As we all know Torture comes in many forms. Is sleep deprivation torture? Is a prostate exam or a colonoscopy torture? Is going to the dentist torture?

What I want to address here is premeditated torture inflicted on you against your will.

This is a Tortures subject to write on. Forgive the Pun:

How does one approach it without being bias? If you are the bloke on the receiving end it goes without saying that you would say never. If you are the one that has had your love one blown to pieces you more than like to say Yes.

I can envision situations where, as a last resort only, it is probably warranted. The problem is how does one define this threshold of acceptability?

Maybe the acceptance threshold for the application of torture is best defined in a similar manner as justifying going to war.

This is where I think I stand.

Torture cannot be justified because I would not justify torture for myself.


Because it’s not just the thought of the extreme physical suffering I don’t want to be tortured and I don’t want others to be tortured in the name of ideologies like “the greater good”, or “the ends justify the means”. No amount of lives saved is worth our humanity.

However, people are for the most part constrained by the attitudes of their society and their times. So, what we may hold as immoral in our society may not necessarily be true, but only appears true in our time.

Protection against torture is a universal an non-negotiable human right and its use is prohibited by international law without exceptions.

To date, 144 countries have ratified the Convention against Torture. (The hold-outs include such usual suspects as Sudan, North Korea, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but also India.) And yet, the UN’s special rapporteur told the Security Council in June, torture remains widespread. Amnesty International noted cases of state-sponsored torture or other inhumane treatment in 102 of the 153 countries included in its 2007 report. The worst offenders were China, Egypt (both of which are parties to the convention), Myanmar and North Korea, along with several African countries. America’s transgressions are trivial by comparison. The worry, argues Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, is that when America breaks the rules it encourages others to do the same.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture bans torture of all civilians, combatants, prisoners of war and terrorists alike. This is an unambiguous piece of international law, which forbids the use of torture in all circumstances;

The Geneva Convention bans the use of “violence to life and person, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture. It applies to prisoners of war but not to spies or terrorists.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not approve of torture. “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Today 66 per cent of Americans believe torture can be justified — either “always,” “sometimes,” or “rarely.”

In England, torture was outlawed in 1660, and for most of the past 350 years, that seemed to be a final verdict. In 2004 Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled that information acquired through torture was admissible as evidence in court. David Blunkett, then Britain’s home secretary, welcomed the ruling. Although the government “unreservedly” condemned torture.

Torture had been a barbarous relic of the dark ages. But the dark ages are not over.

Could torture ever be justifiably made Legal?

There many who insist that the answer must be an emphatic ‘No’: that if we were to use torture, we would destroy any claim the West might have to moral superiority.

We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are, we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people—no matter how evil they may be. In other words, it undermines some of the key foundations and values democratic societies rest upon.

In the Middle East, there are fanatics who seem to despise death as much as they despise the West. Their challenge has to be confronted, and it would be fatuous to assume that this can be achieved within the constraints of the Geneva Convention.  ISIS – Al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies are not a states party to the Geneva Conventions. They were not covered by its ban on torture and other maltreatment.

For those who hold that killing is not an absolute moral wrong, ( The Electric Chair for instance ) it is very difficult to see how torture could be an absolute moral wrong, given that killing is sometimes morally worse than torture.

The use of torture in order to protect human rights from terrorist threats leads to the paradox that human rights are violated by their protectors themselves.

The protection of human rights from terrorist threats, and the counterterrorism efforts that follow from it, needs to be in accordance with human rights standards in order to keep their legitimacy.

If the terrorist sees some moral point that we do not in our society, then he cannot be tortured on the presumption of guilt.

Justifying torture in exceptional cases bears the risk of dissolving its moral dam ability and undermines the rule of international law and human rights standards, a very dangerous slippery slope. Those who employ the methods of barbarism to deal with barbarians, themselves become barbarians.

While torture is not an absolute moral wrong in the sense that the evil involved in performing any act of torture is so great as to override any other conceivable set of moral considerations, nevertheless, there are no moral considerations that in the real world have, or ever will, override the moral injunction against torture.

The principle of refraining from torture has always, and will always, trump other morals.

Consider this well-worn real-life example of the five sailors on a raft in the middle of the ocean and without food. Four of them decide to eat the fifth—the cabin boy—in order to survive. This is a case of both murder and cannibalism. Was it morally excusable to kill and eat the boy, given the alternative was the death of all five sailors? Arguably, it was morally excusable and the sailors, although convicted of murder and cannibalism, had their sentence commuted in recognition of this.

Right, I know that the above scenario is not torture but it shows the moral dilemma we face if lives are in stake.

The present-day scenario in favour of legalizing torture is:

What if a bomber had placed timed bombs in public places? If the bomber is captured. Is torture justified to stop the bombs exploding in order to save innocent lives?

This is where it becomes difficult, putting aside morality I think torture would be necessary and justified as I can’t imagine knowing that the bomb could kill not just Innocent bystanders but perhaps near and dear loved ones.

We would not only have the right to use torture. We would have the duty to do so.

Where does that leave me? In favour.  No.

There may well be one-off emergencies in which the use of torture is morally justifiable but there simply are no real or imaginable circumstances in which torture could be morally justified.

We should not look at the justifiably of torture based on our emotions but rather on the “net benefits” gained from torture. E.g. information retrieved from interrogation. Torture is way more effective than other interrogation techniques with the exception of the use of leverages. E.g. threatening to rape/kill their wife and kids if they don’t cooperate. Nobody has the right to deliberately harm another human being with the intention of causing the maximum physical and emotional pain. No, because people will say anything to get the torture to stop, rendering it useless.

The Convention Against Torture only applies to a country’s own soil, which is why torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is legally acceptable.

The concept of autonomy, somebody being in control of their own life, is a major part of our concept of what it is to be free. When you use someone as a means to an end, the way torture uses a terrorist as a means of finding information, you take away from that person’s autonomy. They are no longer ruling themselves, but being used for a gain that is not their own.

Nelson Mandela was famously considered a terrorist by the elite in apartheid South Africa, but he was another man’s freedom fighter.

The terrorist may be right. It is a false assumption to claim that any act of terrorism is necessarily unjust. The terrorist may have a utilitarian calculus of his own, that the benefit of achieving their goal benefits everyone overall and is worth the cost of a number of other people’s lives.

Torture is the ULTIMATE violation of another human being’s basic human rights, and nothing and nobody has the right to violate them. Imagine torture being legally implemented? The USA, one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, the right to torture for information? Along with genocide, torture is the only crime that every country must punish, no matter who commits it or where.

Different people will have different definitions of morality but we all live within the sanctity of life.

In my opinion, torture can be both justified and unjustified, depending on the situation it can be used on a  judgment call based on the situation at hand to avoid tragedy.

Where do we go from here?

I do not find myself equipped to answer the question. There may well be one-off emergencies in which the use of torture is morally justifiable namely that torture is morally permissible in some cases and on the other hand torturing anyone—however guilty they might be—is never morally justified.

Despite there being too numerous reasons for forbidding torture, both practical and moral, for me, it all comes down to this. Ethics and morality are subjective.


The CIA that has been responsible for the “extraordinary rendition” of suspects to clandestine prisons in third countries for “enhanced” interrogation practical moral absolutes”

Question is that torture is an absolute moral wrong.