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Torture

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The word torture is commonly used to mean the infliction of pain to break the will of the victim or victims. Any act by which severe pain, whether physical or psychological, is intentionally inflicted on a person as a means of intimidation, deterrence, revenge, punishment, sadism, or to obtain confessions (true or false) for propaganda or political purposes may be called torture. It can be used as an interrogation tactic to extract confessions. Torture is also used as a method of coercion or as a tool to control groups seen as a threat by governments. A moral definition of torture proposes that the sin of torture consists in the disproportionate infliction of pain. ."[1]


Actions such as thieveries, biases, subversions, briberies, or extortions, or inactions (omissions/perjuries), as well as any combination of these, can cause, enable, provoke, promote, and/or cover-up tortures. Tortures may occur accidentally (without intent) or maliciously (with intent).

Throughout history, it has often been used as a method of effecting religious conversion or political “re-education.”

Torture is almost universally considered to be an extreme violation of human rights, as stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention agree not to torture protected persons (enemy civilians and POWs) in armed conflicts, and signatories of the UN Convention Against Torture agree not to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on anyone, to obtain information or a confession, to punish them, or to coerce them or a third person. These conventions and agreements notwithstanding, it is estimated by organizations such as Amnesty International that around two out of three countries do not consistently abide by the spirit of such treaties.


Contents

[edit] Aspects of torture

The use of torture has been criticized not only on humanitarian and moral grounds, but on the grounds that evidence extracted by torture can be unreliable and that the use of torture corrupts institutions which tolerate it.

The purpose of torture is often as much to force acquiescence on an enemy, or destroy a person psychologically from within, as it is to gain information, and its effects endure long after the torture itself has ended. In this sense torture is often described by survivors as "never ending". See Psychology of torture to study the psychological effects associated with torture.

[edit] Incrimination of innocent people

One well documented effect of torture is that with rare exceptions people will say or do anything to escape the situation, including untrue "confessions" and implication of others without genuine knowledge, who may well then be tortured in turn. The cases of the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and Maguire Seven are notorious examples of the dangers of extracting confessions and information using duress and coercion. There are rare exceptions, such as Admiral James Stockdale, Medal of Honor recipient, F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas, G.C., or Jean Moulin, who refused to provide information under torture.

[edit] Secrecy/publicity

Depending on the culture, torture has at times been carried on in silence (official denial), semi-silence (known but not spoken about) or openly acknowledged in public (in order to instill fear and obedience).

Since torture was in general not accepted in the late twentieth century, professional torturers in some countries tended to use techniques such as electrical shock, asphyxiation, heat, cold, noise, and sleep deprivation which leave little evidence, although in other contexts torture frequently results in horrific mutilation or death. Evidence of torture also comes from the testimony of witnesses.

Modern torture methods include waterboarding, sexual humiliation and sexual abuse, and the use of dogs against prisoners. As far back as the 1990s, stun belts were used to "control" prisoners, even non-violent ones. This has been used on several prisoners in the courtroom itsself, while conducting their own defense. In at least one such case to prevent the prisoner interrupting the judge verbally, and so interfere with the defense. See the external link Shocking Discipline and LA Times article Stun Belt Used for First Time on Defendant in L.A. Court dated Thursday, July 9, 1998. However the most common and prevalent form of torture worldwide in both developed and under-developed countries is still beating.

Also in everyday use in "on the streets" law enforcement, pain compliance holds, taser guns and pepper spray are used to gain obedience of subjects, rather than to respond with lethal means to a threat.

According to the training officer in this Palm Beach Post article law officers are currently trained to use these methods even against non-violent or passive subjects.

Public officials, including the President of the United States George W Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have made various statements and memoranda in the last decade in support of the practice, citing the need for "tough interrogation techniques" against terrorists and "enemy combatants". More recently, laws have also been passed which effectively withdraw the United States from the Geneva Convention for this purpose.

Further information: UCLA Taser incident, Victoria Goodwin taser incident, Military Commissions Act, Alberto Gonzalez, and Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.

[edit] New technology

Currently under development by the US military is the Active Denial System or pain ray, a Directed Energy Weapon which is supposedly to be used to disperse crowds; however more portable versions are being developed at this time.

