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. Torture is prohibited by the UN Convention Against Torture, and is considered a severe violation of human rights. Still, torture is a controversial issue, with debates over whether or not certain acts constitute torture, and whether torture is ever justified, and which countries or political groups use or have used torture, and for what ends.

Table of contents
1 Use of torture by governments
2 Torture and Medicine
3 Torture Devices and Methods
4 External Links

Use of torture by governments

Torture was used by many governments and countries in the past (especially in the Middle Ages). Especially, torture was believed to be a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in trials. Still, the use of torture may be ineffective, since tortured 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 popular method of repression in totalitarian regimes, terrorist and organized crime, and is frequently used by democratic governments as well. 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."

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 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 Post reported that one 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.

The United Kingdoms forces have been criticised for using torture against IRA suspects during the 1970's. Although primarily non-physiological some methods employed did utilise physical discomfort e.g. seating the prisoner on a block of ice.

The use of torture has been criticized not only on humanitarian 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

Organisations, like the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture try to help survivors of torture to 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 successfully, 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 impact while leaving only minimal traces. Medical and Human Rights Organisations 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 e.g. post-traumatic epilepsy and dementia or chronic pain syndromes.

Mental health problems are equally wide ranging, common though are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorder.

Treatment of torture related medical problems might require a wide range of expertise and often specialised experience. Common modalities of treatment are psychotropic medication, e.g. SSRI antidepressants, counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, family therapy and physiotherapy. .

Torture Devices and Methods

Torture devices

Psychological Torture

  • Mock Executions
  • Isolation
  • Sensory Deprivation

Stress and Distress Tactics used by Police

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

Methods of Execution to carry out Capital Punishment

A method of killing a prisoner for a capital crime 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: Jacobo Timmerman

External Links