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Applying Ideas of Dignity -- Torture


Applying Ideas of Dignity -- Torture ER11, Govt E-1040, Spring 2012 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Applying Ideas of Dignity -- Torture

Applying Ideas of Dignity -- Torture
  • ER11, Govt E-1040,
  • Spring 2012

Illustration of power of Kantian approach
absolute rights
  • A right might be
  • Satisfied
  • Infringed (when not satisfied)
  • Overridden (when justifiably infringed)
  • Absolute when it cannot be overridden

  • Is there an absolute right not to be tortured?

  • Drawing on Kant, can argue yes, there is
  • Sussman article

Historical Types of Torture
  • Torture as intimidation -- in weak and
    unsophisticated states
  • Torture as punishment there are things that are
    much worse than death
  • Torture as trial (e.g., ducking)
  • Torture to extract information

Understanding Torture
Understanding Torture
  • Indeed, there is perhaps nothing more fearful
    and more terrible in the entire prehistory of
    human beings than the technique for developing
    his memory. We burn something in so that it
    remains in the memory. Only something which never
    ceases to cause pain remains in the memorythat
    is a leading principle of the most ancient
    (unfortunately also the longest) psychology on

Understanding Torture
  • Europeanshave used terrible means to make
    themselves a memory in order to attain mastery
    over their vulgar basic instincts and their
    brutal crudity think of the old German
    punishments, for example, stoning (), breaking
    on the wheel (), impaling on a stake, ripping
    people apart or stamping them to death with
    horses (quartering), boiling the criminal in
    oil or wine (still done in the fourteenth and
    fifteenth centuries), the well-loved practice of
    flaying (cutting flesh off in strips), carving
    flesh out of the chest, and probably covering the
    offender with honey and leaving him to the flies
    in the burning sun. With the help of such images
    and procedures people finally retained five or
    six I will nots in the memory ()

Modern Conventions Against Torture
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • Article 5
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to
    cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

European Convention on Human Rights (1950)
  • Article 3
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to
    inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

European Convention, Article 15
  • In time of war or other possible emergency
    threatening the life of the nation any
    countries may take measures derogating from its
    obligations under this Convention to the extent
    strictly required by the exigencies of the
    situation. No derogation from Article 2 right
    to life, except in respect of deaths resulting
    from lawful acts of war, or from Articles 3
    right against torture and degrading treatment,
    4.1 slavery and servitude and 7 ex post facto
    laws shall be made under this provision.

Convention Against Torture (CAT, 1984)
  • Article 2
  • 1. Each State Party shall take effective
    legislative, administrative, judicial or other
    measures to prevent acts of torture in any
    territory under its jurisdiction.
  • 2. 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 of torture.
  • 3. An order from a superior officer or a public
    authority may not be invoked as a justification
    of torture.

The Six Core Human Rights Treaties (Each
Treaty Body)
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political
    Rights, adopted in 1966 and which entered into
    force 23 March 1976
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social
    and Cultural Rights, adopted in 1966, entered
    into force 3 January 1976
  • The International Convention on the Elimination
    of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in
    1965, entered into force 4 January 4 1969
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
    Discrimination Against Women, adopted in 1979,
    entered into force 3 September 1981
  • The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel,
    Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
    adopted in 1984, entered into force 26 June 1987
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child,
    adopted in 1989, entered into force 2 September

Background to Post-War Conventions
  • National Socialism, always
  • generally major goal of human rights treaties is
    to protect individuals from abusive state power,
    and make such protection a matter of general
  • possibility of being subject to torture is one of
    the major concerns here

Encountering Torture Northern Ireland
Encountering Torture Jacobo Timerman
Encountering Torture Jacobo Timerman
  • In the long months of confinement, I often
    thought about how to convey the pain that a
    tortured person undergoes. And always I concluded
    that it was impossible. It is a pain without
    points of reference, without revelatory symbols
    or clues to serve as indicators.

Encountering Torture Berlin
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Encountering Torturers
  • John Conroy, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People,
    Chapter on Torturers
  • Last sentence Finding these men was not easy,
    convincing them to talk to me was hard work, but
    invariably our meetings went well. I never met
    the monster I anticipated. (p 122)

Encountering Torture Abu Ghraib
Encountering Torture
Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 2009
  • Even as we confront a vicious adversary that
    abides by no rules, I believe the United States
    of America must remain a standard bearer in the
    conduct of war. That is what makes us different
    from those whom we fight. That is a source of our
    strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That
    is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay
    closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed
    America's commitment to abide by the Geneva
    Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise
    the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we
    honor we honor those ideals by upholding them
    not when it's easy, but when it is hard.

Defining Torture (CAT)
  • 1. () Torture" means 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.

What Counts as Torture?
  • In the UN Committee on Torture the following were
    discussed and classified as torture
  • Daily beatings
  • Detaining somebody in a small uncomfortable space
    for two weeks
  • Forcing someone to sleep on the floor of a cell
    while handcuffed following interrogation
  • Sleep deprivation in severe cases
  • the threat of torture

What is Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading?
  • Depriving somebody of food/water
  • In severe cases, binding in restraint chair
  • Physical restraint that may cause unnecessary
    pain and humiliation
  • Long periods of detention (two weeks and more) in
    sub-standard cells

David Sussman, Whats Wrong with Torture?
  • The torture victim finds herself to be not
    only physically and morally defenseless, but
    exposed to a will that appears largely if not
    completely arbitrary. The victims greatest
    interests are completely subject to the caprice
    of her torturers (.) Insofar as she is able to
    form any estimates of their motives and
    intentions, the victim must trust in the
    sincerity of people who have already shown that
    they have no scruples about how they treat her.
    (p 7f)

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Sussman Cont.
  • Torture fails to respect the dignity of its
    victim as a rationally self-governing agent.
    ()Torture () involves a deliberate perversion
    of that very value, turning our dignity against
    itself () It is perhaps not accidental that many
    of the most common forms of torture involve
    somehow pitting the victim against himself,
    making him an active participant in his own
    abuse. In Abu Ghraib, captives were made to
    masturbate in front of jeering captors. Here the
    captive was forced into the position of having to
    put his most intimate desires, memories, and
    fantasies into the service of his torturers, in a
    desperate attempt to arouse himself for their
    amusement. The US soldiers could beat and killer
    their prisoners, but only the prisoner himself
    could offer up his own erotic life to be used
    against himself in this way. (p 19-22).

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Yet more Sussman
  • The torture victim finds within herself a
    surrogate of the torturer, a surrogate who does
    not merely advance a particular demand for
    information, denunciation, or confession. Rather,
    the victims whole perspective is given over to
    that surrogate, to the extent that the only thing
    that matters to her is pleasing this other person
    who appears infinitely distant, important,
    inscrutable, and free. () Like love or religious
    devotion, such an attitude can develop an
    emotional hold that persists beyond the
    circumstances that initially created it, as the
    phenomenon of traumatic bonding or Stockholm
    syndrome attests. (p 25f)