Tackling Terrorism: The Ethical Dilemma of Torture
Defining Suspect, Torture, and Terrorism
This is one of the social questions that are troubling security authorities in many nations countywide. To answer this question accurately, we must clarify the meanings of the three keywords: suspect, torture, and terrorist.
Torture is the practice of inflicting severe pain on a person as a means of punishment or to force the person to provide the required information or do something. A terrorist is an individual who makes use of unlawful intimidation or violence over the civilian in the pursuit of attaining the anticipated objectives. Suspect, on the other hand, will refer to the person who is accused of something, but there is no truth or definite proof that will justify the accusation.
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Advantages of Using Torture in Counterterrorism
To fight terrorism in any country, having facts and information serves as the appropriate and the only weapon. Terrorism is a threat by a fraction of individuals to a multitude of people. Using any means to save many innocent people will be justified in the end.
Since the suspects may not be willing to provide the required information and will try all the possible means to protect their group, using intimidation and cruel punishment may serve the most. However, good torture can be used to force the terror suspects to give the required information. According to international law, this method is quite inhumane, and it is a wrong way that should be followed whenever information about terrorist attacks is required. This is the major explanation. It is outlawed and supported by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The use of torture against terror suspects is harmful based on the following.
The Humanitarian and Practical Drawbacks of Torture
Operations that surround torture are painful and inhuman. Those who are relevant to inflict such pain have only one object: to accept all the accusations. In normal cases, under severe inflicted pain, a person (suspect) can accept whatever is being said as one of the means that will reduce the punishment. Provided that the person under torture will accept the accused wrongly, the method used (torture) will not be of any help to the nation in protecting the civilians against insecurity but will pave the way for unidentified terrorists to keep increasing the insecurity instances within the very nation.
Information is the only weapon that will help in coming up with the solutions that will help in tackling any insecurity problems in the nation. During the infliction of pain on the terror suspect, the required information may be provided, but this may also cause other later problems for the suspect. There is no proof that the accused suspect is the one connected to the erupting terror, but the person ought to be.
When torture is being conducted, the suspect may turn out to be innocent of the accusation, but there are possibilities that the person has lost social-economic values and may have gone through health degradation such as severe beating, waterboarding, going without sleep, excruciating stressful position, mockery and much more. Even if the so-called suspect is compensated, health problems that the person may have contracted will be a problem for the entire life of the person, thus causing economic problems to society as the person will heavily depend on relatives and friends to support all the social needs required by the person and his or her dependents such as children.
Historical Perspective: US Practices and Policy Shifts
Protection of the suspects has been a problem because there is no grey area between the moderate pressure and the torture that suspects are subjected to. For instance, Mr. Bush and his team argued that America neither authorizes nor condones the use of torture against terror suspects. Later, when the terrorism suspects were sent to Guantanamo in January 2002, his statement test was mixed up. He said that the terrorist suspects would be treated humanely but to the extent appropriate and consistent with the military necessity. This statement clearly shows that, at some point, detainees may be subject to cruelty and inhuman punishment.
Not until 2006, in the United States of America, all detained terrorism suspects were subjected to torture and other inhuman punishment. After the ruling which was done in Hamadan in the year 2006, Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was enacted to ban all sorts of inhuman cruelty and degrading treatment, including torture, as this practice seemed to be ineffective in extracting the required information which could be used to stabilize the national harmony and to instill security among the citizens.
Reevaluating the Ethics and Effectiveness of Torture
However good the method can be used to extract information, torture against suspects is ineffective and quite repugnant as suspects will say anything to attract lesser pain from the inflictor. Knowledge gained may not be useful and, therefore, will not be sufficient to help the country in protecting itself against any future terrorist activities.
Some countries require the relevant authority to inflict reasonable pain for the information extraction, but many of those who are interrogating the suspect may go the extra mile to cause more harm than good. Others cause severe problems for the innocent person that will create a lot of societal issues, such as increasing dependency, among others. Based on this, therefore, the use of torture against terrorist suspects is unjustified. Other alternative measures should be put into practice other than continuing the use of torture against terror suspects.
- Amnesty International. (2017). The Global Campaign Against Torture. Amnesty International Publications.
- Conroy, J. (2000). Unspeakable acts, ordinary people: The dynamics of torture. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Dershowitz, A. M. (2002). Why terrorism works: Understanding the threat, responding to the challenge. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Evans, C., & Morgan, S. (2009). Torture: A sociology of violence and human rights. London: Routledge.
- Geneva Conventions. (1949). Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Third Geneva Convention). International Committee of the Red Cross.