Is torture ever justified?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by Karma, Sep 29, 2007.

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  1. The first of a series of articles in the Economist on civil liberties

    Have the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 put a lasting dent in civil liberties? The first of a series begins this week with a look at torture
  2. A difficult question, sometimes I think the end may justify the means.
    Torture is against the Geneva convention, however the question need asking "If a terrorist is fighting outside of the Geneva convention should he be allowed it's protection?"
  3. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    I think a lot depends on how you define "torture" pulling people's fingernails out with a spotlight in their face is a bit old hat and never really worked anyway. Wearing people's resolve down by the use of sleep deprivation, sensory confusion and fear work, I don't know at what point they fell into the torture definition.

    The fact is that a terrorist or criminal is not going to tell you anything if you stick him/her in a cosy cell with full access to legal representation and 8 hours sleep, I wouldn't.

    I guess it all depends how seriously you believe in the rights of the individual (guilty or not) over the rights of the (innocent) population.

    Not a difficult question for me.
  4. Personally I feel that with terrorists torture is justified, I can't see them giving information over without abit of "persuasion."
    Terrorists capture and execute people in not the most humane ways, they'd walk into any street and try and kill as many innocent people as possible if they could.
    So why should we treat them humanely?
  5. I suppose it all depends on the quality of the information gleaned by it and can you trust it.
    I would have thought in todays modern world there is a drug that would work better.

  6. I think a pair of pliers and snapping fingers one at a time. Which I read in a book on the french resistance heroes being questioned by the Gestapo not very pleasant. Heroes everyone.
  7. The problem is how do you know they are terrorists? A, very, distant relative of mine was tortured by the Commies in Easern Europe and thrown into the Gulag. Were they all American spies? Or do you say whatever the torturer wants you to say?

    I think that it will be easy to build up a huge house of cards based on torturered confessions, as has proberly happenend in Gitmo Bay. Yes, there are "bad" people there, but how can you now tell?

    One of the CIA "approved" techiques nowadays is "waterboarding." When the Japanese did this to our POWs we put them on trial and shot them.

    Read Craig Murray's book about being ambassador in a certain dodgy country, and how the CIA/MI6 rely on dodgy info from people tortured on our behalf. I could never, never vote for New Labour after reading that book.

    In this TWAT (The War Against Terror;) - a much better title!) we need to regain the morale high ground if we want to win. The fact that I can even seriously write that sentance shows just how much Bush, Rumie, Blair, Straw etc have sullied our reputation.
  8. It would depend on the proportionality....for instance...let's say hypothetically that a terrorist was arrested who it was known had information that could prevent a chemical bomb attack on central London...he knew where the bomb was being stored for instance. Would it be justified to cause this one man some pain, in order to save the lives of countless innocent people...of course it would.
    I happen to know for a fact that when the Italian PM Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades in 1978, the Italian police actually presented a case to the Italian Government to use torture against a red Brigade prisoner who they reckoned might know where Moro was being held. The Government refused saying that Moro might survive if they did that, but that the integrity of the Italian State in the eyes of the world would not. (No jokes about Italians please...this is not the thread).
    Having received training in certain related disciplines, I know that torture as a means to gain information is inefective, the subject will end up telling you anything to make their pain stop. That "anything" will just be what the subject thinks you want to hear, it might well be bollox!
    In summary, random use of torture against people who you suspect just might know stuff, would never be justfied or effective. However, if, as in the example described at the head of my post, you had an individual who you KNEW had life saving information, then I believe that the clinical application of intolerable pain would be justified bearing in mind that the subject WOULD have the power to make it stop as soon as they wished, and that the torture itself were a)non-lethal and b)non-permanent.
    If those criteria were met, and a dirty bomb were recovered, then I don't think history would judge us too harshly.
  9. Yes, but how do you know he knows? Has the information given to you come from an innocent man who was torturted into saying anyhting? While you are wasting time torturing him... you are not looking for the man who might be about to carry out a terrorist attack?
  10. Well be honest, with the system as it is now, if you arrested anyone who said "oh yeah, I know all about it, but you can fcuk off it I'm telling you anything"...which I'll wager has happened...there's not a lot you can do other than hold him. The Police can't even raise their voices to him FFS!
  11. The problem as I see it, is "confirmation", after you have interrogated/tortured a potential terrorist, how do you through other intelligence gathering means prove it true or false.

    I think it's a futile exercise by the CIA or any intelligence department.This recent spate of torturing and getting approval is the result of the cut backs to the CIA in the mid late 80's, the best intelligence is from operatives within the cells that are considered enemies of the State.But the budgets were slashed and the CIA activities thanks in part to the Iran/Contra debacle were what caused the intelligence agencies in the US to miss the ball on 9/11, along with inter agency mistrust and out right hatred of each other (FBI hates the CIA, the ATF hate the DEU, the NSA hates everyone, was one of the reasons important intel got missed).

