torture
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe
pain Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, ...
or
suffering Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, may be an experience of unpleasantness or aversion, possibly associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence (psyc ...

suffering
on a person for reasons such as
punishment Punishment, commonly, is the imposition of an undesirable or suffering, unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority—in contexts ranging from child discipline to criminal law—as a response and deterrent to a parti ...

punishment
, extracting a
confession A confession is a statement – made by a person or by a group of persons – acknowledging some personal fact that the person (or the group) would ostensibly prefer to keep hidden. The term presumes that the speaker is providing information th ...

confession
, interrogation for information, or intimidating third parties. Some definitions are restricted to acts carried out by the state, but others include non-state organizations. Torture has been carried out since ancient times. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Western countries abolished the official use of torture in the judicial system, but torture continued to be used throughout the world. A variety of methods of torture are used, often in combination; the most common form of physical torture is beatings. Since the twentieth century, many torturers have preferred non-scarring or
psychological Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immense scope, crossing the boundaries between ...
methods to provide deniability. Torturers are enabled by organizations that facilitate and encourage their behavior. Most victims of torture are poor and marginalized people suspected of crimes, although torture against
political prisoner A political prisoner is someone imprisoned for their political activity Activism (or Advocacy) consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct or intervene in Social change, social, Political campaign, political, economic or Natural envir ...
s or during armed conflict has received disproportionate attention.
Judicial corporal punishment The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...
and
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned practice of deliberately killing a person as a punishment for an actual or supposed crime, usually following an authorized, rule-governed process to ...

capital punishment
are sometimes seen as forms of torture, but this label is internationally controversial. Torture aims to break the victim's will and destroy their agency and personality. It is one of the most damaging experiences that a person can undergo and can also negatively affect perpetrating individuals and institutions. Public opinion research has shown general opposition to torture. Torture is prohibited under international law for all states under all circumstances and is explicitly forbidden by several treaties. Opposition to torture stimulated the formation of the
human rights movement Human rights movement refers to a nongovernmental social movement engaged in activism related to the issues of human rights. The foundations of the global human rights movement involve resistance to: colonialism, imperialism, slavery, racism, segreg ...
after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, and torture continues to be an important
human rights Human rights are Morality, moral principles or Social norm, normsJames Nickel, with assistance from Thomas Pogge, M.B.E. Smith, and Leif Wenar, 13 December 2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyHuman Rights Retrieved 14 August 2014 for ce ...
issue. Although its incidence has declined, torture is still practiced by some countries.


Definitions

Torture is defined as the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on someone under the control of the perpetrator. The treatment must be inflicted for a specific purpose, such as punishment and forcing the victim to confess or provide information. The definition put forth by the
United Nations Convention against Torture The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)) is an international human rights treaty under the review of the United Nation ...
only considers torture carried out by the state. Most legal systems include agents acting on behalf of the state, and some definitions add non-state armed groups,
organized crime Organized crime (or organised crime) is a category of transnational organized crime, transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. While o ...
, or private individuals working in state-monitored facilities (such as hospitals). The most expansive definitions encompass anyone as a potential perpetrator. The severity threshold at which treatment can be classified as torture is the most controversial aspect of its definition; the interpretation of torture has broadened over time. Another approach, preferred by scholars such as
Manfred Nowak Manfred Nowak (born 26 June 1950 in Bad Aussee) is an Austrian human rights lawyer, who served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture from 2004 to 2010. He is Secretary General of the European Inter-University Center for Human Right ...
and Malcolm Evans, distinguishes torture from other forms of
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT) is treatment of persons which is contrary to human rights or dignity, but is not classified as torture. It is forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 of the European Convention ...
by considering only the torturer's purpose, and not the severity. Other definitions, such as that in the
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (IACPPT) is an International human rights instruments, international human rights instrument, created in 1985 within the Western Hemisphere Organization of American States and intended ...
, focus on the torturer's aim "to obliterate the personality of the victim".


