Resources Concerning the Use and Effects of Torture
Sponsored by the
Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence
Peace Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association

APA Policy StatementAnnotated BibliographyInternet Resources

The Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association (APA) concurs with the policy of the APA in condemning the use of torture wherever it occurs. The following policy statement can be found on the APA Web site at


1. 1986

WHEREAS, the American psychologists are bound by the Ethical Principles to respect the dignity and worth of the individual and strive for the preservation and protection of fundamental human rights and;

WHEREAS, the existence of state-sponsored torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment has been documented in many nations around the world and;

WHEREAS, psychological knowledge and techniques may be used to design and carry out torture and;

WHEREAS, torture victims may suffer from long-term, multiple psychological and physical problems,

BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Psychological Association condemns torture wherever it occurs, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Psychological Association supports the U.N. Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the U.N. Principles of Medical Ethics, as well as the joint congressional Resolution opposing torture that was signed into law by President Reagan on October 4, 1984.

2. 1987

That the discipline of psychology, and the academic and professional activities as psychologists, are relevant for securing and maintaining human rights. That it therefore be resolved that APA applauds the ongoing efforts of the United Nations to defend and promote human rights and undertakes to commend the main UN human rights instruments and documents to the attention of its boards, committees, and membership at large.

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography below highlights some of the major journal articles, chapters, and books available concerning the use and effects of torture from a psychological perspective. Please feel free to send additional recommendations or annotations to Linda M. Woolf at

Allodi, F. A. (1991). Assessment and treatment of torture victims: A critical review. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 179, 4-11.

Uses the posttraumatic stress disorder concept as a means to organize this discussion of torture. Includes discussion concerning the physical impact of torture based on data from sleep studies, EEGs, and X-rays.

Arthur, N., & Ramaliu, A. (2000). Crisis intervention with survivors of torture. Crisis Intervention & Time-Limited Treatment, 6, 51-63.

Examines the myriad of issues facing survivors of torture who have also fled from their homeland. Raises important points concerning the need for therapeutic sensitivity to the complexity of issues facing the survivor and the need for broad multidisciplinary and community based intervention.

Arrigo, J. M. (2004). A utilitarian argument against torture interrogation of terrorists. Science and Engineering Ethics, 10(3), 1-30.

Interesting article examining the usefulness of torture as a counterterrorism method from a utilitarian or practical perspective.

Basoglu, M. (Ed.). (1992). Torture and its consequences: Current treatment approaches. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Excellent collection of essays dealing with all facets of torture including its physical and psychological consequences, assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Conroy, J. (2000). Unspeakable acts, ordinary people. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Within three contexts (Israel, Belfast, and Chicago), this text explores the history, methods, perpetrators, and victims of torture. Includes a chapter on bystanders to torture.

Eppel, S. (2002). Reburial ceremonies for health and healing after state terror in Zimbabwe. Lancet, 360, 869-870.

Describes the use of traditional practices of reburial as a substitute for one-on-one psychotherapy with survivors of torture and mass violence in Zimbabwe. Argues that many of the observances and rituals associated with reburial serve to heal individuals through psychological and emotional processes parallel to those of psychotherapy.

Fabri, M. (2001). Reconstructing safety: Adjustments to the therapeutic frame in the treatment of survivors of political torture. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 32, 452-457.

Addresses the special needs of individuals who are survivors of political torture related to issues of safety and empowerment in the therapeutic setting.

Foster, D., & Davis, D. (1987). Detention & torture in South Africa: Psychological, legal & historical studies. New York: St Martin's Press.

Based on an empirical study of individuals detained under the Internal Security Act in South Africa during apartheid. Includes an examination of the psychological effects of torture.

Franciskovic, T., Moro, L., & Kastelan, A. (2001). Depression and torture. Military Medicine, 166, 530-533.

This study compared Croatian military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder who had combat experience but who had also been tortured with Croatian military veterans who also experienced trauma due to combat but with no experience of torture, and a nonmilitary, non-trauma related control group. Individuals who had experienced torture suffered from significantly higher levels of depression.

Gerrity, E., Keane, T. M., & Tuma, F. (Eds.). (2001). The mental health consequences of torture. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.

