Nov 20, 2020 in Law


Torture is the practice of inflicting ruthless pain on someone in order to coerce them to say or do something, or to punish them for the wrongs they may have committed. The 1985 United Nations Convention defined torture as any act that intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering to serve a states purpose such as the need to intimidate government dissenters or gather intelligence information. The issue of torture has always influenced local, state, and policy. Some methods of torture include physical assault, flogging, sleep electric shock, rape, and the use of mind-altering drugs. Other methods of torture include religious humiliation, food and sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogations, hooding, removal of detainees clothing, and the use of animals to instill fear. Torture has extensively been used on suspects of terrorism by the United States government since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Some measures are sometimes approved while others are disapproved. All inhuman treatment is officially prohibited by the administration. The United Nations Convention is also against any forms of torture. Torture is practiced in China, Russia, Morroco, Iran, Korea, and many other countries.

The ticking time bomb scenario refers to a thought experiment commonly employed in debate on whether it is possible to justify torture. Some proponents argue that torture is justified if it can produce results. For example, they believe that a person holding crucial information regarding the placing of mass destruction weapon should be tortured to reveal that knowledge. Opponents of the argument rely on moral/philosophical and empirical grounds to call for the prohibition of torture. They expose some assumptions that are likely to be hidden by the presentation of the ticking time bomb scenario, arguing that it may be difficult to ascertain that a suspect is actually a terrorist. The opponents argue that permitting torture is costly to the society. They also argue that there is no evidence of a real-life situation that meets the criteria to comprise a pure ticking bomb scenario that has been presented to the society.


Torture tends to violate certain human rights. When people experiencing torture are broken, they are likely to tell lies in order to stop the pain. They may become unable to distinguish between fact from fiction. They are usually put under intense psychological pressure. Additionally, torture forces victims to present invalid confessions in courts of law. This undermines the course of the law. Suspects have the right for lawyers, independent judges and tribunals, and human treatment. There should be a presumption of innocence until one is found guilty. Torture may cause its victims to implicate innocent individuals. These individuals may find themselves being tortured or jailed. If torture is allowed, it may result in large-scale implementation. This may create grounds for innocent individuals to be detained, tortured, or killed. There are few people who oppose the idea that a liberal democracy can take prisoners and interrogate them in the course of police action or war.

According to David Gushee (2006), torture is morally wrong, and any slightest opportunity to use it should be shut down. Torture mistreats vulnerable people in society and violates the principles of justice. David Gushee argues that Gods understanding of justice is oriented toward the vulnerable. He quotes the Bible arguing that the weak should not be taken advantage of through violent abuse and domination. Thousands of innocent people who have been imprisoned are powerless, and those who have been tortured are victims of injustice. David Gushee argues that by authorizing torture, the public may trust the government too much. He argues that all human beings are sinful and can be dangerous when entrusted with unchecked power. There has to be a due-process, transparency, and accountability. Governments should not be trusted to overcome laws of human nature; they are supposed to operate within democratic checks. David rejects the idea of torture permits. These are signed documents that warrant the torture of prisoners and serve as evidence against government officers in case accountability issues are raised. Loosening the restrictions on torture could cause the dehumanization of both the tortured and the torturers.

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The practice of torture tends to give torturers the opportunity to torture victims, sometimes killing them. Recently, Zakaria Kandahari, a suspected Afghan-American interpreter, was arrested in Kabul. Kandahari was supposedly working for an American Special Forces unit and was accused of torturing and killing prisoners (Nordland). American officials, who said that he was no longer working for them, were accused of deliberately allowing him to escape. Kandahari was wanted for the disappearance and murder of 17 Afghan citizens. It was revealed that he played a leading role and decided whom to capture for questioning. Afghan officials revealed that American personnel had been seen during the arrests.

According to Buchanan (2003), torture is moral when inflicted for greater good. Buchanan refers to the situation where one of the masterminds of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was arrested but was not ready to talk. At the time of arrest, implicating evidence on a computer, video tapes, and mobile phones was recovered. It would be illegal to torture Mohammed in order to determine if he knows of other planned atrocities. Buchanan argues that the principles of higher moral and natural law permit torture to be used in such extraordinary circumstances (Buchanan). He argues that Civil War doctors would save lives by amputating limbs of soldiers. During the period, there was no anesthesia, and amputation would inflict horrible pain. It would be unethical for the doctors to let the soldiers die of gangrene. A soldier who kills a terrorist before the terrorist kills several people is likely to be regarded as a hero. In the same breath, torture is justified if it would help save innocent lives (Buchanan).

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Psychological effects of torture include anger, anxiety, inability to maintain personal relationships, sleeplessness, insomnia, and distrust (Powell). Torture victims may lack the energy to work and provide for themselves and their families. They may relocate to avoid discrimination and victimization. Minority groups may be reluctant to settle in the United States permanently. This may affect the development of the United States. Therefore, torture may indirectly discourage the right to assembly, associate, or express oneself (What Can Be Done: Human Rights Firsts Primetime Torture Project). Additionally, it discourages entry into certain professions. At a societal level, torture causes discontent about the application of rule of law. It makes the society disrespect the law enforcement agencies. This creates a sufficient ground for propagation of corruption and violence, which further undermines human rights.

Torture should not be encouraged in the United States. It has a slippery slope effect; it can be used in less dire situations. Torture encourages the enemies of the United States to take hostages and justify their own conduct. This undermines their right to work and travel freely in foreign countries (Cohan). The threat of terrorist attacks is rare, and it is increasingly rare that a ticking time bomb scenario becomes a reality (Cohan). Conclusively, the debate over whether torture is justified is a contested one. While the proponents of the practice argue that it helps save lives and destruction of property, opponents claim that it undermines the rule of law and encourages impunity. I conclude that torture is morally wrong; the evils that the practice encourages have more dire consequences than the benefits it would bring to the United States.


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