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ESSAY: ON TORTURE

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❶A number of influential treaties prohibit the use of torture.

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And while capital punishment is a norm in a number of American states as well as in countries around the world , the propriety of tortures is a much more debated question. Today, torture is rightly seen as a medieval and inhumane way of treating a human being, regardless of its origin, social status, or any crimes committed.

A number of influential treaties prohibit the use of torture. For example, article 3: Therefore, on a legislative level, the use of torture is not acceptable. In the United States, for example, it is guaranteed by the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

However, accepting torture as, for example, a method of interrogation, means citizens can no longer feel safe if they have to deal with justice, even and especially if they are innocent. In this case, an investigative error and the following suspicion of an innocent person can result into the application of severe psychological and physical damage to this individual before their innocence becomes evident.

Examples are numerous, but they illustrate one fact: Torture in the modern world is a relic of the distant past. Though there are many proponents, claiming that torture is acceptable in a number of certain cases—such as against terrorists or maniacs—I believe they should not be tolerated due to several reasons.

It ends when the torturer chooses to end it. Psychological torture in accord with the CIA paradigm, in particular, undermines the structure of the personality — it literally breaks apart the self, unhinging its parts from each other. The victim is reduced to a quivering bundle of fears, driven to try to please, that is, to try to fulfil the wishes of others, with few wishes of her own, except release from the awful psychological stresses that are being systematically and relentlessly imposed by all-powerful others.

This goes far beyond what slavery involved and gives new meaning to being at the mercy of someone else. Writing decades later about the psychological effects of his crude old-fashioned physical torture by the SS, much less devilishly fine-tuned than the state-of-the-art CIA paradigm, Jean Amery wrote:. It blocks the view into a world in which the principle of hope rules. Torture often unleashes a traumatic neurosis with symptoms of recurrent dreams of the traumatic event, anxiety, fear, crying, panic and feelings of helplessness.

The best very brief characterization of the American way of torture is law professor Seth: The new twist in contemporary justifications for the use of torture is that they are forward-looking: Jeremy Waldron has presented an entirely independent case for the absolute prohibition against torture already found in international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 4 and 7 and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment, both of which apply to absolutely everyone, and the Geneva Conventions, which apply to the persons they protect, including prisoners of war.

Law is not brutal in its operation. Law is not savage. Law does not rule through abject fear and terror, or by breaking the will of those whom it confronts. If law is forceful or coercive, it gets its way by nonbrutal methods which respect rather than mutilate the dignity and agency of those who are its subjects.

The legal prohibition against torture, besides its importance in its own right, serves as an archetype of the policy that legal force is not brutal or savage. The prohibition against torture has kind of iconic significance as a symbolic anchor of the intransgressible requirement that law respect dignity by avoiding brutality. Legal archetypes do foreground work as rules or precedents, but in doing that work they sum up the spirit of a whole body of law that goes beyond what they might be thought to require on their own terms.

The idea of an archetype, then, is the idea of a rule or positive law provision that operates not just on its own account …but…. The maintenance of the prohibition on torture may in fact have been the vital protection of a crucial anchor for the general rule of law, which is now shakier in America than it was in McKeown , R.

The arguments made by Waldron and Luban in are strongly complementary. Luban, as we saw earlier, focused in on the evil of state tyranny; Waldron focused at the same time on the evil of state brutality. A government that uses torture is both tyrannical and brutal: An absolute prohibition on torture is a wall against brutal state tyranny, a wall that, as Waldron emphasizes with the idea of a legal archetype, is also part of the larger structure of the rule of law.

The rule of law is protection against tyranny and brutality. David Rodin has suggested that the absolute moral prohibition on torture may play an archetypical role within our system of moral norms somewhat analogous to the archetypical role of the absolute legal prohibition Rodin forthcoming.

If, Rodin observes, one thinks of the Quinean image of a web of belief such that beliefs near the centre of the web can be changed only if substantial portions of surrounding beliefs are also changed, the absolute prohibition on torture serves as one of those key central beliefs.

My version of this would be that, as Waldron says of the legal case, the absolute moral prohibition is vital in its own right but is also a symbol of the fundamental point that morality demands limits. A person who will stop at nothing is a person without morality.

That no one may ever torture is both an instantiation of a firm moral limit and a radiant emblem of intransgressible moral limitation. A basic right in my sense directly protects one vital interest but in doing so it also blocks a standard threat to other vital interests.

If I know that if I go to the square and say what I think, I will be whisked away by government agents and tortured in order to find out who my friends are and what I read, the threatened assault against my psychological stability is also a coercive threat against my free speech. A right that protects me against tor-hire, partially protects my free speech as well as my mental balance.

