147186 What' s Wrong With Torture?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 4:30 PM

Evelyne Shuster, PhD , Veterans Affairs Medical Center/University of Pennsylvania, Ethics, Philadelphia, PA
Torture may be the defining issue in the "global war on terror." If 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of Apartheid and the last gasp of the cold war was the highpoint of the human rights movement, September 11, 2001 has been labeled by some as marking the end of human rights era because of the adoption of measures which have been viewed since World War II as immoral and illegal. As early as 2002, torture emerges as unavoidable and a lesser of two evils, even useful in the global war on terror. Thus the question: What's Wrong With Torture? To address this question it is necessary to carefully identify the nature of the problem, hence to identify what is actually wrong with torture from a moral, philosophical and civil rights perspective. Using examples of torture as practiced by the French army during the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962) I discuss the range of categories of treatments of tortured victims, and argue that "torture" actually represents a power/subjugation nexus with differing degrees of submission and self-denial that creates a culture of discrimination, social injustice and disrespect for others, their rights and human dignity. Returning to the question of what is "wrong" with torture, I conclude that the legacy of torture is the irreversible (hereditary) destruction of human worth and dignity that is likely to fuel a desire for revenge and constitute a fertile ground for ethnic violence, including violence associated with the global war on terror.

Learning Objectives:
1. define what actually is torture; 2.identify differing forms of torture and what is wrong with it; 3. clarify common "misconception" about the goal of torture; 4. Assess torture from a philosophical (deontological and utilitarian) and civil rights perspective; 5. Discuss the effects of torture as a way to fuel a perpetual war between communities, and prolong ethnic violence such as violence associated with the global war on terror.

Keywords: Ethics, Torture

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.