History


Pre-abolition

In most ancient, medieval, and early modern societies, torture was legally and morally acceptable. There is archaeological evidence of torture in
Early Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World The "Old World" is a term for Afro-Eurasia that originated in Europe , after Europeans became aware of the existence of the Americas. It is used to contrast the continents of Afric ...
Europe, about 7,000 years ago. Torture is commonly mentioned in historical sources on
Assyria Assyria (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: , romanized: ''māt Aššur''; syc, ܐܬܘܪ, ʾāthor) was a major ancient Mesopotamia, Mesopotamian civilization which existed as a city-state from the 21st century BC to the 14th century BC, then to a terr ...
and
Achaemenid Persia The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
. Societies used torture both as part of the judicial process and as punishment, although some historians make a distinction between torture and painful punishments. Historically, torture was seen as a reliable way to elicit the truth, a suitable punishment, and deterrence against future offenses. When torture was legally regulated, there were restrictions on the allowable methods; common methods in Europe included
the rack The rack is a torture device consisting of a rectangular, usually wooden frame, slightly raised from the ground, with a roller at one or both ends. The victim's ankles are fastened to one roller and the wrists are chained to the other. As the in ...
and
strappado The strappado, also known as corda, is a form of torture Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for reasons such as punishment, extracting a confession, interrogational torture, interrogation for in ...
. In most societies, citizens could be judicially tortured only under exceptional circumstances and for a serious crime such as
treason Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplo ...
, often only when some evidence already existed. In contrast, non-citizens such as foreigners and slaves were commonly tortured. Torture was rare in early medieval Europe but became more common between 1200 and 1400. Because medieval judges used an exceptionally high standard of proof, they would sometimes authorize torture when
circumstantial evidence Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact—such as a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need f ...
tied a person to a
capital crime Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned practice of deliberately killing a person as a punishment for an actual or supposed crime, usually following an authorized, rule-governed process to ...
, if there were fewer than the two eyewitnesses required to convict someone in the absence of a confession. Torture was still a labor-intensive process reserved for the most serious crimes; most torture victims were men accused of murder, treason, or theft. Medieval ecclesiastical courts and the Inquisition used torture under the same procedural rules as secular courts. The
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire, * ; is an archaic version. The definite article forms and were synonymous * and el, Оθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία, Othōmanikē Avtokratoria, label=none * info page on book at Martin Luther University) ...
and
Qajar Iran Qajar Iran (), also referred to as Qajar Persia, the Qajar Empire, '. Sublime State of Persia, officially the Sublime State of Iran ( fa, دولت علیّه ایران ') and also known then as the Guarded Domains of Iran ( fa, ممالک م ...
used torture in cases where circumstantial evidence tied someone to a crime, although
Islamic law Sharia (; ar, شريعة, sharīʿa ) is a body of religious law that forms a part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the Five Pillars of Islam, religious precepts of Islam and is based on the Islamic holy books, sacred scriptures o ...
has traditionally considered evidence obtained under torture to be inadmissible.


Abolition and continued use

During the seventeenth century, torture remained legal in Europe, but its practice declined. Torture was already of marginal importance to European
criminal justice system Criminal justice is the delivery of justice to those who have been accused of committing crimes. The criminal justice system is a series of government agencies and institutions. Goals include the Rehabilitation (penology), rehabilitation of o ...
s by its formal abolition in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Theories for why torture was abolished include the rise of Enlightenment ideas about the value of the human person, the lowering of the standard of proof in criminal cases, popular views that no longer saw pain as morally redemptive, and the expansion of imprisonment as an alternative to executions or painful punishments. It is not known if torture also declined in non-Western states or in European colonies during the nineteenth century. In China, judicial torture, which had been practiced for more than two millennia, was banned in 1905 along with
flogging Flagellation (Latin , 'whip'), flogging or whipping is the act of beating the human body with special implements such as whips, Birching, rods, Switch (rod), switches, the cat o' nine tails, the sjambok, the knout, etc. Typically, flogging ...
and '' lingchi'' (
dismemberment Dismemberment is the act of cutting, ripping, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise disconnecting the limbs from a living or dead being. It has been practiced upon human beings as a form of capital punishment, especially in connection with ...
) as a means of execution, although torture in China continued throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Torture was widely used by colonial powers to subdue resistance and reached a peak during the anti-colonial wars in the twentieth century. An estimated 300,000 people were tortured during the
Algerian War of Independence The Algerian War, also known as the Algerian Revolution or the Algerian War of Independence,( ar, الثورة الجزائرية '; '' ber, Tagrawla Tadzayrit''; french: Guerre d'Algérie or ') and sometimes in Algeria as the War of 1 November ...
(1954–1962), and the United Kingdom and Portugal also used torture in attempts to retain their respective empires. Independent states in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia often used torture in the twentieth century, but it is unknown whether their use of torture increased or decreased compared to nineteenth-century levels. During the first half of the twentieth century, torture became more prevalent in Europe with the advent of
secret police Secret police (or political police) are Intelligence agency, intelligence, Security agency, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political, religious, or social opponents and dissidents. Secret police ...
,
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
and
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, and the rise of
communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
and
fascist Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian, ultra-nationalist political ideology and movement,: "extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy an ...
states. Torture was also used by both communist and anti-communist governments during the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
in
Latin America Latin America or * french: Amérique Latine, link=no * ht, Amerik Latin, link=no * pt, América Latina, link=no, name=a, sometimes referred to as LatAm is a large cultural region in the Americas where Romance languages — languages derived f ...
, with an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 victims of torture by United States–backed regimes. The only countries in which torture was rare during the twentieth century were the liberal democracies of the West, but torture was still used there, against ethnic minorities or criminal suspects from marginalized classes, and during overseas wars against foreign populations. After the
September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks, commonly known as 9/11, were four coordinated Suicide attack, suicide List of terrorist incidents, terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda against the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That morning, ...
, the US government embarked on an overseas torture program as part of its
war on terror The war on terror, officially the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), is an ongoing international Counterterrorism, counterterrorism military campaign initiated by the United States following the September 11 attacks. The main targets of the campa ...
.


