224 Views

The Big Debate: Torture by the state can never be justified

For

The definition of torture is ‘the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something’. That being said how can anyone have the right to carry out such an act, on another human, for whatever reason? The scars of torture are left imprinted on the victims not just physically but also mentally as well. Torture was abolished in England in 1772 and the UN’s article 15 states that ‘no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. These national and international laws and legislations against torture were obviously introduced after lengthy research into the dire effects of it. Hence, it is quite outrageous, after recent events especially regarding the ‘war on terror’ people still deem torture necessary.

 

Those that defend torture say it is important for extracting information from an individual or a group that may eventually lead to crucial findings related to national security. However, it is necessary to note that one cannot be sure the information extracted through such intense means will be correct or even accurate. This is because it is scientifically proven that a person under intense pain will eventually say, what the pain inflictor would want him to. Hence, one would even admit to something that they have not done. Such was the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi who was detained in Guantanamo bay for 14 years and then released, as there was no evidence against him. But, he still found himself admitting to things he had no idea about, just to convince the people torturing him to leave him alone. In his memoir Mr. Slahi describes being starved, shackled, stripped naked, tied, sleep deprived, and forced to drink sea water amongst other horrendous forms of cruelty. All this just because his conscience made him come forward with some information about the Al-Qaeda terrorist group in regard to the 9/11 attacks, which he thought might be useful to help capture the perpetrators. This innocent act lead to his horrible misfortune.

 

We are living in the 21st century and this means there are so many other ways that can be used to track the acts of a potential threats rather than extract information out of people in a way that leaves the victim scarred for life and humiliated, especially if they are innocent. Our technology is so advanced and it is undeniable that officials do use it to track the information about the actions of different people. Hence, why not use this technology to obtain useful information rather than using the animalistic ways of torture?

 

The most prominent and common argument in support of torture is the ‘ticking bomb metaphor which essentially involves a terrorist in custody, that happens to be withholding information regarding a weapon that could endanger the lives of many. However, one needs to realise that this scenario is rather unrealistic, and in fact, till today has never occurred despite various military officials around the world claiming it to have, but always failing to provide concrete evidence. The ‘ticking bomb’ metaphor was first actually seen in a novel published in 1960 and ever since people have used this false scenario to defend the belief that torture is necessary. I think it is safe to say that that the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario is one that is fictitious and cannot be used to justify the inhumane acts involved in torture.

 

It is also essential to note that those who carry out the torturous acts are not dehumanising the victim but also themselves; as eventually they end up lacking the emotions to feel sympathy towards their victim, and this can later be generalised to other people around them. This makes one wonder whether the torturer is any better than their victim, if the victim is even at all guilty. As it is quite often said ‘two wrongs do not make a right’ meaning that the one inflicting the pain is in no way better, than the person they believe to be guilty. Anyone before defending the acts of torture should try and put themselves in the shoes of the likes of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and others who have been through the terrors of it.

 

To defend the acts of torture or to say that is should be used in certain circumstance would be saying that you agree to sentencing someone to a lifetime of punishment, due to the lifelong effects of it. It would mean that you are supporting the pain that comes along with it just based on possibilities. Because to say it would be okay to torture someone would mean that you think that person held captive is responsible, you think that this person does have information that can be essential and most importantly you think that this person guilty. And even if they are guilty and the torture is to get revenge, what gives the right to one human being to inflict such cruel and intense pain on another. Because at the end of the day it begs the question are you any better than the person who is apparently in the wrong or guilt? Are your morals any better than theirs?

Sonaili Vasta

 

Against

There is a thermo-nuclear device somewhere in London. It has the capacity to raze the city its foundations and murder every one of its inhabitants. It is ticking. The person who planted it is in custody, and longs for death. This is the scenario you will be familiar with, as it is often used in the argument for torture. In this hypothetical situation, the imagined agent has no option but to use force to save the lives of millions. Torture is obviously justifiable in this hypothetical situation which is why it is so often used.

Hypothetical cases, however, make bad ethics. Jess Wolfendale, professor of philosophy at West Virginia University, criticises the use of the ‘ticking bomb’ argument, as it creates what she calls the “myth of the noble torturer”. If a scenario such as the ‘ticking bomb’ can be concocted to justify the use of torture, surely it would be just as easy to create a hypothetical scenario in which rape and genocide were equally justifiable as last resorts. Surely there must be room here for a little moral absolutism; namely that torture (the explicit removal of dignity and introduction of suffering) can never be justified, even theoretically. For what dark door do we open when we intentionally leave cracks in our morality?

In 1772, torture was outlawed in this country. It was a very sensible decision, as it brought Britain forward from the dark ages and limited the rampant cruelty imposed by the state on its citizens. However, in 1772 the most destructive thing (and thing most like the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario) that had ever happened was the gunpowder plot. If you had mentioned to people that one day a split atom could leave an entire city in ruins, they would have locked you in an asylum. This is unfortunately a reality today, and we must face the fact that a dirty bomb could be in the possession of a UK-based terror cell as I write this. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

If a murderer can be noble if he is wearing army fatigues on his way to Berlin, can a torturer not be noble also, if their work saves thousands of lives? I do not believe that the British and American security services are full of people who obtain pleasure from causing suffering. This brings us to what type of torture I am defending. There are 6 basic types, according to Shunzo Majima, a researcher at the Universities of Hokkaido and Hiroshima, of torture. They include judicial torture (used to obtain a confession), interrogational torture (used to obtain information), penal torture (used to punish), deterrent torture (used to intimidate), disabling torture (used to cripple and destroy), and recreational torture (used to obtain pleasure for the torturer or for witnesses). All 6 of those types are morally reprehensible. Only 5, however, should be unconditionally banned. Interrogation torture can be used so long as it adheres to a few basic rules.

Firstly, there must be a just cause. In the case of torture, the just cause is always the protection of the innocent. This, by definition, prohibits the torture of innocent civilians, no matter their relationship to the criminal. This cannot be the case because it is morally impossible to protect innocents by harming other innocents: only proved perpetrators and, in very rare cases, likely suspects can ever be subjected to torture. Furthermore, it must be a last resort. All other means, no matter how difficult, must have been tried before torture is used. Thirdly, there must be a proportionality between the ends and the means. Only the most severe harm to innocent people can justify severe torture. If these principles are adhered to, then the argument becomes the same as the argument for just war. War to prevent genocide or intense cruelty can be justified in my opinion, if all possible measures are taken to avoid civilian deaths.

Taking the moral absolutist’s position in this case (as in the case of war), and prohibiting torture in every possible circumstance, is in my opinion dangerous. It limits our ability to defend ourselves against an enemy which has no such limitations. Torture is the worst part of the legacy of humanity, and a black spot on the record of our species. To prohibit it, though, is to tie our hands before heading to battle, and a codified set of principles relating to torture should be adopted to allow the world to protect itself in the most extreme cases.

 

Will Cronk

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
534 views1
Campus News
534 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
73 views
Arts
73 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
107 views
Arts
107 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
107 views
Arts
107 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
131 views
Arts
131 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
147 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
158 views
Arts
158 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
149 views
Arts
149 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
244 views
Campus News
244 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
116 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
229 views
Arts
229 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
149 views
Arts
149 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
221 views
Artist Focus
221 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
156 views
Interview
156 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
222 views
Arts
222 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
249 views
Arts
249 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
287 views
Arts
287 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
199 views
Artist Focus
199 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
213 views
Books
213 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
265 views
Science
265 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
273 views
News
273 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…