[edit] Motivation to torture

It was long thought that "good" people would not torture and only "bad" ones would, under normal circumstances. Research over the past 50 years suggests a disquieting alternative view, that under the right circumstances and with the appropriate encouragement and setting, most people can be encouraged to actively torture others. Stages of torture mentality include:

  • Reluctant or peripheral participation
  • Official encouragement: As the Stanford prison experiment and Milgram experiment show, many people will follow the direction of an authority figure (such as a superior officer) in an official setting (especially if presented as mandatory), even if they have personal uncertainty. The main motivations for this appear to be fear of loss of status or respect, and the desire to be seen as a "good citizen" or "good subordinate".
  • Peer encouragement: to accept torture as necessary, acceptable or deserved, or to comply from a wish to not reject peer group beliefs. This may potentially lead to torture gangs roaming the streets seeking dominant torture status.
  • Dehumanization: seeing victims as objects of curiosity and experimentation, where pain becomes just another test to see how it affects the victim.
  • Disinhibition: socio-cultural and situational pressures may cause torturers to undergo a lessening of moral inhibitions and as a result act in ways not normally countenanced by law, custom and conscience.
  • Organisationally, like many other procedures, once torture becomes established as part of internally acceptable norms under certain circumstances, its use often becomes institutionalised and self-perpetuating over time, as what was once used exceptionally for perceived necessity finds more reasons claimed to justify wider use.

One of the apparent ringleaders of the Abu Ghraib prison torture incident, Charles Graner Jr., exemplified some of these when he was reported to have said, "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'"

[edit] Medical torture

Main article: Medical torture

At times, medicine and medical practitioners have been drawn into the ranks of torturers, either to judge what victims can endure, to apply treatments which will enhance torture, or as torturers in their own right. An infamous example of the latter is Dr. Josef Mengele, known then by inmates of Auschwitz as the "Angel of Death".

[edit] Torture murder

Main article: Torture murder

Torture murder is a term given to the commission of torture by an individual or small group, as part of a sadistic or murderous agenda. Such murderers are often serial killers, who kill their victims by slowly torturing them to death over a prolonged period of time, and is usually preceded by a kidnapping where the killer will take the victim hostage, and take him/her to a secluded or isolated location.

[edit] Subjugation of civilian populations

Although information gathered by torture is often worthless, torture has been used to terrorize and subdue populations to enforce state control. cf: Gulag

[edit] Effects of torture

Guy Fawkes' signature immediately after torture (only 'Guido') and eight days later.
Enlarge
Guy Fawkes' signature immediately after torture (only 'Guido') and eight days later.

Organizations like the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture try to help survivors of torture obtain medical treatment and to gain forensic medical evidence to obtain political asylum in a safe country and/or to prosecute the perpetrators.

Torture is often difficult to prove, particularly when some time has passed between the event and a medical examination. Many torturers around the world use methods designed to have a maximum psychological impact while leaving only minimal physical traces. Medical and Human Rights Organizations worldwide have collaborated to produce the Istanbul Protocol, a document designed to outline common torture methods, consequences of torture and medico-legal examination techniques. Typically deaths due to torture are shown in autopsy as being due to "natural causes" like heart attack, inflammation or embolism due to extreme stress.[2]

For survivors, torture often leads to lasting mental and physical health problems.

Physical problems can be wide-ranging, e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, musculo-skeletal problems, brain injury, post-traumatic epilepsy and dementia or chronic pain syndromes.

Mental health problems are equally wide-ranging; common are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorder.

Treatment of torture-related medical problems might require a wide range of expertise and often specialized experience. Common treatments are psychotropic medication, e.g. SSRI antidepressants, counseling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, family systems therapy and physiotherapy.

See Psychology of torture for psychological impact, and aftermath, of torture.

[edit] Torture devices and methods

It is plainly evident that, since the earliest times, tremendous ingenuity has been devoted to devising ever more effective and mechanically simpler instruments and techniques of torture. That those capable of applying such genius to the science of pain could in the future employ their capabilities in other directions was not lost on the authorities: for example, after Perillos of Athens demonstrated his newly invented brazen bull to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, Perillos himself was immediately put inside to test it, but he was removed before he died.

Torture does not require complex equipment. Several methods need little or no equipment and can even be improvised from innocuous household or kitchen equipment. Methods such as consumption by wild animals (antiquity), impalement (Middle Ages) or confinement in iron boxes in the tropical sun (World War II Asia), are examples of other methods which required little more than readily available items.