Prevalence

Most countries practice torture, although few acknowledge it. The international prohibition of torture has not completely stopped torture; instead, states have changed which techniques are used and denied, covered up, or outsourced torture programs. Measuring the rate at which torture occurs is difficult because it is typically committed in secrecy, and abuses are likelier to come to light in open societies where there is a commitment to protecting human rights. Many torture survivors, especially those from poor or marginalized populations, are unwilling to report. Monitoring has focused on police stations and prisons, although torture can also occur in other facilities such as
immigration detention Immigration detention is the policy of holding individuals suspected of visa violations, illegal entry or unauthorised arrival, unauthorized arrival, as well as those subject to deportation and removal until a decision is made by immigration auth ...
and
youth detention center In criminal justice systems, a youth detention center, known as a juvenile detention center (JDC),Stahl, Dean, Karen Kerchelich, and Ralph De Sola. ''Abbreviations Dictionary''. CRC Press, 20011202. Retrieved 23 August 2010. , . juvenile det ...
s. Torture that occurs outside of custody—including extrajudicial punishment, intimidation, and
crowd control Crowd control is a public security practice in which large crowds are managed in order to prevent the outbreak of crowd crushes, affray, fights involving Public intoxication, drunk and disorderly people or riot control, riots. Crowd crushes in ...
—has traditionally not been counted, even though some studies have suggested it is more common than torture in places of detention. There is even less information on the prevalence of torture before the twentieth century. Although some studies have found that men are more likely to face torture than women, other studies have found that both suffer torture at equal rates. Although liberal democracies are less likely to abuse their citizens, they may practice torture against marginalized citizens and non-citizens to whom they are not democratically accountable. Voters may support violence against out-groups seen as threatening; majoritarian institutions are ineffective at preventing torture against minorities or foreigners. Torture is more likely when a society feels threatened because of wars or crises, but studies have not found a consistent relationship between the use of torture and terrorist attacks. Torture is directed against certain segments of the population, who are denied the protection against torture that others enjoy. Torture of
political prisoners A political prisoner is someone imprisoned for their political activity. The political offense is not always the official reason for the prisoner's detention. There is no internationally recognized legal definition of the concept, although ...
and torture during armed conflicts receive more attention compared to torture of the poor or criminal suspects. Most victims of torture are suspected of crimes; a disproportionate number of victims are from poor or marginalized communities. Groups especially vulnerable to torture include unemployed young men, the urban poor, LGBT people,
refugee A refugee, conventionally speaking, is a forced displacement, displaced person who has crossed national borders and who cannot or is unwilling to return home due to well-founded fear of persecution.
s and migrants, ethnic and racial minorities,
indigenous people Indigenous peoples are culturally distinct ethnic groups whose members are directly descended from the earliest known inhabitants of a particular geographic region and, to some extent, maintain the language and culture of those original people ...
, and
people with disabilities Disability is the experience of any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or have equitable access within a given society. Disabilities may be Cognitive disability, cognitive, Developmental disability, dev ...
.
Relative poverty The poverty threshold, poverty limit, poverty line or breadline is the minimum level of income deemed adequate in a particular country. The poverty line is usually calculated by estimating the total cost of one year's worth of necessities for t ...
and the resulting inequality in particular leave poor people vulnerable to torture. Criminalization of the poor, through laws targeting
homelessness Homelessness or houselessness – also known as a state of being unhoused or unsheltered – is the condition of lacking stable, safe, and adequate housing. People can be categorized as homeless if they are: * living on the streets, also kn ...
,
sex work Sex work is "the exchange of sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation. It includes activities of direct physical contact between buyers and sellers as well as indirect sexual stimulation". Sex work only refers to volunt ...
, or working in the
informal economy An informal economy (informal sector or grey economy) is the part of any economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government. Although the informal sector makes up a significant portion of the economies in developing countrie ...
, can lead to violent and arbitrary policing. Routine violence against poor and marginalized people is often not seen as torture, and its perpetrators justify the violence as a legitimate policing tactic; victims lack the resources or standing to seek redress.


