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5 arguments against torture

by Neil Boorman

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably just seen the second episode of Amnesty TV, which we themed around torture. Torture has been in the headlines ever since Osama Bin Laden was killed back in May, and people who support torture are having their day in the sun. They say that Bin Laden was only tracked down because of intelligence obtained through “enhanced interrogation techniques”. For them, finding Bin Laden justifies techniques like waterboarding. ‘We got him’, they say, ‘Waterboarding works!

But Amnesty disagrees. And here’s five reasons why…

1: Torture is illegal under international law. It reflects the widespread belief that torture is cruel, inhumane and morally wrong. The physical and psychological damage it causes is often permanent. Even if it was effective, it would still be wrong.

2: No ends justify torture as a means. You might be able get useful information out of torture in the short term, but in the long term it’s counter-productive. It does more damage to the reputation of the country that commits torture than any criminal or terrorist. Statistics prove that American use of torture is Al Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool.

3: Torture produces false intelligence. Some victims will say anything to make the torture stop. At best this wastes only time and resources. At worst people may be implicated and even convicted for crimes they did not commit, on the basis of false evidence.

4: While it remains illegal, information extracted through torture cannot be used as evidence in court of law. It actually makes it harder to bring people to justice for any crime they have committed.

5: You can’t condone torture even in ‘special cases’, otherwise it becomes normalised and a “torture culture” emerges across the chain of command. In the USA the CIA used waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, and low-ranking soldiers tortured for sport in grotesque ways in Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq.

Amnesty believes there is already too much torture in the world and we can’t justify any more. But what do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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