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Discuss the Ethical Implications of Preventive Detention and Interrogation Tactics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 838 words Published: 6th Aug 2021

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Preventive detention is a pretrial detainment without the right to bail of a person accused or suspected of a crime and assumed to pose a danger to society. This type of detention can apply to political prisoners, alleged terrorists, those seeking asylum, and does not always result in a trial. Detention involves keeping people in confined conditions, often behind razor wire and electric fencing. The increase in human rights abuses, and a lack of due process occurring in immigration centers, gives authorities the power of preventive detention without trial on the basis of suspicion alone. Guantanamo Bay, for example, was once a detention center for refugees. Since September 11, 2001, it has become a detention center for suspected terrorists, some of whom have been detained without charges for years. Human rights and ethics abuses have been documented in Guantanamo Bay because of the hidden public scrutiny and lack of accountability. The human rights issue is how a terrorist is defined. In the US during the cold war, anyone who opposed the government was deemed an enemy of the state, and was legislated in the Allen Registration Act of 1940. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, people were executed in the US for simply refusing to name fellow “communists” (Doerr-Zegars, Hartmann, Lira & Weinstein, 1992). Critics of this type of detention claim that just by supporting Al Qaeda or the Taliban may make a person dangerous, but it is not a mental illness. No one states that Al Qaeda members are not able to control their behavior, or are treated through psychiatric treatment. In their minds, preventive detention is an unnecessary and dangerous expansion of government power and because of this the Guantanamo Bay detainees should be charged or released.

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The word “torture” needs to be put in a context of ethics as it relates to interrogation techniques. Water boarding is an awful technique, but it is much different than mutilation with drills, rape or forcing a suspect to watch their family tortured, putting hummus in a man’s anus, forcing suspects to stand on broken feet, and playing detainees songs at loud volumes on repeat. Ethical morality involves a balance of ends and means. It is pertinent to consider that there are benefits from these interrogation techniques. Critics of interrogation tactics must answer critical questions such as if by performing these activities such as water boarding, and we may be able to elicit information that would stop a massive attack on an American city, would it then be considered feasible. Or, if by doing so, we can save a thousand innocent lives? Ten thousand? What about if we knew of a possible strike on American soil and the only way to prevent such an attack was by using unethical interrogation techniques?, would preventing such devastation be worthy of a green light to do so? The Democratic members of Congress think so.

Physical torture and manipulation will successfully produce intelligence information and confessions. To some, the harsh methods of torture and interrogation lack a value that proves costly to criminal justice efforts to provide security and solve crimes. Individuals who undergo long periods of torture have been shown to exhibit considerable long-term effects of PTSD which is considered a human rights violation. Human rights law recognizes that certain rights may be suspended by governments during a “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed.”(p.365, 2008)

The ethical implications used by interrogation methods are ones that depend on the definition of ethics. If saying the ends justifies the means then ethics must have a place in the issues that surround interrogation. Ethics are defined as value, belief, principle and convictions that a group of people hold to be a noble part of life and strive to practice every day (Sheikh, MacIntyre & Perera, 2008). Interrogation by itself is on no way an ethical process and the attempts to introduce ethics into interrogation methods would require that the purpose of interrogation and detention would need to be redefined.


Doerr-Zegers, O., Hartmann, L., Lira, E., & Weinstein, E. (1992). Torture: Psychiatric sequelae and phenomenology. Psychiatry, 55(2), 177-184.


Sheikh, M., MacIntyre, C. R., & Perera, S. (2008). Preventive detention: The ethical ground where politics and health meet. focus on asylum seekers in australia. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62(6), 480.


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