Perpetrators

Many torturers see their actions as serving a higher political or ideological goal that justifies torture as a legitimate means of protecting the state. Torturers typically value self-control, discipline, and professionalism, helping them maintain a positive self-image. Torturers who inflict more suffering than necessary to break the victim, or who act out of revenge or sexual gratification, may be rejected by peers or relieved of duty. Torture victims are often viewed by the perpetrators as serious threats and
enemies of the state An enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state (polity), state such as treason, among other things. Describing individuals in this way is sometimes a manifestation of political repression. For example, a government ...
. Philosopher Jessica Wolfendale argues that, since "the decision to torture a person involves a refusal to see the victim's status ''as a person'' as setting limits on what may be done to them", victims are already seen as less than fully human before being tortured. Psychiatrist Pau Pérez-Sales finds that torturers act from a variety of motives such as ideological commitment, personal gain, group belonging, avoiding punishment, or avoiding guilt from previous acts of torture. A combination of dispositional and situational effects lead a person to become a torturer. In most cases of systematic torture, the torturers were desensitized to violence by being exposed to physical or
psychological abuse Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to a behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including Anxiety disorder, anxiety, chronic depression, ...
during training. Wolfendale argues that
military training Military education and training is a process which intends to establish and improve the capabilities of military personnel Military personnel are members of the state's armed forces. Their roles, pay, and obligations differ according to their ...
aims to inculcate unquestioning obedience, therefore making military personnel more likely to torture. Even when not explicitly ordered by the government to torture, perpetrators may feel
peer pressure Peer pressure is the direct or indirect influence on peers, i.e., members of social groups with similar interests, experiences, or social statuses. Members of a peer group are more likely to influence a person's beliefs, values, and behavior. A g ...
due to competitive masculinity. Elite and specialized police units are especially prone to torturing, perhaps because of their tight-knit nature and insulation from oversight. Torture can be a side effect of a broken criminal justice system in which underfunding, lack of
judicial independence Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary should be independent from the other Separation of powers, branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from pri ...
, or
corruption Corruption is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted in a position of authority, in order to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one's personal gain. Corruption m ...
undermines effective investigations and
fair trial A fair (archaic: faire or fayre) is a gathering of people for a variety of entertainment or commercial activities. Fairs are typically temporary with scheduled times lasting from an afternoon to several weeks. Types Variations of fairs incl ...
s. In this context, people who cannot afford bribes are likely to become victims of torture. Understaffed or poorly trained police are more likely to resort to torture when interrogating suspects. In some countries, such as
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan,, pronounced or the Kyrgyz Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border, the north, Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border, the west, Tajikistan to K ...
, suspects are more likely to be tortured at the end of the month because of performance quotas. Torturers rely on both active supporters and those who ignore it. Military, intelligence, psychology, medical, and legal professionals can all be complicit in torture. Incentives can favor the use of torture on an institutional or individual level, and some perpetrators are motivated by the prospect of career advancement.
Bureaucracy The term bureaucracy () refers to a body of non-elected governing officials as well as to an administrative policy-making group. Historically, a bureaucracy was a government administration managed by departments staffed with non-elected offi ...
can diffuse responsibility for torture and help perpetrators excuse their actions. Maintaining secrecy is often essential to maintaining a torture program, which can be accomplished in ways ranging from direct
censorship Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments ...
, denial, or mislabeling torture as something else, to offshoring abuses to outside a state's territory. Along with official denials, torture is enabled by moral disengagement from the victims and
impunity Impunity is avoidance of punishment, loss, or other negative consequences for an action. In the international law of human rights, impunity is failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a d ...
for the perpetrators—criminal prosecutions for torture are rare. Public demand for decisive action against crime or even support for torture against criminals can facilitate its use. Once a torture program is begun, it is difficult or impossible to prevent it from escalating to more severe techniques and expanding to larger groups of victims, beyond what is originally intended or desired by decision-makers. Escalation of torture is especially difficult to contain in
counterinsurgency Counterinsurgency (COIN) is "the totality of actions aimed at defeating irregular military, irregular forces". The Oxford English Dictionary defines counterinsurgency as any "military or political action taken against the activities of guerril ...
operations. Torture and specific techniques spread between different countries, especially by soldiers returning home from overseas wars, although this process is poorly understood.


Purpose


Punishment

The use of torture for punishment dates back to antiquity, and is still employed in the 21st century. A common practice in countries with dysfunctional justice systems or overcrowded prisons is for police to apprehend suspects, torture them, and release them without a charge. Such torture could be performed in a police station, the victim's home, or a public place. In South Africa, the police have been observed handing suspects over to
vigilantes Vigilantism () is the act of preventing, investigating and punishing perceived offenses and crimes without Right, legal authority. A vigilante (from Spanish, Italian and Portuguese “vigilante”, which means "sentinel" or "watcher") is a pers ...
to be tortured. This type of extrajudicial violence is often carried out in public to deter others. It discriminatorily targets minorities and marginalized groups and may be supported by the public, especially if people do not trust the official justice system. The classification of
judicial corporal punishment The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...
as torture is internationally controversial, although it is explicitly prohibited under the
Geneva Conventions file:Geneva Convention 1864 - CH-BAR - 29355687.pdf, upright=1.15, Original document in single pages, 1864 The Geneva Conventions are four Treaty, treaties, and three additional Protocol (diplomacy), protocols, that establish international law ...
. Some authors, such as John D. Bessler, argue that
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned practice of deliberately killing a person as a punishment for an actual or supposed crime, usually following an authorized, rule-governed process to ...

capital punishment
is inherently a form of torture carried out for punishment. Executions may be carried out in brutal ways, such as
stoning Stoning, or lapidation, is a method of capital punishment where a group throws stones at a person until the subject dies from blunt trauma. It has been attested as a form of punishment for grave misdeeds since ancient times. The Torah and Tal ...
,
death by burning Death by burning (also known as immolation) is an list of execution methods, execution and murder method involving combustion or exposure to extreme heat. It has a long history as a form of public capital punishment, and many societies have em ...
, or dismemberment. The psychological harm of capital punishment is sometimes considered a form of psychological torture. Others do not consider corporal punishment with a fixed penalty to be torture, as it does not seek to break the victim's will.