[edit] Types of torture

  • Psychological torture uses psychological pain to inflict torment and is less well known because its effects are often invisible to others. It uses non-physical methods to induce pain in the subject's mental, emotional, and psychological states. Since there is no international political consensus on what constitutes psychological torture, it is often overlooked, denied and called other things. Despite this, some of its most prominent victims such as United States Senator John McCain have stated that it is the ultimate form of torture.
  • Psychiatric torture uses psychiatric diagnoses and their associated psychiatric treatments to torture sane people for political, religious, or familial reasons. It was a common form of torture against political prisoners in the former Soviet Union. Mild forms of psychiatric torture have been used in the United States military against otherwise sane dissenting officers. Some religious groups who shun dissenting members, a form of psychological torture, also attempt to use psychiatric torture to falsely diagnosis mental disorders so that ongoing shaming is possible.
  • Pharmacological torture uses psychotropic and/or other chemicals to induce pain and cause compliance with torturer's goals.
  • Porno torture may be defined as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain for interrogative, punitive, or abusive purposes by forcing a person to engage in sexually explicit behaviour, which is recorded, or staged before a live audience. See The Invention of Porno Torture

[edit] Psychological torture methods

any process to obtain mental and moral degradation without the use of violence, and often as quickly as practicable

  • Blackmail
  • Harm to friends or strangers, threatened, or carried out, and blamed on the victim
  • Being forced to witness atrocities, perhaps against family or persons with whom the victim identifies
  • Being forced to commit atrocities, perhaps against family, friends or allies
  • Forced witnessing of or participation in sexual activity
  • Being forced to watch acts of sexual abuse
  • Covert (non-contact) or other forced incest
  • Shaming and public humiliation, being stripped or displayed naked, public condemnation
  • Shunning
  • Being dirty, self-fouled, urinated on, or covered with fecal matter
  • Headshaving (especially women)
  • Racial, sexual, religious or other verbal abuse against any characteristic of the victim
  • Being tricked into lying, or statements conflicting with past statements during interrogation.
  • Being forced to renounce or betray political, national, other strong affiliations or loyalties
  • Being coerced into denying one’s religion or morals, blasphemy, or religious degradation
  • Conditions of detention
  • Being subjected to nonstop interrogation for long periods
  • Shouting and taunting
  • Mock execution and horrific experiences
  • Starvation, cold and damp
  • Extended solitary confinement
  • Partial or total sensory deprivation
  • Continual or unpredictable noise
  • Alterations to room temperature
  • Cramping, confinement, ball and chain, shackling
  • Being held incommunicado
  • Being kept in confined spaces
  • Extended sleep deprivation
  • Being forced to sleep on hard surfaces
  • Exploitation of phobias, e.g. leaving arachnophobes in a room full of spiders
  • Forced labor, other coercion into excessive physical activity

[edit] Torture using chemicals

Torture victims may be forced to ingest (or be injected with) chemicals or other products (such as broken glass, heated water, or soaps) that cause pain and internal damage.

Irritating chemicals or products may be inserted into the rectum or vagina, or applied on the external genitalia. Cases of women being punished for adultery by having hot peppers inserted into their vaginas were reported in Pakistan. Similar means were used in many instances in African strife.

[edit] Pharmacological torture methods

[edit] Physical torture methods

Though it may seem peculiar, perhaps even fetishistic, that so very many torture devices are intended for application to the foot, this is actually quite a logical development. One of the key characteristics of a successful torture is that it can be prolonged almost indefinitely without endangering life, and this can best be achieved by directing the pain as far as physically possible from the brain and vital organs. The only part of the body that satisfies these twin criteria is the foot.

[edit] Torture devices

Note that the line between "torture method" and "torture device" is often blurred, particularly when a specifically-named implement is but one component of a method.

[edit] Methods of execution and capital punishment

Any method of execution which involves, or has the potential to involve, a great deal of pain or mutilation is considered to be torture and unacceptable to many who support capital punishment. Some of these, if halted soon enough, may not have fatal effects.

Torture was often used as an aspect of execution with the aim of making the victim suffer mentally and physically before death, such forms of execution include flaying, crucifixion and being hung drawn and quartered. A skilled executioner was one who could prolong the agony of the victim for as long as possible before death. When capital punishments were used for what would today be trivial crimes, added gruesomeness was needed to deter people from more serious ones.

[edit] Quotes

  • Ulpian: "The strong will resist and the weak will say anything to end the pain."
  • Philip Limborch, a preacher and able annotator, quotes in his History of the Inquisition, a writer of the name of Julius Clarus, who it would appear formed a very forcible idea of the powers of imagination, since he allows them four parts in five of the torments decreed by that satanic tribunal. Limborch represents Clarus as saying, "Know that there are five degrees of torture, videlicit, first, the torture of being threatened to be tortured; secondly, the torture of being conveyed to the place of torture; thirdly, the torture of being, and bound for torture; fourthly, the torture of being hoisted on the torturing rack; and fifthly, and lastly, the torture of squassation."
  • The Irish lawyer William Sampson, writing of his experience under torture, quoted an inquisitor on its futility as a means of obtaining information:
"I mentioned to one of the gaolers my sense of this hardship, as an obstinate guilty person might deny the truth, whilst an innocent one, less courageous, might very readily, to relieve himself from such a state of misery, make a false confession. His answer was laconic: "Lago confess" ... "They soon confess."[3]

[edit] Fiction

Horror fiction often includes torture.

