Next Monday, January 14, a California State Senate Select Committee is holding a hearing on the Ridley-Thomas Resolution which would require California licensing agencies to send letters to their health professional licensees to inform them that participation in abusive detainee treatment and coercive interrogations could be subject to prosecution. Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo is testifying to the committee on Monday and will deliver a letter of support from withholdAPAdues.com, which has been fighting within the APA for a moratorium against psychologist participation in torture and abusive and coercive interrogations at national security settings.
Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) was a co-sponsor of an earlier California Assembly resolution that called for a U.S. Congressional impeachment investigation against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Now he's going after the apparatus that allows for military and CIA torture at U.S. prisons in Bush's misnamed "war on terror" (the link is to a cached page, as the regular page isn't coming up for some reason):
In the humanitarian spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Ridley-Thomas is stepping out front to address the controversial issue of physician-involved torture of detainees and prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Senator has called for a legislative hearing on January 14th to fully explore the topic.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, Ridley-Thomas will also be presenting a Senate Resolution to remove all California physicians from participating in prisoner and detainee interrogation practices.
The Senate Resolution states in part, that the U.S. Department of Defense has "failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California licensed health professionals related to torture." It further requests all relevant California agencies to notify California licensed health professionals that those participating in torture may be subject to prosecution.
Physician groups, including the American Medical Association and national humanitarian organizations, including the (AFSC), have condemned the involvement of physicians in the torture of prisoners.
AFSC has begun a Californians to Stop the Torture Campaign. The group hopes to collect 10,000 signatures petitioning the State of California to notify its doctors, psychologists, and other licensees of their obligations to refrain from participating in acts of torture. For more information regarding the upcoming hearing, please visit the Senator's website: http://dist26.casen.govoffice.com/.
This proposed resolution deserves ALL of our support, not just citizens of California. I suspect that it's possible that behind the scenes moves are already taking place to submarine this resolution, or at least relegate it to the realm of non-event by stifling publicity. We must not let this happen!
I know everyone is mesmerized by all the drama around the presidential primaries. Indeed, such political struggle is red meat to many of the denizens of this site. But let's now lose sight of the struggle still going on among those currently elected to serve us.
While a copy of this resolution cannot be accessed online, so far as I know, a copy of it has come into my possession. Whether it is the final copy, I cannot say (notice there are some blanks in the copy, meant I suppose to be filled in with relevant data). Please note, all bolded text is my emphasis only.
58048 RN 07 29989 PAGE 1
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
as introduced, Ridley-Thomas.
General Subject: Health professionals: torture.
This measure would request all relevant California agencies to notify California-licensed health professionals about their professional obligations under international law relating to torture and the treatment of detainees, as specified, and to also notify those professionals that those who participate in torture, among other forms of treatment, may be subject to prosecution. In addition, the measure would request the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals from participating in prisoner and detainee interrogations
Fiscal committee: yes.
