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The use of torture on someone in order to derive critical information which could save lives should be used by the criminal justice system if needed. Torturing someone is an event that you will have to live with for the rest of your life but if it was used as a positive act in order to preserve national security torturing should always be an option in mind. I believe that torture is only ok if the result could be saving one or many innocent people's lives by forcing out information from a person. America's blueprints where built around being free and providing us with our natural rights such as freedom of speech, religion and other civil liberties. Sometimes freedom of speech and some of our civil liberties are trumped by other rights and liberties which allow us to protect America and the people that live here. Torturing someone takes away freedoms from criminals but it also may protect other civil liberties such as the right to life, liberty, and security from innocent people.
According to the United Nations Convention against Torture the definition of torture is:
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. -UNCAT
The use of torture is illegal under international law and majority of countries domestic laws. If the act that you enact on someone matches the definition of torturing one can be punished for no more than twenty years unless the victim ends up dying in the process then the person will be punished by death or imprisoned for life.
Throughout almost all of history some form of torturing has been used. Before the 18th century most of capitol punishments where considered as torture and involved painful methods of execution, but in more recent years due to the human rights movement, capital punishment has moved away from painful acts to quick and easy deaths. Torture is still openly used in 81 world governments according to Amnesty International in 2008. The ancient Greeks and Romans are believed to be the first to use torture as an interrogations method mainly only on slaves. It was sad that the only way information from a slave could be "trusted" was if it came from torturing them because it was said that slaves cannot be trusted to give up truthful information on their own will. Many old societies used torturing as deterrence for others much like the term general deterrence used today hoping that the punishment of a single offender sets an example for others not to commit the same crime. Torturing usage hit its prime in the middle ages up till around 1816 when papal bull didn't allow it anymore. During the middle ages it was normal for criminals convicted and sentenced to death to undergo torture in hopes for them to rat out their partners in crime. The torturing occurred in what seems as a perfect scary movie scene, in underground dungeons with the victim strapped onto a table surrounded by figures with black capes on with sharp instruments ready to cause pain. Soon after these secret underground activities where conducted the government began to take full advantage of the scare factor and hold the torturous executions in public. These executions drew in many people which was good because it helped with the deterrence of future crimes. A somewhat more recent period of torturing involved the Salem witch trials where many people were tortured to reveal their relationship with Satan (Fuller). The first real protesters against the use of torturing was a man named Anton Praetorius who described the events and conditions of the prisoners in the underground dungeons in his book Thorough Report about Sorcery and Sorcerers From then on torturing has become less and less used (that we know of) due to the many implementations of human rights into countries laws making torturing illegal and unneeded. And in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made it so the use of torturing was officially illegal. A letter from one of the greatest leaders of all time, Napoleon Bonaparte on his opinion of torture while he was in Egypt in 1798:
Barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief forbids the use of a method which is contrary to reason and humanity. -Bonaparte
Throughout the centuries many different methods and devices to perform the torturing act. It can be broken down to physical, psychological, pharmacological, and medical torture. Physical torture is the method of torture that is mostly thought of when people hear the word of torture. It can range from being beat barehanded to the more interesting devices used to exert extreme pain to derive the Intel needed (Torture Devices). The type of torturing that in mainly used in today's society is psychological torture. Water boarding is used to simulate drowning and is the preferred technique that many organizations in the criminal justice system are accused of using now. In 2008 President Bush gave the CIA the ok to use waterboarding stating, "depending on the circumstances," and making sure "an attack might be imminent." In this case (for once) I completely agree with President Bush's statement because he shows that he only wants the waterboarding to occur if they are absolutely positive that an attack to harm innocent civilians was going to happen (Eggen).
The use of torturing is still found in today's society mainly in three different areas: criminal justice system, military detention, internment and interrogation, and lastly extraordinary rendition.
In the criminal justice system incidents of torture are allegedly reported in prisons. Some cases of police brutality can be so intense that it can be considered torture. Just one of the many examples of torture in the criminal justice system was Commander Jon Burge of the Chicago Police Department repeatibly used plastic bags to nearly suffocate prisoners and excessive beating in the 1970's and 1980's in over 50 incidents (Bierma).
The second area where torture is prominent is in the military. Torture has allegedly been used in prisons, immigration detention facilities and military compounds. The American government has participated in torturing overseas, set up interrogation facilities where torturing is practiced and taught foreign officials their interrogation methods which included torturing practices. CIA agents anonymously confirmed to the Washington Post that they use the technique of stress and duress such as water boarding. Also the confirmed that they beat up suspects that did not listen, forcibly strapped them in uncomfortable painful positions for a long periods of time, and forced them to live in small areas.
Lastly extraordinary rendition is the handing over of suspects to foreign governments who have less strict interrogation rules for more intense interrogations. United States of America is well known for this process called torture by proxy (Fact Sheet: Extraordinary Rendition).
After September 11th many people's opinions have changed on the use of torture because no one wants to risk another major terrorist attack on our country. Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, is a detainment facility that was created a year after September 11th. It holds the detainees from Afghanistan and Iraq who have yet to be convicted of any crime. President Bush stated that they are not protected by any of the articles under the Geneva Conventions which led to terrible treatment of the prisoners. Guantanamo Bay is infamously known for the use of torturing its prisoners, not by causing them extreme pain but by another, less extreme way. A prisoner who allegedly planned on hijacking a plane on September 11th was put through a process which is considered torture. He was denied contact for 160 day with anyone except interrogators and had to undergo 48 consecutive days of 18-20 hour interrogations while standing naked in front of female interrogators. This man was so intensely interrogated that he had to be hospitalized twice because he had bradycardia, which is when your heart rate drops below 60 beats a minute. The combinations of things this man had to undergo had a health impact and can be considered torture even though the techniques they used were all authorized (Woodward).
The main union that fights the torturing of people is the United Nations Conventions against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This started in 1984 and became enforced in 1987. In this convention they state that parties need to take effective measures to prevent any type of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction. Also ensured that torture is a criminal offence and establish universal jurisdiction to try cases of torture. Parties must investigate any allegations of torture and the victims must be compensated in some way. Lastly any evidence that is collected through torture may not be used any way against the victim.
Torture is still used today even though it is extremely illegal and unmoral. The crazy thing is that even though our criminal justice system is supposed to prevent torturing to occur they are the ones mainly involved in the act of torturing. The police officers and the military officers of many countries are the two groups that are most likely to be involved in torturing someone. In some way I am actually glad to see the fact that military and police officers take part in torturing the most because hopefully they are "illegally" using this inhumane act to get information that will lead to save innocent lives. I'm sure the act of torturing occurs way more often than we really know about. If soldiers are in a life or death situation over in Afghanistan or Iraq I doubt that they would hesitate in torturing someone if they knew the victims knew valuable information that could save theirs or other soldier's lives.