Torture has been a topic of immense contention within and without the boundaries of America since its inception in the American law. It has more often been used in the extraction of information from those who are believed to be hardcore and extremely reserved. The proponents of torture as a practice base their defense mainly on the fact that torture is justified as long as it is used to save lives of many innocent citizens and that the end justifies the means. Is this or any other justification for torture right and sensible? The author of this paper argues that irrespective of the condition and circumstances surrounding its application, torture is immoral, inhuman and not justified as a means of extraction of information or any other application.
First, the information extracted from a person through torture is unreliable and worthless (Fritz, 2003). This is because, during torture the victim’s first interest is to do everything it takes to stop pain including but not limited to lying. If, therefore, he/she feels that the information needed is so personal and not releasable, they lie just to derail the feeling of pain (Gray and Wegner, 2010). At the end of the process the torturer gets the information he wanted but not the absolute truth. Moreover, some of the victims of torture are terrorists who have taken oaths against revealing any information about their operation in life or in death (Basoglu, 2009). Torture will obviously fail to bear fruits in such a case as this. Instead of giving information that result in finding of solutions to problems at hand, torture, thus, results in the provision of misleading information derailing solution finding.
Torture affects even the innocent (Michael, 2005). Since the information is only for evasion of pain, an innocent victim can be unfairly convicted leaving the real criminals free and continuing with their operations without interference (Gray and Wegner, 2010). This is detrimental in two main ways; one, it results in promotion of crime since the criminals feel smart and unreachable. They continue with their operations with the notion that there will be an innocent citizen who will suffer the pain for them. Secondly, it creates fear among innocent citizens who might even be having information about some criminal activity. Instead of achieving security and availing information, torture creates a barrier to access to vital information.
Torture is both dehumanizing and degrading (Jeremy, 2005). It is an archaic and barbaric practice that lacks place in the civilized world for it directly infringes against the human rights of the victim (Gray and Wegner, 2010). Most of the practices of torture are sources of pain which none ought to be exposed to, irrespective of the weight of their crime. It is also inhuman because it not only causes immense pain but also results in restricted independence and freedom of the victim (Tarrant et al., 2012). The victim is rendered defenseless and unproductive as long as the pain endures. The self esteem of the tortured is always demeaned as he/she is turned into a gross criminal even if they are genuinely innocent. In some extreme cases, torture results in death. In fact the death caused by torture should be treated even more seriously than murder because in addition to death, it inflicts pain on the defenseless victim before killing him/her (Tarrant et al., 2012). In fact, torture in itself is practically synonymous to death for at the time of torture the victim’s life is consumed by the extreme pain. Moreover, the victims often suffer both psychological and physical problems resulting in poor health for the victim due to the pains caused, injuries and shame that the victim is compelled to undergo. It would thus be more humane that when an individual refuses to provide the information that they ought to provide, then they should be jailed and kept in custody until they reveal the information. There are also other means of extraction of information that could be more humane than this practice.
Torture is illegal and breaches the constitution of America and the international law (Michael, 2005). It shares a common ground with wars of aggression, genocide and slavery in that they are both jus cogens, a Latin phrase meaning “compelling law.” It thus insinuates that no country can ever permit torture because the prohibitions of jus cogen always present a criminal liability for violation. In the United States, torture has always been prohibited by law. In fact, there are three ratified treaties prohibiting torture, inhuman, degrading or cruel punishments and treatments (Gray and Wegner, 2010). Ratification of a treaty promotes the treaty to being a supreme law in the US, reference to the constitution’s supremacy clause. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishments and Treatments articulates it in a precise but clear way, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture." (Gray and Wegner, 2010). The torture statute also gives a lifelong imprisonment or death as a penalty in case of the death of a victim in the attempt or commission of torture without the US borders (Fritz, 2003). These examples and many others more succinctly deduce that the practice of torture can never be justified by law but reason. From this point of view it would make sense to stick to the law other than reason for the law was written for the good of citizens.
Torture strengthens opposition and terrorism (Basoglu, 2009). One of the many reasons for torture is to instill fear among the members of an outlawed group either of terrorism or other public crimes. In most cases the result of such tortures is exactly an opposite of the expectation and motive. The group often stands stronger and plan revenge strategies resulting to more lives than would have been lost were there no torture (Fritz, 2003). The torture of their members becomes an easy way to justify their action against the torturing power and a tool that helps them in recruiting members into their systems. The group also gets to enjoy the support resulting out of the public sympathy. This sympathy gives them a moral support that strengthens the criminal group in question (Basoglu, 2009). The increased opposition and heightened quest by the sects to revenge to the authorities undermines the internal security of a nation as well as its political stability. This has an implication that extends to a reduced economic growth due to the fear by external investors to be party to the country.
Torture results in mental health problems (Campbell, 2007). Research has associated torture to Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other disabilities and symptoms. From both the controlled and the uncontrolled research, it has been established that torture has a vital and long term psychological effects on some individuals (Basoglu, 2009). From systematic evaluations of survivors of torture, it was found that they suffer three main psychological problems from torture including: (a) psychological symptoms (irritability, depression, aggressiveness, anxiety, social withdrawal and emotional labilty); (b) cognitive symptoms (impaired concentration and memory and disorientation); and (c) Neurovegatative symptoms (sexual dysfunction, insomnia and nightmares) (Campbell, 2007). The consequences of torture may also extend throughout a survivor’s life influencing his or her familial, economic and psychological functions (Basoglu, 2009). From this it can be deduced that as much one may not have physically died from torture, it can reduce a victim to uselessness and thus practical death.
From the arguments advanced herein, it thus suffices to conclude that torture is never justified whatever the reason for its use. From the legal point of view of all laws – international and federal – torture is prohibited and therefore using it shall breach the law. From the ethical and moral point of view, torture is practically synonymous to death. From the human rights viewpoint, it is inhuman and degrading and finally from the medical perspective torture is associated to poor mental health and complications. Those who find their justification from securing and saving of lives would also learn from this paper that torture reduces security and beefs opposition. It would thus be right if the use torture is stopped and other more diplomatic means of extracting information and punishing are embraced.
List of References
Basoglu, M. 2009. A multivariate contextual analysis of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatments: Implications for an evidence based definition of torture. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79,135-145.
Campbell, T.A. 2007. Psychological assessment, Diagnosis and treatment of torture survivors: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 628-641.
Fritz, A. 2003. Terrorism and Torture. International Journal of Applied Philosophy. 17 (1), 105–118.
Gray K. and Wegner D. M. 2010. Torture and judgments of guilt. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46 (1), 233-235.
Jeremy, W. 2005. Torture and Positive Law: Jurisprudence for the White House. Columbia Law Review, 105 (6), 1681–1750.
Michael, D. 2005. The Moral Justification of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 19 (2), 161–178.
Tarrant, M., Nyla, R. B., Warner, R. H., and Dale W. 2012. Social identity and perceptions of torture: It's moral when we do it. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (2), 513-518.