WHEREAS, Health professionals licensed in California, including, but not limited to, physicians, osteopaths, psychologists, psychiatric workers, and nurses, have and continue to serve nobly and honorably in the armed services of the United States; and
WHEREAS, United States Army regulations and the War Crimes Act and, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) require that all military personnel report and not engage in acts of abuse or torture; and
WHEREAS, CAT defines the term “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”; and
WHEREAS, In 2002, the United States Department of Justice reinterpreted national and international law related to the treatment of prisoners of war in a manner that purported to justify long-prohibited interrogation methods and treatment of detainees; and
WHEREAS, Physicians and other medical personnel and psychologists serving in noncombat roles are bound by international law and professional ethics to care for enemy prisoners and to report any evidence of coercion, or abuse of detainees; and
WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and
WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations; and
WHEREAS, The American Medical Association’s (AMA) ethical policy prohibits physicians from conducting or directly participating in an interrogation and from monitoring interrogations with the intention of intervening; and
WHEREAS, AMA policy also states that “(t)orture refers to the deliberate, systematic or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane > and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment. Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason ... Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change the situation in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great”; and
WHEREAS, In May 2006, the American Psychiatric Association stated that psychiatrists should not “participate directly in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere,” and that “psychiatrists should not participate in, or otherwise assist or facilitate, the commission of torture of any person. Psychiatrists who become aware that torture has occurred, is occurring, or has been planned must report it promptly to a person or persons in a position to take corrective action”; and
WHEREAS, In August 2006, the American Psychological Association stated _____ that “psychologists shall not knowingly participate in any procedure in which torture _____ or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment is used or threatened” and that “should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure”; and
WHEREAS, In June 2005, the House of Delegates of the American Nurses Association issued a resolution stating all of the following: “prisoners and detainees have the right to health care and humane treatment”; “registered nurses shall not voluntarily participate in any deliberate infliction of physical or mental suffering”; “registered nurses who have knowledge of ill- treatment of any individuals including detainees and prisoners must take appropriate action to safeguard the rights of that individual”; “the American Nurses Association shall condemn interrogation procedures that are harmful to mental and physical health”; “the American Nurses Association shall advocate for nondiscriminatory access to health care for wounded military and paramilitary personnel and prisoners of war”; and “the American Nurses Association shall counsel and support nurses who speak out about acts of torture and abuse”; and
WHEREAS, In March 2005, the California Medical Association stated that it “condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by physicians and other health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or torture of prisoners or detainees”; and
WHEREAS, In November 2004, the American Public Health Association stated that it “condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or torture of prisoners or detainees:’ that it “urges health professionals to report abuse or torture of prisoners and detainees;’ and that it “supports the rights of health workers to be protected from retribution for refusing to participate or cooperate in abuse or torture in military settings”; and
WHEREAS, The United States military medical system in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other United States operated foreign military prisons failed to protect detainees’ rights to medical treatment, failed to prevent disclosure of confidential medical information to interrogators and others, failed to promptly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings, failed to report acts of psychological and sexual degradation, and sometimes collaborated with abusive interrogators and guards; and
WHEREAS, Current United States Department of Defense guidelines authorize the participation of certain military health personnel, especially psychologists, in the interrogation of detainees as members of “Behavioral Science Consulting Teams” in violation of professional ethics. These guidelines also permit the use of confidential clinical information from medical records to aid in interrogations and
WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that military psychologists participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere, including sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nudity, induced hypothermia and other temperature extremes, stress positions, sensory bombardment, manipulation of phobias, force-feeding hunger strikers, and more; and
WHEREAS, Published reports indicate that the so-called “enhanced interrogation methods” of the Central Intelligence Agency reportedly include similar abusive methods and that agency psychologists may have assisted in their development; and
WHEREAS, Medical and psychological studies and clinical experience show that these abuses can cause severe or serious mental pain and suffering in their victims, and therefore may violate the “torture” and “cruel and inhuman treatment” provisions of CAT and the United States War Crimes Act, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006; and
WHEREAS, The United States Department of Defense has failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California-licensed health professionals related to torture; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California, the Medical Board of California, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Pediatric Medicine, the Board of vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing, to notify California-licensed health professionals via newsletter, email, and Web site about their professional obligations under international law, specifically Common Article HI of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the amended War Crimes Act, which prohibit the torture of and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody; and be it further __
Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies _____ to notify health professionals licensed in California that those who participate in torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment may one day be subject to prosecution; and be it further
Resolved. That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the United States Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California. the Medical Board of California, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Pediatric Medicine, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing.
This is a stupendous blow against the federal government's torture regime. It may, in the end, not be enforceable; I don't know. But it won't go anywhere, I can guarantee you, without public support and pressure. Call (Office -- (916) 651-4026
or Fax -- (916) 445-8899) or contact Mark Ridley-Thomas and tell him you support him, and send messages to your local California State Senator and Assemblyperson telling them to support the Ridley-Thomas Resolution Against Participation by Medical Professionals in Torture!