The reasons why torture is wrong can be divided into reasons of pure principle and reasons based on the bad consequences of torture.


Reasons of principle


Why is torture wrong?

The reasons why torture is wrong can be divided into reasons of pure principle and reasons based on the bad consequences of torture. Both sorts of reason are valid.


Reasons of principle

Torture treats the victim as a means to an end and not an end in themselves

it treats the victim as a 'thing', not as a person with all the value that we associate with persons
torturers often explicitly dehumanise their victims to make it easier to torture them

it uses the physical body of the victim not as a component part of a person of value, but as a tool to achieve the aims of the torturer

[Torture] dehumanizes people by treating them as pawns to be manipulated through their pain.
Kenneth Roth, Getting Away with Torture, Global Governance, 2005

Torture is sometimes used to destroy the autonomy of the victim

some societies have used torture to suppress independent thought and convert people to 'right-thinking'. The individual is tortured until they abandon their own views and beliefs and adopt those of the torturers. The victim ceases to be an 'end in themselves' but becomes just another means to support the regime of the torturer

Torture violates the rights and human dignity of the victim, including

the legal right to remain silent when questioned


Consequentialist reasons


Consequentialist reasons why torture is wrong

Torture is a slippery slope - each act of torture makes it easier to accept the use of torture in the future

Torture is an ineffective interrogation tool

It may well produce false information because under torture a prisoner will eventually say anything to stop the pain - regardless of whether it is true

Because of this the interrogator can never be 'sure' that they are getting the truth and will never know when to stop

More effective methods of interrogation that don't involve torture are available

If a suspect is tortured it may be impossible to prosecute them successfully - British common law excludes involuntary statements or confessions on the ground that such evidence is inherently unreliable

Torture damages the humanity of the torturers

Those who carry out torture are likely to become brutalised by their acts, and desensitised to humanity

The more acts of torture a person carries out, the more likely they are to carry out torture

Torture damages the institution that carries it out

It damages the reputation and moral authority of the institution

Its use is likely to produce internal dissent and so damage the integrity of the institution

Using torture provides 'the enemy' with something they can exploit for propaganda

History offers no modern examples of the strategic effectiveness of harsh interrogation techniques, but it is replete with examples of the negative strategic effects such techniques have on the counterinsurgency force.
Lou Dimarco, Losing the Moral Compass: Torture and Guerre Revolutionnaire in the Algerian War, Parameters, 2006

State-approved torture is bad for the state

The use of torture is dishonourable. It corrupts and degrades the state which uses it and the legal system which accepts it
Lord Hoffmann, British judge

When the state itself beats and extorts, it can no longer be said to rest on foundations of morality and justice, but rather on force.
Mordecai Kremnitzer quoted in Marcy Strauss, Torture, New York Law School Law Review, 2004

While the rest of the world is expected to abide by the UN Convention against Torture, for example, the Americans evaluate international law on the basis of whether it serves their interests.
Excesses of Sex and Violence, Der Spiegel, May 2004

Torture can create or strengthen opposition

The interrogations, torture and socialization of prison turned most of the men rounded up by Mubarak into hardened militants, thirsty for revenge: they would become the foot soldiers of terrorism
Gilles Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds, 2004

Not only will torture create a dedicated core of anti-American jihadists, their stories will lose us the "hearts and minds" campaign with the larger Muslim population.
Jeannie L. Johnson, Exploiting Weakness in the Far Enemy Ideology, Strategic Insights, 2005



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