The Torture reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Torture is the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain as a means of cruelty, intimidation, punishment, for the extraction of a confession or information or simply for the entertainment of the perpetrator. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention agree not to commit torture under certain circumstances in wartime, while signatories of the UN Convention Against Torture agree to not commit certain specific forms of torture. It is considered by some to be a severe violation of human rights. These conventions and agreements notwithstanding, torture remains in use throughout the world in several contexts, through various definitions, restrictions on judicial jurisdiction and plausible deniability [1]. Officially sanctioned torture has occurred in the context of the U.S led war on terrorism [1] where it is frequently held to be justified by necessity.

Table of contents
1 Secrecy / publicity
2 Torture and confession
3 Use of torture by governments
4 Opposition to the use of torture
5 Torture and medicine
6 Torture devices and methods
7 See also
8 External links

Secrecy / publicity

Sometimes torture is and was carried on in secret, while on other occasions it (or evidence of it) is public, in order to induce fear into a population. Some professional torturers 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 testimony of witnesses and from breaches of discipline as for example, the untrained and indiscreet amateur photographers of Abu Ghraib prison

Torture and confession

Persons under torture, with rare exceptions (and then perhaps mainly on TV), will say or do anything to escape the situation including signing confessions to serious crimes they had nothing to do with and implicating other innocent people who may be tortured to the same effect in turn. The acceptance of confessions without collaborating evidence as sufficient evidence for conviction of a crime is in practice an invitation to the use of torture to obtain them. This dynamic marked the justice system of the Soviet Union during the early 20th century (thoroughly described in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago) and that of continental Europe generally during medieval and early modern times. England, which required collaborative evidence for conviction of a crime was generally free of torture and associated phenomena such as the witch-hunting mania which swept Europe.

Use of torture by governments

Torture was used by many governments and countries in the past, especially in the Middle Ages and up into the 18th century. Torture was believed to be a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in trials. In the Roman Republic, for example, a slave's testimony was admissible only if it was extracted by torture, on the assumption that they could not be trusted to reveal the truth voluntarily. The judicial use of torture is widely considered to be unsound, as suspects will often admit to anything and even invent facts in order to have torture cease. The Inquisition was famous for the use of torture; judicial torture was abolished in France at the beginning of the French revolution.

Torture remains a frequent method of repression in totalitarian regimes, terrorist organizations and organized crime. Even in Western democratic societies, the police sometimes resort to torture and are frequently backed-up by sympathizing politicians.

In 2002, in Cologne, Germany, a history of physical torture at Eigelstein police station only came to light because the victim died, and a post-mortem examination unearthed the facts. Further investigation revealed that the police officers obviously had resorted to physical mistreatment of suspects for quite some time, and none of them reported the mistreatment.

During the Algerian war of 1955-1962, the French military used torture against National Liberation Front. Paul Aussaresses, a French general during the Algerian war, defended the use of torture in a 2000 interview in the Paris newspaper Le Monde. In an interview on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes, in response to the question of whether he would torture Al-Qaeda suspects, his answer was, "It seems to me it's obvious."

Accusations of use of torture by United States

CIA agents have anonymously confirmed to the Washington Post in a December 26, 2002 report that the CIA routinely uses so-called "stress and duress" interrogation techniques, which are claimed by human rights activists to be acts of torture, in the US-led war on terrorism. These sources state that CIA and military personnel beat up uncooperative suspects, confine them in cramped quarters, duct tape them to stretchers, and use other restraints which maintain the subject in an awkward and painful position for long periods of time. The phrase 'torture light' has been reported in the media and has been taken to mean acts that would not be legally defined as torture but where the intent of the person committing the act is the same.

The Post article continues that sensory deprivation, through the use of hoods and spraypainted goggles, sleep deprivation, and selective use of painkillers for at least one captive who was shot in the groin during his apprehension are also used. The agents also indicate in the report that the CIA as a matter of course hands suspects over to foreign intelligence services with far fewer qualms about torture for more intensive interrogation. The mere act of handing somebody to another organization or country where it is foreseeable that torture would occur is regarded as a violation of the Torture Convention. The Post reported that one US official said, "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job." The US Government denies that torture is being conducted in the detention camps.