One fictional story that addresses the theme of torture is Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.

Nearly all of the writings by Marquis De Sade involved torture as a major element.

The 2006 drama Catch a Fire illustrates how torture is able to convert neutral parties into enemies.

The horror movie Hostel depicts a criminal organization based in eastern Europe running a torture center. The victims are kidnapped. "Customers" pay to torture them to death, using the facilities of the torture center.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre also features torture, as does Wolf Creek (film). The 1972 film The Last House on the Left is also widely known for its depiction of torture. Hostel (film) and the Saw (film) trilogy also depict torture.

Rock musician Frank Zappa wrote a long, epic, horrific song about torture called: "The Torture Never Stops" on his album Zoot Allures (1976). It contains all the clichés associated with torture rooms and during the guitar solo tapes of female screams and grunts can be heard which give the song a S&M dimension.

The depictions of torture in the Horror genre is expected, and often looked forward to, by many fans of this genre. Horror, however, is far from the only genre of fiction to feature such vile practices.

Citizens under the totalitarian regime in the novel (and movie adaptations of) "nineteen eighty-four" are threatened with torture for dissent. The main character Winston is subjected to a process wherein hungry rats in a cage are strapped to his face. Torture is used to similar effect in the movie Brazil

In A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess examines the ethics of the state to use psychological "re-education" to remove the tendency to violence from members of society, and poses the question even if this were possible would it be desirable?

In the Video game series Metal Gear Solid, Revolver Ocelot, one of the main antagonists, is particularly fond of torture. He considers it the ultimate form of expression.

The four volume Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe dealt with the wanderings of a professional torturer.

The effect of torture on individuals, and to a degree societies, is the subject of Death and the Maiden (1994 film) and Death and the Maiden (play) upon which the film is based. Torture is not depicted but is discussed. A brief but intense torture scene occurs near the end of Syriana, a film about the dark side of the oil industry.

In the popular television program 24, both the protagonists and antagonists frequently employ torture to obtain sensitive information and items.

There is a small academic literature of books on torture, both in real life and as it is depicted in fiction.

Lawrence Weschler's A Miracle, A Universe discusses the widespread use of torture in Brazil and Uruguay by military dictatorships and the inspiring way that citizens have begun to heal their societies. Weschler writes about how torture deforms and destroys societies as a whole, in addition to deforming individuals.

[edit] Other meanings of the word

Especially in countries where citizens can expect to be spared routine exposure to real torture, the word "torture" is used loosely (and to some people, inappropriately) for ordinary, even accidental discomforts. For example, "I was stuck in a traffic jam for three hours today, it was torture!"

Rather paradoxically the term is also commonly used in BDSM, where similar methods to inflict pain and/or humiliation are used, though generally in mitigated form, as games, i.e. for the inverse purpose of giving the 'players' sexual and/or fetish pleasure from inflicting and/or enduring the 'torturous' discipline. This is even true for techniques such as genitorture, which can only be used in a virtual parody since the real thing implies unacceptable medical risks.

The root word of torture is 'to twist'. It means to apply torque, to turn abnormally, to distort, or to strain.

[edit] Etymology

The word came from Latin tortura for *torqu-tura, originally meaning "act of twisting". Compare tort and torque.

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish, trans. A. Sheridan. Vintage, 1977.
  • Glasser, William, WARNING: Psychiatry Can be Dangerous to Your Health, (?), 2004.
  • Miles, Steven H., Oath Betrayed: Military Medicine And the War on Terror, Random House (June 27, 2006), hardcover, 224 pages, ISBN 1-4000-6578-X
  • Millet, Kate, The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment, W.W. Norton, 1994.
  • Peters, Edward, Torture, Basil Blackwell, 1985.
  • Stover, Eric, and Nightingale, Elena, The Breaking of Bodies and Minds: Torture, Psychiatric Abuse, and the Health Professions, W. H. Freeman, 1985.
  • William Sampson, Confessions of an Innocent Man: Torture and Survival in a Saudi Prison, McClelland and Stewart Ltd (2005), hardcover, 419 pages, ISBN 0-7710-7903-6
  • McCoy, Alfred (2006). A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Metropolitan Books, 21 sqq.. ISBN 0805080414.

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Akin, Jimmy (November 2006). Defining Torture: Proposing A Definition. Retrieved on 2006-11-27.
  2. ^ Autopsy reports reveal homicides of detainees in U.S. custody. ACLU.
  3. ^ Sampson, William (March 2006). Memoirs of William Sampson, 2nd Edition (1817), Letter XVII. REWinn.com. Retrieved on 2006-11-16.


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