This edited text provides an excellent overview of a broad range of topics related to the subject of torture. The text is divided into five sections and begins with introductory chapters highlighting a discussion of torture from a survivor's perspective and an overview of the research. This is followed by chapters addressing various conceptual models (e.g., psychosocial and economic) used in the understanding of torture. The middle two sections concern the use of torture during war and in relation to social violence (e.g., homicide and domestic violence). The text concludes with chapters focusing on various clinical issues related to work with torture survivors.

Gorman, W. (2001). Refugee survivors of torture: Trauma and treatment. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 32, 443-451.

Drawing on research and theory related to trauma, multicultural approaches to power, and liberation psychology, Gorman presents ideas and strategies for psychologists whose practice may include the treatment of survivors of political torture.

Haritos-Fatouros, M. (1995). The official torturer: A learning model for obedience to the authority of violence. In R. D. Crelinsten & A. P. Schmid (Eds.), The politics of pain: Torturers and their masters (pp. 129-146). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Excellent article expanding beyond Milgram's model of blind obedience to authority among torturers. Highlights the various selection stages, psychological characteristics needed in an official torturer, and the training process involved in moving someone down the path towards becoming a torturer.

Related articles:

Haritos-Fatouros, M. (1988). The official torturer: A learning model for obedience to the authority of violence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 1107-1120.

Huggins, M. K., & Haritos-Fatouros, M. (1998). Bureaucratizing masculinities among Brazilian torturers and murderers. In L. H. Bowker (Ed.), Masculinities and violence (pp. 29-54). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Holmquist, R., & Anderson, K. (2003). Therapists' reactions to treatment of survivors of political torture. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 34, 294-300.

Article addresses the unique problems experienced by psychotherapists working with survivors of political torture and provides suggestions for support.

Jonsen, A. R., & Sagan, L. (1978). Torture and the ethics of medicine. Man & Medicine, 3, 33-49.

Discusses physicians as willing or unwitting participants in state-sanctioned torture as well as the use of the medical profession to control people politically.

Lagomasino, A. (2001). The understanding and treatment of immigrant trauma survivors: Finding the right mix. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3, 273-283.

Review examining the effectiveness of various psychoanalytic approaches in the treatment of victims of torture. Includes a critique of cross-cultural psychotherapeutic methods.

Pilisuk, M., & Ober, L. (1976). Torture and genocide as public health problems. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 46, 388-392.

Argues that treatment of torture and genocidal trauma do not fit into traditional mental health models. Rather, they must be studied as public health problems. An ecological approach to the study of and research regarding these concerns must be developed.

Pope, K. S., & Garcia-Peltoniemi, R. E. (1991). Responding to victims of torture: Clinical issues, responsibilities, and useful resources. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 22, 269-276.

Discusses treatment approaches commonly used with survivors of torture. Includes resource information.

Silove, D., Steel, Z., McGorry, P., Miles, V., & Drobny, J. (2002). The impact of torture on post-traumatic stress symptoms in war-affected Tamil refugees and immigrants. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 43, 49-55.

Study examined factors related to predicting posttraumatic stress in Tamil war-trauma survivors. Results indicate that torture leads to a higher level of posttraumatic stress than other forms of trauma included in the study.

Silove, D. (1999). The psychosocial effects of torture, mass human rights violations, and refugee trauma: Toward an integrated conceptual framework. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 187, 200-207.

Provides a model addressing the effects of torture on adaptive subsystems in traumatized individuals. It is argued that an understanding of these systems will lead to more appropriate treatment for survivors.

Sironi, F., & Branche, R. (2002). Torture and the borders of humanity. International Social Science Journal, 54, 539-548.

Theoretical article examining the use of torture and its impact on both victim and perpetrator.

Suedfeld, P. (Ed.). (1990). Psychology and torture. New York: Hemisphere.

Excellent collection of essays concerning the nature and effects of torture as well as psychology's response to issues of torture. Addresses the issue from multiple vantage points including the effects of torture and process of therapeutic intervention, the perpetration of torture and the processes involved in becoming a torturer, and psychology's role in fighting to abolish torture. Includes a disturbing chapter that presents the argument of justifiable torture in limited situations.

Wantchekon, L., & Healy, A. (1999). The "game" of torture. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 43, 596-609.

Examines the reasons why political torture results in sadistic behavior on the part of the perpetrator and how its being defined as a "game" leads to an escalation of violence and cruelty. Highlights the overwhelmingly problematic nature of torture when sanctioned by the state.

Internet Resources

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