Deterrence

Torture may also be used indiscriminately to terrorize people other than the direct victim or to deter opposition to the government. In the United States, torture was used to deter slaves from escaping or rebelling. Some defenders of judicial torture prior to its abolition saw it as a useful means of deterring crime; reformers argued that because torture was carried out in secret, it could not be an effective deterrent. In the twentieth century, well-known examples include the
Khmer Rouge The Khmer Rouge (; ; km, ខ្មែរក្រហម, ; ) is the name that was popularly given to members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and by extension to the Democratic Kampuchea, regime through which the CPK ruled Cambodia ...
and anti-communist regimes in Latin America, who tortured and murdered their victims as part of
forced disappearance An enforced disappearance (or forced disappearance) is the secret abduction or imprisonment of a person by a State (polity), state or political organization, or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or po ...
. Regimes that are otherwise weak are more likely to resort to torture to deter opposition. Authoritarian regimes often resort to indiscriminate repression because they cannot accurately identify potential opponents. Many insurgencies lack the necessary infrastructure for a torture program and instead intimidate by killing. Research has found that state torture can extend the lifespan of terrorist organizations, increase incentives for insurgents to use violence, and radicalize the opposition. Researchers James Worrall and Victoria Penziner Hightower argue that the Syrian government's systematic and widespread use of torture during the Syrian civil war shows that it can be effective in instilling fear into certain groups or neighborhoods during a civil war. Another form of torture for deterrence is violence against migrants, as has been reported during pushbacks on the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
's external borders.


Confession

Torture has been used throughout history to extract confessions from detainees. In 1764, Italian reformer
Cesare Beccaria Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, Marquis of Gualdrasco and Villareggio (; 15 March 173828 November 1794) was an Italian criminologist, jurist, philosopher, economist and politician, who is widely considered one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of ...
denounced torture as "a sure way to acquit robust scoundrels and to condemn weak but innocent people". Similar doubts about torture's effectiveness had been voiced for centuries previously, including by
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatet ...
. Despite the abolition of judicial torture, it sees continued use to elicit confessions, especially in judicial systems placing a high value on confessions in criminal matters. The use of torture to force suspects to confess is facilitated by laws allowing extensive
pre-trial detention Remand, also known as pre-trial detention, preventive detention, or provisional detention, is the process of detaining a person until their trial after they have been arrested and charged with an offence. A person who is on remand is held i ...
. Research has found that coercive interrogation is slightly more effective than
cognitive interview The cognitive interview (CI) is a method of interviewing eyewitnesses and victims about what they remember from a crime scene. Using four retrievals, the primary focus of the cognitive interview is to make witnesses and victims of a situation awar ...
ing for extracting a confession from a suspect, but presents a higher risk of
false confession A false confession is an admission of guilt for a crime which the individual did not commit. Although such confessions seem counterintuitive, they can be made voluntarily, perhaps to protect a third party, or induced through coercive interroga ...
. Many torture victims will say whatever the torturer wants to hear to end the torture. Others who are guilty refuse to make a confession, especially if they believe that confessing will only bring more torture or punishment. Medieval justice systems attempted to counteract the risk of false confession under torture by requiring confessors to provide
falsifiable Falsifiability is a standard of evaluation of scientific theories and hypotheses that was introduced by the philosopher of science Karl Popper in his book '' The Logic of Scientific Discovery'' (1934). He proposed it as the cornerstone of a ...
details about the crime, and only allowing torture if there was already some evidence against the accused. In some countries, political opponents are tortured to force them to confess publicly as a form of state propaganda.


Interrogation

The use of torture to obtain information during
interrogation Interrogation (also called questioning) is interviewing as commonly employed by law enforcement officers, military personnel, intelligence agencies, organized crime syndicates, and terrorist organizations with the goal of eliciting useful informa ...
accounts for a small percentage of worldwide torture cases; its use for obtaining confessions or intimidation is more common. Although interrogational torture has been used in conventional wars, it is even more common in asymmetric war or
civil war A civil war or intrastate war is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region, or to change go ...
s. The ticking time bomb scenario is extremely rare, if not impossible, but is cited to justify torture for interrogation. Fictional portrayals of torture as an effective interrogational method have fueled misconceptions that justify the use of torture. Experiments comparing torture with other interrogation methods cannot be performed for ethical and practical reasons, but most scholars of torture are skeptical about its efficacy in obtaining accurate information, although torture sometimes has obtained actionable intelligence. Interrogational torture can often shade into confessional torture or simply into entertainment, and some torturers do not distinguish between interrogation and confession.


