-Year "Psychology, Torture, and the APA" Timeline

Timeline of APA Policies and Actions

Torture at Abu Ghraib

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Presentations: International Congress of Psychology

I have now finished my presentations at the 30th International Congress of Psychology (22-27 July 2012) in Cape Town. On Monday 23 July 2012, I hosted a symposium at 11am, entitled "From the individual to the collective: Exploring social transformation through psychosocial Interventions". This symposium reported on the findings of Trauma, Peacebuilding and Development project with various authors of the case studies speaking. I will also presented, with with Dr Elizabeth Gallagher our research on "Youth, masculinity, the past, and conceptualisations of trauma in post-conflict Northern Ireland". We hope to have a book about the project out next year.

Yesterday, the 24th I was part of a symposium focusing on the issue of reparations after violent conflict entitled "Surviving gross human rights violations - exploring survivors' experience of justice and reparation". My paper was entitled "Healing political wounds: The role of macro interventions in assisting victims of political violence".

An audio clip of my introduction is available here: Audio Clip (3 Minute Introduction)

The main points, as tweeted were:

  • At ICP 2012 presenting paper “Healing the Wounds: The role of macro interventions in assisting victims of political violence”
  • The impact of political violence is not the same everywhere but practitioners argue it is with concepts like PTSD
  • This can remove context and fail to take account of the historical and individual meaning associated with political violence
  • If we don't recognise context in addressing political violence we can fail to see the how macro interventions operate
  • By macro interventions I mean truth commissions, or trials or tribunals
  • The delivery of truth, justice and reparations are part of this context, and are key to individual healing
  • This highlights the limits of defining psychological support as only about therapy or interpersonal assistance
  • Changing the context or the environment changes individuals mental health
  • Changing the context is a mental health intervention. This is all our responsibility #icp2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain

Today I gave a  keynote address at the "The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain: Impacts, Engagements, Legacies and Memories" Conference, 11–13 July 2012. The conference was an inter-disciplinary conference hosted by the Centre for Research in Memory Narrative and Histories at the University of Brighton. The conference sought to explore the impacts and lasting effects of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ in Britain and responses to the conflict from Britain. More details on the conference are here.

My paper will be entitled 'Symptomatic treatment: The challenge of policy and practice interventions aimed at assisting victims of the confict in and about Northern Ireland'.

I am still finalising my paper but here are some tweets from the day to give you a little flavour.

@JoDoverWork 9:14am Preparing to chair a session at the Brighton conference with @BrandonHamber about policy & practice for assisting victims of the 'Troubles'

@BrandonHamber 11:39am My paper at Brighton conference entitled "Symptomatic Treatment" argues we are medicalising how we look at victims of the conflict

@BrandonHamber 11:41am We also need link in truth, justice and reparation, and describe the context now and then, to deal with the full range of needs

@BrandonHamber 11:42am What victim voices are we silencing or rewarding in peace process Northern Ireland, is there social space for people to still be angry?

@BrandonHamber 11:44am Victim healing comes not only in the therapy room but how they negotiate victims place in society and acknowledge what has happened

@BrandonHamber 11:45am There is an onus on political leadership to create a framework to talk about the past in Britain and Northern Ireland

@BrandonHamber 12:00pm Good response to my talk. I'm working on the final paper. But many of the ideas in my book "Transforming Societies"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report

Important event earlier this year and only getting around to provide links to it now, that is the launching of the "Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report: Number One" written by Paul Nolan (Feb, 2012).

The NI Peace Monitoring Report will "provide independent monitoring of Northern Ireland’s journey out of violence, and of the efforts to create a society in which all can live free from fear, and in relationships of trust and safety with their fellow citizens. An indicator framework will be created to allow the measurement of change towards the goals of equality, social cohesion, sharing, and the ability to deal with political difference through open dialogue and accommodation. The findings will be made available to all through the publication of an annual report".

The real value will be in the publication of subsequent reports to see if the monitoring of the data provides useful indicators of progress in Northern Ireland or not. Download the report.

Friday, July 6, 2012

South African TRC Report Online

I was going through my old blogs and noticed that back in 2004, and several times thereafter, that I complained about the fact that the South African TRC report was not available freely. At the time there was a problem with the publisher who the TRC sold the rights to. However, I am happy to report now that the TRC report is available online via the Department of Justice. On the site you can review its contents.

I have created a handy zip file with the entire report in it, download the full SA TRC Report (18MB, zip, pdf).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Irish Open and the Union Jack (Photo)

The Irish Open and the Union Jack
Taken by Brandon Hamber, 30 June 2012
For more photos of Irish Open, rain and umbrellas, click here.