IS THE USE OF TORTURE JUSTIFIED IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?

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Ever since the beginning of the war on terrorism more than a decade ago many features and freedoms that people had enjoyed so far or even considered sacred have been violated or reduced. One of the most notable of those is human rights considered
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    0 IS THE USE OF TORTURE JUSTIFIED IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?      1 Ever since the beginning of the war on terrorism more than a decade ago many features and freedoms that people had enjoyed so far or even considered sacred have been violated or reduced. One of the most notable of those is human rights considered among the first victims of the war. What the protectors of human rights protest against the most are the interrogational techniques that include torture in order to extract information  –   something that has been used more often than not in the last 10 years. Whether or nor torture can ever be  justified is one of the most heated debates raging amongst the academia and the intelligentsia nowadays especially with respect to interrogation practices used by the United States. Torture is an extreme form of human violence that could have both physical and psychological consequences on the victim. It is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and a  big quantity of research has shown that it could have negative effects on both survivors and  perpetrators. It is prohibited by many international laws and codes, but it is still widespread, especially when it comes to interrogating suspected terrorists. The reliability of torture for extracting truthful information is debated and for that reason many argue that it can never be  justified and that it has to be straight out outlawed. In this essay I will argue  –   giving practical examples on its use and academic references  –   that there are those extreme cases when using torture could be morally justified in order to get information that could help prevent a future disaster, but nevertheless most of the time it remains a cruel and inhumane practice and its use in the fight against terrorism should be brought to the absolute minimum. What exactly constitutes as torture? There is no agreed upon definition of the concept, but it can be said with certainty that torture has been frowned upon as a practice for ages. The English Declaration of Rights has barred cruel punishment 300 years ago and the United States has followed its example by prohibiting it through the US Constitution for more than 200 years. Torture is also outlawed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified in 1948, and the United Nations ‟  Declaration against Torture in 1975. In 1984 the UN General Assembly adopted the infamous Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was ratified in 1987. The definition of torture given by the UN Convention against Torture is considered quite exhausting on the subject of what counts as torture:  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    2 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 There are a few things in this definition which have to be pointed out. Firstly, torture can be  physical and/or psychological and not necessarily inflicting death. Secondly, it is also a form of political violence (Bufacchi and Arrigo, 2006) Thirdly, in order for a particular action to count as torture the pain and suffering inflicted have to be severe and this action is distinguished from other forms of degrading or inhuman treatment (J.S. Bybee, 2002). In this essay I will argue that the use of torture even in the fight against terrorism is unjustified in almost   all occasions. Why is that? First, every human being has the right to be treated with the concern and respect it deserves and torture, as defined, is cruel and degrading and  by that it violates many of the people‟s  fundamental rights (Bufacchi and Arrigo, 2006). Also, as David Sussman (2005) argues, torture is much more vicious than any other kind of offensive and violent treatment because of the element of self-betrayal  –   the victims play a  part in their own suffering by having to choose to either betray their principals and beliefs or themselves (Bufacchi and Arrigo, 2006). Also, it is believed that it is morally unacceptable to humiliate another human being and more often than not this is what torture does through its tactics. Some of those tactics, as described by detainees held because of the “war on terror”, are (Amnesty International, 2005): -    prolonged isolation -   sleep deprivation -   sensory manipulation such as exposure to bright lights and loud music -   sexual and other forms of humiliation -   the use of dogs, mock executions and other threats to instil terror -    being forced to stand motionless or in stressful positions for hours on end -    beatings -   “environmental manipulation”, where detainees are exposed to extremes of heat and cold -   repeated insults with a racial and religious focus, described in US army manuals as “pride and   -   ego down”      3 -    prolonged handcuffing -   hooding and blindfolding -   Most of these techniques do Applying any o ne of those tactics would constitute torture and would violate the victim‟s rights. On the other hand, “cooperative” detainees are in a way rewarded for talking  –   they are allowed some comforts, those who interrogate them simulate friendship and respect and sometimes the detainees are even given money (Gellman and Priest, 2002). On the other hand, the uncooperative prisoners are subjected to those tactics mentioned above and sometimes they are even “rendered” to another country, where torture is not outlawed –    the practice of “extraordinary rendition” ( Gellman and Priest, 2002). What is more, most of the time torture has long-lasting physical and even mental consequences on the detainees or even the interrogators themselves (Costanzo and Geritty 2009). The victim could suffer form chronic pain for a very long time after the torture has ended and condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, are not excluded as a possibility. Other possible effects include (Amnesty International, 2005) -   anxiety disorders -   depression -   irritability -   shame and humiliation -   memory impairment -   reduced capacity to concentrate -   headaches -   sleep disturbance and nightmares -   emotional instability -    physical problems including stomach, lung and heart complaints -   sexual problems -   amnesia -   self-mutilation -    preoccupation with suicide -   social isolation    4 Another reason why torture should not be justified on principle is that this would leave much room for abuse and uncalled for cruelty. There is may be no better example of the cruelty that torture constitutes than what that took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In 2003, a series of photographs of prisoner abuse were shown around the world and shocked it. The photos were taken by U.S. soldier  s‟ who committed the abuse own cameras. They depicted prisoners being made to do humiliating and degrading things as well as prisoners  being subject to an extremely cruel treatment. Some of those photos showed Iraqi soldiers  being forced to masturbate or simulate sexual acts naked (Barry at al, 2004). Others depicted victims terrified by snarling dogs, inmates with bleeding and untreated wounds, prisoners with wires attached to themselves, etc. What constituted the most shock was that the soldiers who committed the torture posed next to their victims smiling, laughing and approving of the abuse and the suffering. Soon after the pictures of Abu Ghraib came to light reports outlining the abuse in other US detention facilities  –   Guantanamo being most notable  –   followed (Costanzo, 2009). Pictures of prisoners being returned to their cells on stretchers after the interrogation were distributed (Steyn, 2004). Reports like this one are not surprising, however. There is a reason why Guantanamo is being referred as the legal black hole, where prisoners are often being detained without justification and without being allowed fair trial. They are tried by a military tribunal without being allowed the writ of habeas corpus to determine whether their detention is justified. Their trials are often a held in secret and in the end all comes down to the decision of the president. Justice in cases like that is rarely observed (Steyn, 2004). Examples on the injustice and torture that takes place in facilities like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are numerous. An Amnesty International report reads (Amnesty International, 2005):  Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi national, died in Abu Ghraib in November 2003 from “blunt     force injuries complicated by compromised respiration”, according to the death certificate.  He was a “ghost detainee” brought into the prison by US forces and left unregistered and untreated for a head injury sustained on arrest. …  
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