Methods

A wide variety of techniques have been used for torture. Nevertheless, there are a limited number of ways of inflicting pain while minimizing the risk of death. Survivors report that the exact method used is not significant. Most forms of torture include both physical and psychological elements and multiple methods are typically used on one person. Different methods of torture are popular in different countries. Low-tech methods are more commonly used than high-tech ones, and attempts to develop scientifically validated torture technology have failed. The prohibition of torture motivated a shift to methods that do not leave marks to aid in deniability and to deprive victims of legal redress. As they faced more pressure and scrutiny, democracies led the innovation in clean torture practices in the early twentieth century; such techniques diffused worldwide by the 1960s. Patterns of torture differ based on a torturer's time limits—for example, resulting from legal limits on pre-trial detention. Beatings or
blunt trauma Blunt trauma, also known as blunt force trauma or non-penetrating trauma, is physical traumas, and particularly in the elderly who Falling (accident), fall. It is contrasted with penetrating trauma which occurs when an object pierces the skin a ...
are the most common form of physical torture. They may be either unsystematic or focused on a specific part of the body, as in falanga (the soles of the feet), repeated strikes against both ears, or shaking the detainee so that their head moves back and forth. Often, people are suspended in painful positions such as
strappado The strappado, also known as corda, is a form of torture Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for reasons such as punishment, extracting a confession, interrogational torture, interrogation for in ...
or upside-down hanging in combination with beatings. People may also be subjected to stabbings or
puncture wound Penetrating trauma is an open wound injury An injury is any physiological damage to living tissue caused by immediate physical stress. An injury can occur intentionally or Accident, unintentionally and may be caused by blunt trauma, penetrati ...
s, have their nails removed, or body parts
amputated Amputation is the removal of a Limb (anatomy), limb by Physical trauma, trauma, medical illness, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as cancer, malignancy or gangrene. In ...
. Burns are also common, especially cigarette burns, but other instruments are also employed, including hot metal, hot fluids, the sun, or
acid An acid is a molecule or ion capable of either donating a proton (i.e. hydrogen ion, H+), known as a Brønsted–Lowry acid, or forming a covalent bond with an electron pair, known as a Lewis acid A Lewis acid (named for the American p ...
. Forced ingestion of
water Water (chemical formula ) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living ...
,
food Food is any substance consumed by an organism for nutritional support. Food is usually of plant, animal, or fungal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substanc ...
, or other substances, or injections are also used as torture.
Electric shocks Electrical injury is a physiological reaction caused by electric current passing through the body. The injury depends on the density of the current, tissue resistance and duration of contact. Very small currents may be imperceptible or produce a ...
are often used to torture, especially to avoid other methods that are more likely to leave scars.
Asphyxiation Asphyxia or asphyxiation is a condition of deficient supply of oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element with the chemical symbol, symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen Group (periodic table), group in the period ...
, of which waterboarding is a form, inflicts torture on the victim by cutting off their air supply. Psychological torture includes methods that involve no physical element as well as forcing a person to do something and physical attacks that ultimately target the mind.
Death threat A death threat is a threat, often made Anonymity, anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or group of people. These threats are often designed to intimidate victims in order to Psychological manipulation, manipulat ...
s,
mock execution A mock execution is a ruse de guerre, stratagem in which a victim is deliberately but falsely made to feel that their execution or that of another person is imminent or is taking place. The subject is made to believe that they are being led to the ...
, or being forced to witness the torture of another person are often reported to be subjectively worse than being physically tortured and are associated with severe sequelae. Other torture techniques include
sleep deprivation Sleep deprivation, also known as sleep insufficiency or sleeplessness, is the condition of not having adequate duration and/or quality of sleep Sleep is a sedentary state of mind and body. It is characterized by altered consciousness, relat ...
, overcrowding or
solitary confinement Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment in which the inmate lives in a single cell with little or no meaningful contact with other people. A prison may enforce stricter measures to control contraband on a solitary prisoner and use additi ...
, withholding of food or water,
sensory deprivation Sensory deprivation or perceptual isolation is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimulus (physiology), stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds or Hood (headgear), hoods and earmuffs can cut off sight and hea ...
(such as hooding), exposure to extremes of light or noise (e.g., musical torture), humiliation (which can be based on sexuality or on the victim's religious or national identity), and the use of animals such as dogs to frighten or injure a prisoner. Positional torture works by forcing the person to adopt a stance, putting their weight on a few muscles, causing pain without leaving marks, for example standing or squatting for extended periods.
Rape Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without their consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, Abusive power and control, ...
and
sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent, or Coercion, coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will. It is a form of sexual violenc ...
are universal torture methods and frequently instill a permanent sense of shame in the victim, and in some cultures humiliate their family and society. Cultural and individual differences affect how different torture methods are perceived by the victim. Many survivors from Arab or Muslim countries report that forced nudity is worse than beatings or isolation.


