1.1 Background of the study
Governments sometimes characterize torture as an indispensable interrogation tool for gathering strategic intelligence. In this article, we review the relevant social scientific research on the effectiveness, impact, and causes of torture. First, we summarize research on false confessions and examine the relevance of that research for torture-based interrogations. Next, we review research on the mental health consequences of torture for survivors and perpetrators. Finally, we explore thesocial-psychologicalconditionsthatpromoteactsofcruelty(suchasthoseseen at Abu Ghraib) and examine the arguments typically offered to justify the use of torture. We argue that any hypothesized benefits from the use of torture must be weighed against the substantial proven costs of torture. These costs include the unreliable information extracted through interrogations using torture, the mental and emotional toll on victims and torturers, loss of international stature and credibility, and the risk of retaliation against soldiers and civilians.
Torture is one of the most extreme forms of human violence, resulting in both physical and psychological consequences. Torture has been used for thousands of years, and is still widespread, occurring throughout much of the world (Amnesty International, 2009). Research has shown that torture can have enduring negative effects on both survivors and perpetrators, and is ineffective for obtaining reliable information in interrogation. Although many international laws and codes have been established to prohibit torture, its widespread use continues as part of internal
conflicts within nations, as well as in international conflicts. The issue of torture has most recently stirred debate with respect to interrogation practices used by the United States. In 2003, the world was stunned by a series of photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These photos, taken by U.S. soldiers on cell phones and digital cameras, depicted prisoners subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment at the hands of U.S. troops. In one photo, a handcuffed, terrified prisoner is shown cornered by a snarling military dog straining against its leash. In many photos, naked prisoners had been forced to lie on top of one another in a pile or to simulate sexual acts. Several pictures show naked, hooded inmates handcuffed in painful positions to beds and cell bars. Some inmates have bleeding wounds; others appear to have wires attached to their bodies (Hersh, 2004). Some photos were especially disturbing because they show soldiers (both men and women) posing next to the abused prisoners, grinning or giving “thumbs up” signs, appearing to take sadistic pleasure in the abuse.
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TORTURE AS A MEANS OF OBTAINING RELIABLE INFORMATION FROM CRIME SUSPECT