    Also I believe the intelligence agencies are not doing their jobs right, if the diplomats were not allowed immunity, then the real people to question would be the Saudi's, or even the Pakastani's....also you have to consider that any information obtained through torture is suspect from the start as well as stale dated.

    Most well planned organisations will have made allowances for some of their people getting caught and once that happens, any plans they had would be changed, about the most they are getting from the prisoners at gitmo are names and nothing else, they have been there for quite some time so their information is irrelevant to todays needs...

    To answer the original question I firmly believe the Americans have sold their souls to the State, along with the Patriot Act and the suppression of Habeas Corpus by Bush, their civil liberties have been eroded.

    Bush and Habeas Corpus
  12. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    or the intelligence services. Most people won't accept this but there are lawyers(alledgedly) colluding with human rights activists in order to defend their clients, regardless of their guilt. Many of the interrogation methods which are being redefined as torture by these people are nothing more than a good bollocking. It seriously devalues the term torture which is why I am always sceptical when I hear the term used. Much of the work these human rights activists do is based purely on a politically motivated agenda, it's a shame because there are genuine human rights abuses going on in the world which need addressing, unfortunately they aren't newsworthy; it's easier to bring a tenuous issue to the attention of this countries press than one which is real but not "newsworthy" .......Sad, we appear to have lost the balance between the human rights of a criminal and the human rights of their (potential) victims.

    Human being mode by the way, not moderator!
  13. Oh I accept it as fact mate. Still makes me want to scream though!
  14. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Actually, certain provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 relating to suspects' rights in interviews may be waivered, especially when there is an imminent threat to life involved (i.e. the "ticking time bomb" scenario), so the Police will have more freedom to ask particular questions without the interference of a legal adviser (providing the information is not obtained using oppression).
  15. Torture is also absolutely prohibited under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights: no derogation is allowed, and Britain is a signatory (well one of our later, ultra-Conservative Home Secretaries actually wrote most of it). Evidence obtained under torture is always suspect and in any event I am opposed absolutely on moral grounds. Torture once justified tends to exhibit a trickle-down effect and ends up being used routinely as pollys either court or capitulate to artificially created moral panics.
  16. to torture another human... we all have times when we think we could easily do it........... but how many of us realy have the mind set to do it..
    its takes a damaged mind realy to gain anything from inflicting pain..
    In the end the torturere becomes no different fron the person he is hurting,
    the ends does not always justifie the means if it damages you.....

    ( or maybe im just being a feble female,!!!!)
  17. You're not feeble JC, just skin'n'essence!

    Those who get pleasure from inflicting pain on others shouldn't be allowed any power over any other person, whatsoever, at any time, ever!

    Sorry Reggies! ;)
  18. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator


    I think that puts it in a nutshell.

    The interesting thing is that no organisation labels itself a terrorist group -other countries do.

    No-one at the UN has managed to define what a terrorist is, as many countries ("axis of evil" claptrap) that have "freedom fighters" within their boundaries or jusrisdiction take exception to the proposed definition. Interestingly the US are the problem in accepting the definition as they fall into the bounds of the proposed definition of terrorism - how's that for a paradox?

    If we cannot agree on what defines a terrorist (have a go yourself!) how on earth can we agree on what constitutes justified torture?
  19. The fact that an enemy fights outside the GC is immaterial, as a signatory of the GC we are bound by it and that prevents us using torture, it is UK law after all. Those advocating torture and the abrogation of our responsibilities as a signatory, how would you respond to the Taliban, AQ or any future enemy torturing UK mil personnel to prevent imminent loss of life to their side? If it's justified for us it must also be for them, or does the west have the monopoly on this?

    Because part of being a democratic western society is to ensure that we do not sink to the level of third world dictatorships.
    Slim, who decides this? Is it justified to torture 10 to save 1 or must it always be balanced the opposite way? Are we going to rely on a government that arrest 2 people under AT law for reading a list of names of those that have given their lives for the country or a political party that has a life long suppoter arrested under AT law for heckling at a party conference?

    One of the things only touched on here is the "tortured". Consider that the majority of those that would be targets of torture here in the UK would not actually have been convicted of any crime. Does this put them in a different category to those that are convicted, those in Gitmo or those captured in combat/Ops in Iraq or Afghanistan? If this is a war, as declared by Bush and Bliar, then those captured are; as the US describe the gitmo residents; foriegn combatants ie PWs and entitled to protection under the law. A point well articulated by Stumpy in relation to the Japanese.

    Two further points. As has already been said what constitutes torture? There can be no doubt about the old fashioned beating, physical pain and applied violence interrogation techniques are but what of the use of physcological pain, safe use of drugs, etc? Lastly, are we as a country content to allow third parties to routinely torture tens, hundreds or even thousands of people in order to gain the int the west wants or would we be happy to set up Castlereagh Mk2 here in the UK (let's see how the Nimbys feel about that)?

  20. IMD, can you be specific about who you're quoting please.

    Given the topic is pretty emotive it's worth doing.


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