Effects

Torture is one of the most devastating experiences that a person can undergo. Torture aims to break the victim's will and destroy the victim's agency and personality. Torture survivor Jean Améry argued that it was "the most horrible event a human being can retain within himself" and that "whoever was tortured, stays tortured". Many torture victims, including Améry, later die by suicide. Survivors often experience social and financial problems. Circumstances such as housing insecurity, family separation, and the uncertainty of applying for asylum in a safe country strongly impact survivors' well-being. Death is not an uncommon outcome of torture. Health consequences can include
peripheral neuropathy Peripheral neuropathy, often shortened to neuropathy, is a general term describing disease affecting the peripheral nerves, meaning nerves beyond the brain and spinal cord. Damage to peripheral nerves may impair sensation, movement, gland, or o ...
, damage to teeth,
rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis (also called rhabdo) is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly. Symptoms may include myalgia, muscle pains, weakness, vomiting, and mental confusion, confusion. There may be Pigmenturia, tea-colored urin ...
from extensive muscle damage,
traumatic brain injury A traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as an intracranial injury, is an injury to the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ that serves as the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals. It is lo ...
,
sexually transmitted infection Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the older term venereal diseases, are infections that are Transmission (medicine), spread by Human sexual activity, sexual activity, especi ...
, and pregnancy from rape.
Chronic pain Chronic pain is classified as pain that lasts longer than three to six months. In medicine, the distinction between Acute (medicine), acute and Chronic condition, chronic pain is sometimes determined by the amount of time since onset. Two commonly ...
and pain-related disability are commonly reported, but there is scant research into this effect or possible treatments. Common psychological problems affecting survivors include traumatic stress,
anxiety Anxiety is an emotion which is characterized by an unpleasant state of inner wikt:turmoil, turmoil and includes feelings of dread over Anticipation, anticipated events. Anxiety is different than fear in that the former is defined as the anticipa ...
, depression, and
sleep disturbance A sleep disorder, or somnipathy, is a medical disorder of an individual's sleep Sleep is a sedentary state of mind and body. It is characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited Perception, sensory activity, reduced muscle ac ...
. An average of 40 percent have long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a higher rate than for any other traumatic experience. Although the traditional view is that fear causes trauma, Pérez-Sales argues that loss of control explains trauma in torture survivors. As torture can be a form of
political violence Political violence is violence which is perpetrated in order to achieve political goals. It can include violence which is used by a State (polity), state against other states (war), violence which is used by a state against civilians and non-stat ...
, not all survivors or rehabilitation experts support using medical categories to define their experience, and many survivors remain psychologically resilient. Survivors of torture, their families, and others in the community may require long-term material, medical, psychological and social support. Most torture survivors do not disclose their status unless specifically asked by a healthcare provider. Psychological interventions have shown a statistically significant but clinically minor decrease in PTSD symptoms, but this decrease did not persist at follow-up. Other metrics, such as psychological distress or quality of life, showed no benefit or were not measured. Most studies have narrowly focused on PTSD symptoms, and there is a lack of research on integrated or patient-centric approaches to treatment. Although there is less research on the effects of torture on perpetrators, they can experience moral injury or trauma symptoms similar to the victims, especially when they feel guilty about their actions. Torture has corrupting effects on the institutions and societies that perpetrate it. Torturers forget important investigative skills because torture can be an easier way than time-consuming police work to achieve high conviction rates, encouraging the continued and increased use of torture. Public disapproval of torture can harm the international reputation of countries that use it, strengthen and radicalize violent opposition to those states, and encourage adversaries to themselves use torture.


Public opinion

Studies have found that most people around the world oppose the use of torture in general. Some hold categorical views on torture; for others, torture's acceptability depends on the victim. Support for torture in specific cases is correlated with the belief that torture is effective and used in ticking time bomb cases. Women are more likely to oppose torture than men. Nonreligious people are less likely to support the use of torture than religious people, although for the latter group, increased
religiosity In sociology, the concept of religiosity has proven difficult to define. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests: "Religiousness; religious feeling or belief. ..Affected or excessive religiousness". Different scholars have seen this concept a ...
increases opposition to torture. The personality traits of
right-wing authoritarianism In psychology, the right-wing authoritarian (RWA) is a personality type that describes somebody who is highly submissive to their authority figures, acts aggressively in the name of said authorities, and is conformist in thought and behavior. Th ...
,
social dominance orientation Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a personality trait measuring an individual's support for social hierarchy and the extent to which they desire their in-group be superior to In-group and out-group, out-groups. SDO is conceptualized under soci ...
, and retributivism are correlated with higher support for torture; embrace of democratic values such as liberty and equality reduces support for torture. Public opinion is most favorable to torture, on average, in countries with low
per capita income Per capita income (PCI) or total income measures the average income earned per person in a given area (city, region, country, etc.) in a specified year. It is calculated by dividing the area's total income by its total population. Per capita i ...
and high levels of state repression. Public opinion is an important constraint on the use of torture by states.


