The Right Not To Be Tortured Is an Absolute Right
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Every human being regardless of his or her nationality, sex, place of residence, national or ethnic origin, as well as religion, language, age or any other status is equally entitled to inherent human rights without discrimination. Human rights are indivisible, non-discriminatory interrelated, interdependent, and equal. They are guaranteed and safeguarded by the constitution of every country or the international laws. Violation of human rights occurs whenever the rights are infringed without provision of any justifiable course for such an act by its perpetrator (Allan 2). On the other hand, human rights are overridden when there is a justifiable course for infringing those rights as may be provided by the corresponding legislations. Allan further construes that “absolute rights as those human rights that cannot be overridden regardless of the circumstance” (1). Thus, absolute rights cannot be justifiably infringed and should be respected without any exceptions. This implies that no matter how hard the scenario is, an absolute right has to be enforced. In that case, “The Right Not to Be Tortured Is an Absolute Right” and should never be infringed or overridden, regardless of the circumstances.
The term torture, whenever mentioned, usually elicits strong reactions from different stakeholders. Torture generally refers to an immense infliction of severe physical and mental pain or sufferings to a person by another individual. Torture is a commonly used tool for soliciting confession or information; a technique to punish or humiliate; a severe tool of intimidation or repression to an individual suspected to be involved in heinous crimes such as terrorism. It’s commonly used by soldiers against detainee, prisoners of wars or by police detectives against and ordinary criminal suspects (Kenneth 390). These techniques include severe beating, castration or electrocuting among others. Torture is a serious violation of human rights and is strictly prohibited by international law (Gail 504). Despite the fact that torture is outlawed in many countries, it has continued to be practiced worldwide.
Torture is any atrocious violation of human dignity that dehumanizes both the victim and the perpetrator (Kenneth 390). Kenneth explained that the pain and terror deliberately inflicted by one human being on another leaves permanent scars. He further argued that freedom from torture is a fundamental human right that should be protected at all circumstances. This explanation is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was made in 1948 stating that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” The United Nations further reiterated this crucial canonical formulation in 1975, when the U.N. Convention by unanimous vote declared illegal any act of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to be an offense to human dignity. This important declaration on the human rights has often been abused by governments, which have since embraced torture as the best instrument in the fight against terrorism. Torture is an evil act and infringement against fundamental human rights and should never be applied on any individual regardless of the cause. Right not to be tortured should be treated as an absolute right that cannot be overridden.
Torture has been widely used as a fundamental instrument in the fight against terrorism in the world; therefore, it is important to establish the origin of this notion. Primarily, it should be observed here that the perpetrators of torture do so to their victims in their full knowledge that whatever they are doing is infringement of the human rights of the victims (Gail 5). In order to earn public support towards perpetration of torture, those advocating for such cruel act had to obscure the public from their free-minded thinking. They devised a hypothesis that received cordial welcome from the public. In the bomb ticking hypothesis as it is popularly known the people were made to imagine a scenario where a detained member of a terrorism gang such as the al-Qaeda is not willing to provide information about the location of a bomb which, while they surely know where it is set, and the bomb is just a few minutes away from blasting. The public was then made aware that the only available means through which the detained terrorist would be willing to give out the all important information is through torture. Coupled with fear and terror, the audience had no alternative but to embrace torture as the best instrument for extorting information from the alleged members of al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
A critical reflection on the ticking time bomb scenario and others of its kind leads to the discovery of many flaws in such hypothesized approach to this critical issue. It is very difficult to be sure that the person you are holding in custody is whoever you say he is and that he or she knows whatever you claim he or she has knowledge of. The implication of this statement is that you are likely to be holding an innocent person. Such approach to this issue already presents torture as a violation of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty (Steinner 250).
Torture has been used in the fight against terrorism. There is overwhelming evidence that proves that law enforcers often torture suspects in order to make the prosecution work easier. The intention is to inflict pain to suspects so that they consider pleading guilty the charges they are held for. This is true as once the victims find themselves in custody, torture serves as the rubberstamping of their guilt of the charges. The victims are excluded and no legal representation is accorded to them. This makes confessing to the charges leveled against the victim the only way of escaping from the custody. Is this what anyone would want to call justice? The answer is a resounding no since an accused person has the right to a fair trial. A fair trial is not attainable in an environment where torture prevails. No one can claim to have any form of passion for physical pain. It is not surprising that so far there is no any evidence of a case where the ticking time bomb scenario has provided information from which a probable terrorist attack was prevented. Torture of suspects only obscures better means of carrying out criminal investigations in a professional manner. Those rooting for torture as the only means of obtaining this sensitive information should realize how mistaken they are and, therefore, embark on employing professionalism rather than barbarism.
