Term Paper: Debate Over to Torture

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Corporal Punishment

The issue of torture has been the subject of debate for the last years, especially after the Abu Ghraib scandal. Most importantly, the new war on terror waged by the United States and the international community has transformed the way in which perpetrators are perceived and treated. From this point-of-view, torture is used more and more nowadays. However, it must be underlined that from a moral point-of-view, this is an illegal practice.

The current paper focuses its research on in depth analysis of international law such as the UN Convention against Torture as well as past and current articles in which torture is dealt with.

The research plan takes into account three perspectives on the debate on torture and the justification for the need to become a past practice. First, torture is from the human rights point-of-view, an illegal practice. Second, it defies human dignity. Thirdly, it is an abuse against humanity and against the core nature of our community as a global structure.

The structure of the paper presents several aspects. In this sense, torture is by no means a new practice. It dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. It was also commonly used during the middle Ages as a means of punishment and less in the common sense known today. Therefore, a historical approach is considered. Secondly, the three perspectives of analysis are taken into account. Thus, torture represents an assault on human rights, human dignity, and humanity as a complex system of values and norms.

Torture has been practiced since the early beginnings of civilization. The accounts of torture practice in Ancient Greece, Rome and in particularly Egypt are important for pointing out that torturous means have been used to erect the great symbols of the ancient world (Berstein and Milza, 1994) These included forced working, indecent behavior and treatment as well as slavery.

The middle Ages can be considered from this point-of-view to have been a crucial time for the practice because in that era, torture was used to punish in the name of religion. More precisely, the ones who refused to obey the Catholic Church, the most important force in the medieval state, would be punished for refusing to embrace the word of God and that of His messenger, the Pope. Therefore, from this point-of-view, from the ancient times, the perspective changed to a clearly premeditated act of violence and mistreatment. Currently, both the perspective and the technique changed. Given the war on terror, torture is now viewed as a method of subtracting information from those considered to be a public enemy of the state and of the security of the nations worldwide.

The UN Convention against Torture is one of the documents which try to underline the importance of the human rights for the current situation in the world. The definition provided by the Convention states that torture represents "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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions" (UN, 2010). Therefore, the official definition takes into account both physical and emotional torture.

One of the most important aspects the international law has addressed in the last decades has been the issue of torture. As considered by former leaders of the U.S. Administration, "torture is torture. It is unacceptable. It is not the way you treat human beings" (CNN, 2004). Therefore the general view on the matter is related to the opposition of torture in most situations as a negative means of extracting information. In this sense, there are those who argue that the use of torture is benefic for the fight against terrorism and as a tool for the retrieval of information. Therefore, the Department of State considers that the use of constrains must "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" (Priest and Smith, 2004). Taking into account the fact that the U.S. signed the Convention against torture, yet still considers the practice to be efficient, it is important to see that there are indeed great debates related to the fact that on the one hand there is the issue of the human rights involved and on the other hand torture may ease the process of information gathering.

The process of torture is in clear contradiction of human rights. The techniques used which include "breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee" (Hersh, 2004) affects the physical part of the human in a way that can rarely be reversed.

Secondly, torture is in breach of human dignity. Most often, the techniques used especially in prisons such as Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo defy religious practices or personal beliefs. This has been one of the most important aspects of criticism especially after the 2004 scandal at the Iraqi prison. Even so, the United States, as it stands now, is in breach of the UN Convention, even if it is a signatory country of this international act.

Finally, the process of torture stands against all the values and norms presented above and in the UN Human Rights Charter. These types of documents, part of the international law, are aimed at enforcing a certain limit to the means which can be employed to recover information. The early 20th century Hague conventions on the rights of the prisoners of war as well as the rights of the non-combatant forces aimed precisely at limiting this type of behavior. However, the examples from the Second World War as well as the torture cases from the Cold War proved that there was not enough legal and political power to undergo an important change of attitude against the doctrine of human rights (Russbach, 1994). Notwithstanding, torture defies all moral and human aspects promoted in the international law.

The general debate has focused on the way in which the U.S., as leader in the war on terror, decided to take on the war on terror and the various interrogation means used by the CIA or other agencies involved in the processing of information. However, the international community has become more and more aware of the possible abuses going on in the legal loopholes as Guantanamo or other regions of the world are now considered. The U.S. Administrations, regardless of their political affiliation, are widely criticized for the way in which they conduct the actions related to the retrieval of information. Thus, the traditional partners of the U.S. have tried to reconsider their approach in regard to the U.S. practices in the interrogation of suspects accused of terrorism (the Daily Mail., 2005). From this point-of-view, it is important for the image of the United States that a certain respect for the way in which the country addresses the issue of torture be systematized and deal with in a democratic manner. Even the United Nations considers the U.S.'s actions to be in breach of the democratic rule. Thus, "Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, said the U.S.'s standing and importance meant it was a model to other countries which queried why they were subject to scrutiny when the U.S. resorted to measures witnessed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison" (Munro, 2007).

There are those who consider that the use of torture has benefic effects for the purpose of the actions. Therefore, "the Bush administration has suggested that the interrogation of al-Qai'da's second-in-command, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was a success thanks to the technique, and used this to justify continued aggressive interrogations of suspects in secret CIA prisons" (Munro, 2007). Therefore, although the acknowledgement of the torture techniques is not certified, the consideration of torture as a proper means for extracting information and the underlining of the results is clearly a positive consideration by the Administration of the practice of torture. Nonetheless, the fact that suspects are subjected to horrifying treatment does not automatically imply that the information provided would also be the correct one. There… [END OF PREVIEW]

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