Prohibition

The stigma against torture as barbaric and uncivilized originated in the debates around its abolition. By the late nineteenth century, countries began to be condemned internationally for the use of torture. The ban on torture became part of the civilizing mission justifying colonial rule on the pretext of ending torture, despite the use of torture by colonial rulers themselves. The stigma was strengthened during the twentieth century in reaction to the use of torture by Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
. Shocked by Nazi atrocities during World War II, the United Nations drew up the 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
, which prohibited torture. Torture is criticized on the basis of all major ethical frameworks, including
deontology In moral philosophy Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' ...
,
consequentialism In ethical philosophy, consequentialism is a class of normative ethics, normative, Teleology, teleological ethical theories that holds that the wikt:consequence, consequences of one's Action (philosophy), conduct are the ultimate basis for judgm ...
, and
virtue ethics Virtue ethics (also aretaic ethics, from Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:ἀρετή, ἀρετή 'arete (moral virtue), aretḗ'' is an approach to ethics that treats the concept of virtue, moral virtue as central. Virtue ethics is usually contr ...
. Some contemporary philosophers argue that torture is never morally acceptable; others propose exceptions to the general rule in real-life equivalents of the ticking time-bomb scenario. Torture stimulated the creation of the
human rights movement Human rights movement refers to a nongovernmental social movement engaged in activism related to the issues of human rights. The foundations of the global human rights movement involve resistance to: colonialism, imperialism, slavery, racism, segreg ...
. In 1969, the Greek case was the first time that an international body—the European Commission on Human Rights—found that a state practiced torture. In the early 1970s,
Amnesty International Amnesty International (also referred to as Amnesty or AI) is an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights, with its headquarters in the United Kingdom. The organization says it has more than ten million members and s ...
launched a global campaign against torture, exposing its widespread use despite international prohibition, and eventually leading to the
United Nations Convention against Torture The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)) is an international human rights treaty under the review of the United Nation ...
(CAT) in 1984. Successful
civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business, and including the family and the private sphere. Hulme and Edwards suggested that it was now seen as "the magic bullet." By the end of th ...
mobilizations against torture can prevent its use by governments that possess both motive and opportunity to use torture. Torture remains central to the human rights movement in the twenty-first century. The prohibition of torture is a
peremptory norm A peremptory norm (also called or ' ; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known ...
(''jus cogens'') in
international law International law (also known as public international law and the law of nations) is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as binding between State (polity), states. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptua ...
, meaning that it is forbidden for all states under all circumstances. Most jurists justify the absolute legal prohibition on torture based on its violation of human dignity. The CAT and its Optional Protocol focus on the prevention of torture, which was already prohibited in
international human rights law International human rights law (IHRL) is the body of international law designed to promote human rights on social, regional, and domestic levels. As a form of international law, international human rights law are primarily made up of treaties, ag ...
under other treaties such as the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty that commits nations to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom ...
. The CAT specifies that torture must be a criminal offense under a country's laws, evidence obtained under torture may not be admitted in court, and deporting a person to another country where they are likely to face torture is forbidden. Even when it is illegal under national law, judges in many countries continue to admit evidence obtained under torture or ill treatment. A 2009 study found that 42 percent of states parties to the CAT continue to use torture systematically. In
international humanitarian law International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war ('' jus in bello''). It is a branch of international law that seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by p ...
, which regulates the conduct of war, torture was first outlawed by the 1863
Lieber Code The Lieber Code of April 24, 1863, issued as General Orders No. 100, Adjutant General's Office, 1863, was an instruction signed by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to the Union (American Civil War), Union forces of the United States during the Americ ...
. Torture was prosecuted during the
Nuremberg trials The Nuremberg trials were held by the Allies of World War II, Allies against representatives of the defeated Nazi Germany, for plotting and carrying out invasions of other countries, and other crimes, in World War II. Between 1939 and 1945 ...
as a
crime against humanity Crimes against humanity are widespread or systemic acts committed by or on behalf of a '' de facto'' authority, usually a state, that grossly violate human rights. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity do not have to take place within t ...
; it is recognized by both the 1949
Geneva Conventions file:Geneva Convention 1864 - CH-BAR - 29355687.pdf, upright=1.15, Original document in single pages, 1864 The Geneva Conventions are four Treaty, treaties, and three additional Protocol (diplomacy), protocols, that establish international law ...
and the 1998
Rome Statute The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome, Italy on 17 July 1998Michael P. Scharf (August 1998)''Results of the R ...
of the
International Criminal Court The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organization and International court, international tribunal seated in The Hague, Netherlands. It is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to pro ...
as a war crime. According to the Rome Statute, torture can also be a crime against humanity if committed as part of a systematic attack on a civilian population.


Prevention

Torture proliferates in situations of incommunicado detention. Because the risk of torture is highest directly after an arrest, procedural safeguards such as immediate access to a lawyer and notifying relatives of an arrest are the most effective ways of prevention. Visits by independent monitoring bodies to detention sites can also help reduce torture. Legal changes that are not implemented in practice have little effect on the incidence of torture. Legal changes can be particularly ineffective in places where the law has limited legitimacy or is routinely ignored. Sociologically, torture operates as a
subculture A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, poli ...
, frustrating prevention efforts because torturers can find a way around rules. Safeguards against torture in detention can be evaded by beating suspects during round-ups or on the way to the police station. General training of police to improve their ability to investigate crime has been more effective at reducing torture than specific training focused on human rights. Institutional police reforms have been effective when abuse is systematic. Political scientist Darius Rejali criticizes torture prevention research for not figuring out "what to do when people are bad; institutions broken, understaffed, and corrupt; and habitual serial violence is routine".


References


Sources


Books

* * * * * * * * * *


Book chapters

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Journal articles

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{Authority control Political violence Human rights abuses Philosophy of law Ethically disputed judicial practices Suffering State crime