In this respect this right helps to anchor other rights. Rodin forthcoming makes the significant additional point, however, that one can embrace an absolute prohibition against torture even if one does not believe that the right not to be tortured is absolute: Suppose, for example, that just as many people believe that the right not to be killed is not absolute and that one can forfeit it in at least some cases by killing someone else, the right not to be tortured aught also be thought not absolute and one could forfeit it by, say, torturing others.

Suppose, that is, that one believed that torturing a torturer is not a violation of any right. Because they have forfeited that right, we are assuming for the sake of argument, we would not wrong them by torturing them especially, perhaps, if in accord with the usual narrative of the ticking-bomb scenario, we might possibly thereby obtain the information that would enable us to destroy a secret.

Even so, Rodin points out, one might still judge that although it would not wrong the guilty torturer, it would still be wrong — perhaps disastrously wrong — to engage in the torture because it is supremely important to maintain the moral firewall against torture. The function of the absolute moral prohibition against torture as an archetype of the fact that there are some activities in which civilized people do not engage is too important to allow a breach of the prohibition even if the degree of the wrongfulness of torturing the person in question were not reason enough in itself.

One is tempted to ask: But, someone is bound to ask, is all this not too confident? Is it not conceivable that if we never torture anyone, we will sonic day pay a terrible price because we will fail to obtain the only information that would have enabled us to avoid a catastrophe: This is of course simply one more variant of the ticking-bomb scenario: Yes, if it is conceivable that if we torture enough people, we will find out something very important, then if we torture no one, we may not find it out, arid we may suffer the consequences.

Of course, there are all the usual questions about ticking bombs, such as whether we are simply to assume that our intelligence agencies — which did not foresee even monumental developments like the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Arab Spring, for example — are so good that they immediately have the person who knows most, or, if they have to blunder their way through a sequence of torture victims, each of whom leads them to the next, they will have time to reach the end of the trail.

But 1 want to underline two quite different considerations. First, we have no empirical basis on which to believe that interrogational torture is the most effective form of interrogation Kleinman If we torture no one, we may not find out something important — unless we have a better method than torture for finding it out!

Space here does not allow a thorough discussion of issues about effectiveness, and I obviously do not believe that torture would be justified if it were effective. But it surely could be justified only if it were the most effective alternative, given how wrong everyone on all sides admits torture is. A priori it is difficult to understand how the CIA paradigm in particular can be a good method of gathering accurate information. The person whose personality structure is undermined and who is made to regress to an infantile state of wanting to please certainly will be inclined to give the interrogator what the torture victim thinks the interrogator wants.

But is this a reliable method of quickly gathering accurate information? It partly depends on how often a person tortured simply does not have the information that he thinks the interrogator wants; in those cases the victim is likely to manufacture something in order to try to please the interrogator. Amery, under SS torture, tried hard to comply but could not because, like any member of a moderately well-run underground, he had been allowed to know only the aliases of his colleagues:.

What they wanted to hear from me in Breendonk [Prison], 1 simply did not know myself. If instead of the aliases I had been able to name the real names, perhaps, or probably, a calamity would have occurred, and I would be standing here now as the weakling I most likely am, and as the traitor I potentially already was. Yet it was not at all that I opposed them with the heroically maintained silence that befits a real man in such a situation … I talked.

And even if torture does obtain correct information at some stage, it may well be less efficient than other approaches to interrogation. This is certainly the view of a number of experienced American interrogators. Any way designed to justify its use is when certain assumptions are generally made. Do we or do we not torture the terrorist?

Yet even in this extreme situation, consider what is assumed. First, one assumes that the bomb actually exists. Perhaps it does not—is there any irrefutable evidence to prove that it does? Without clear proof that lives are actually in danger, torture is an unjustifiable affront to the rights of the suspected terrorist. Secondly, it is assumed that we have the right person in custody. What if the authorities arrested the wrong person? Thirdly, one assumes that torture will lead to the disarmament of the bomb.

This cannot be certain by any means; what if the terrorist cannot disarm the bomb? What if he does not know its location? What if he is resistant enough to torture so that, in the two hours before the explosion, no useful information can be gleaned?

Practically, can one even hope to that a man ready to die for his believes is going to give up this information up?


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Torture has been considered an art form in some countries. Victor Hugo once said, "The guillotine is the ultimate expression of law, and its name is vengeance." The executioner, in the theater of the guillotine, has a very special role.

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by HENRY SHUE THE PRACTICE. Torture has torn through additional restraints since I first tried to get a grip on it (Shue ). Then I began by apologizing for raising an issue that I thought most Americans considered closed. The Morality of Torture Essay - Torture is a controversial topic in today’s society. What is torture. Torture can be defined as, ‘the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.’(Dershowitz, A) According to international law, it is illegal to use torture in any situation of any kind.