In June 2004, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times obtained copies of legal analyses prepared for the CIA and the Justice Department in 2002 which developed a theoretical legal basis for the use of torture by US interrogators if acting under the directive of the President of the United States. The legal definition of torture by the Justice Department narrowed to actions which "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death", and argued that actions that inflict moderate or fleeting pain do not necessarily constitute torture. Based on these legal analyses, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later approved in 2003 the use of 24 classified interrogation techniques for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay which after use on one prisoner were withdrawn. It is the position of the United States government that the legal memoranda constitute only permissible legal research and do not signify the intent of the United States to use torture which it opposes. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield has complained about this prominent newspaper coverage and its implications [1].

Accusations of use of torture by United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has been criticized for using torture against IRA suspects during the 1970s. Although primarily psychological some methods employed did utilize physical discomfort, e.g. seating the prisoner on a block of ice. In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights found that the actions of the British security forces against a number of IRA suspects amounted to "inhuman" and "degrading" treatment but did not strictly constitute torture. The Guildford Four and Birmingham Six claimed they were tortured into confessing to IRA bombings by British anti-terrorism police.

Accusations of use of torture by Israel

Israel has used torture since at least the 1970s, but it was only in 1987 the Israeli Supreme Court formed a special commission headed by retired Justice Moshe Landau, to review the whole question of torture. In their report they sanctioned the use of "moderate physical pressure". The human rights group B'Tselem estimate that 85% of all Palestinian detainees are tortured. The methods used includes electric shock torture (including electrocution of genitals), prolonged sleep deprivation; prolonged sight deprivation using blindfolds or tight-fitting hoods; forced, prolonged maintenance of body positions that grow increasingly painful; and verbal threats and insults. Almost always they are also combined with confinement in tiny, closet-like spaces; exposure to temperature extremes, such as in deliberately overcooled rooms; prolonged toilet and hygiene deprivation; and degrading treatment, such as forcing detainees to eat and use the toilet at the same time. Beatings are also common. In the Israeli and collaborationist South Lebanon Army prison at Khiam (where suspected Hizbollah guerrillas, their families and Lebanese civilian internees were detained) in Israeli-occupied Southern Lebanon, torture, including electric shock torture of genitals, was routine. This was proved after the end of the occupation in 2000, when Lebanese who freed the prisoners found torture devices. [1] [1]

Accusations of use of torture by Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia officially considers torture as illegal under Islamic Law; however, it is widely practiced [1].

Opposition to the use 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 tends to be extremely unreliable and that the use of torture corrupts institutions which tolerate it. Torture victims have often reported that the purpose is as much to force acquiescence on an enemy as it is to gain information.

To prevent torture, many legal systems have a right against self-incrimination. The United States includes this right in the fifth amendment to its constitution, which in turn serves as the basis of the Miranda warning that is issued to individuals upon their arrest. Additionally, the US Constitution's eighth amendment expressly forbids the use of "cruel and unusual punishments", which is widely interpreted as a prohibition of the use of torture.

Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, are actively involved in working to stop the use of torture throughout the world.

Torture and medicine

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.

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.

Torture devices and methods

It is plainly evident that, since the earliest times, tremendous ingenuity has been devoted to the devisal of ever more effective and mechanically simpler instruments and techniques of torture. That those capable of applying such genius to the science of pain could more productively employ their abilities was not lost on the authorities: for example, after Perillos of Athens demonstrated his newly invented brazen bull to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, Perillos was immediately put to death therein.

Torture using chemicals

Torture victims may be forced to ingest chemicals or other products (broken glass...) 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 vagina were reported in India. Similar means were used in many instances in African strife.

Electrical torture

A modern method of torture is to apply electrical shocks to the body. For added effects, torturers may apply the shocks to the genitalia or insert the electrode into the mouth, rectum or vagina.

During the Algerian War of Independence, sections of the French Army were notorious for the use of the gégène (electrical generator) on suspects. There are many reported instances of electrical torture by the China government in Tibet, especially against Buddhist nuns, with, in particular, the insertion of electrodes into the rectum or vagina.

Torture devices

Psychological torture

Stress and distress tactics used by police

Some methods imployed by law enforcement and states are seen by some as being tantamount to torture.

Methods of execution to carry out 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.

See also

External links