25.jun.2007 @ 16:19

Torture is defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity." In addition to state sponsored torture, individuals or groups may inflict torture on others for similar reasons; however, the motive for torture can also be for the sadistic gratification of the torturer, as was the case in the Moors Murders.

Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of effecting political re-education. Nevertheless in the 21st Century torture is almost universally considered to be an extreme violation of human rights, as stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the UN Convention Against Torture agree not to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on anyone in order to obtain information or a confession, to punish them, or to coerce them or a third person. In times of war signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention agree not to torture protected persons (POWs and enemy civilians) in armed conflicts.

The international legal prohibition on torture is based on a universal philosophical consensus that torture and ill-treatment are repugnant, abhorrent, and immoral. A further moral definition of torture proposes that the sin of torture consists in the disproportionate infliction of pain. However since shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks there has been a debate in the United States on whether torture is justified in some circumstances and several opinion polls that show a percentage of American and British public would support the use of torture under some circumstances.

These international conventions and philosophical propositions not withstanding, organizations such as Amnesty International that monitor abuses of human rights report that the use of torture condoned by states is widespread in many regions of the world.


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