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In the wake of this month’s Senate report graphically detailing acts of torture by the CIA at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, the American Psychological Association announced it is actively investigating collusion of its members with the torture program at Guantanamo. Meanwhile, a decision last week by my own professional association, the American Institute of Architects, or AIA, suggests that impunity for all may be the order of the day.
Despite years of advocacy and formal requests, the AIA — which claims as its members a majority of the roughly 110,000 architects in the United States — has officially declined to add specific language to its code of ethics that would prohibit the design of torture chambers in U.S. prisons and around the world. In doing so, it cites anti-trust concerns and the potential difficulty of enforcing the prohibition, but it ignores the claims of human rights.
To be sure, the AIA’s ethics code contains aspirational language that broadly states, “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” Contrast that, for example, with the code of the American Medical Association or the World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration on Torture, which reads, “The physician shall not provide any premises, instruments, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture.” ….