It is no longer a secret that most of the information gathered from victims of torture is falsified. The victims of torture are usually subjected to intense physical, psychological, and mental suffering. The physical pain inflicted on the victims is usually unbearable; this makes them vulnerable to the dictates of their interrogators (Jamie 109). The result of this painful process is that the victims have no alternative, but to plead guilty to whatever charges leveled against them. The interrogators most often use lead questions and make it clear that the victims’ only chance to leaving their interrogator’s sight alive is by cooperating. Cooperation in this case is usually limited to responding to whatever the investigators ask in the manner that they want to hear it. Only a handful of victims, in fact, stick to their lack of knowledge of what is inquired from them; majority will prefer to say or plead guilty to whatever it is.
For instance, to get more insight into torture’s impediment to justice, it is important to explore the case of the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003. Bush administration launched a war on Iraq, claiming sufficient intelligence linking Saddam Hussein’s administration to the manufacture of malicious nuclear weapons. The claimed intelligence was nothing other than the information already obtained from tortured terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay and other similar facilities. The aim of the attack was to gather nuclear weapons and end the support that the al-Qaeda members were getting from this administration. The plan sounded like what the world required in order for the war against terrorism to succeed. To some people, the discovery that there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq came as a surprise; however, for those who had earlier on questioned the manner in which the claimed intelligence had been gathered it was not a surprise. It was exactly what they had expected. Information that a victim of a torture gives, as mentioned earlier, depends on the magnitude of torture and how much the victim can take it (Testimony of Cofer Black). That is why the terror suspects said whatever they had to about Saddam Hussein’s administration. The information did not help in destroying terrorists; it helped the American government to cause deaths of numerous civilians in Iraq rather than what the terrorist activities would even be expected to cause. The war created more terrorists in the world than what the number was before the attack.
Torture, as a matter of fact, does not help in the creation of a secure world or a world that is free from terrorist and other criminal activities (Steiner 233). It subjects victims to unwanted suffering. Because of poor information collected from torture victims, more problems have occurred in the world. It makes the victims to lose their self-esteem as they are deprived of their self-dignity. A few victims of torture who survive find it hard to cope in the society later when they rejoin their families. It is hard for a human being who has lost his self-worth in the hands of a fellow man to regain it. Self-worth is a special gift that should be respected at all costs. It is usually painful for innocent people who fall victims of torture to think about all that they go through, while under the custody of their torturers, despite their innocence.
It is evident that in majority of cases in which the victims of torture or human rights activists have sued the state for the pain inflicted in them, the court has always tended to favor the states (Anthony 37). In order to do so, those prevailing over the cases have avoided the use of the word torture due to their full realization of what the customary international law says about torture. It is clear that under the customary international law, the prohibition of torture is jus cogens – a peremptory norm that is non-derogable under any circumstances. The law is binding in all nations across the globe (Kenneth 392). This elevated status within international law, in fact, places torture at par with heinous crimes such as slavery and genocide.
In 1999, the Israel Supreme Court issued a pivotal decision in Public Committee against Torture in Israel V. Israel. In the crucial ruling, the court found a number of interrogation techniques used as illegal (Jamie 118). The most fascinating issue about the ruling is that the court responded in that manner to ensure that it avoids any mention of the word “torture.” They summarized all of the techniques and finally termed them illegal. Thus, according to the opinion, torture never exists; if state officers committed any crime, then it could be the use of illegal interrogation techniques.
In conclusion, torture should not only be considered as a matter of legal principles, but a matter for civilization as well. Thus, criminal investigation systems should be properly developed. It is evident that a nation that practices torture has underdeveloped criminal investigation system, which is regarded as a disadvantage for a social transformation. It is an absolute law not to be tortured; hence, no violation should exist under any circumstances. The customary international law protects all human beings from any form of torture irrespective of the situation. It is, therefore, against the 1975 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to subject a human being to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. It is a moral imperative prior to law and derived from the equal dignity of all human beings. This right applies to all human beings; it does not matter where one is, whether innocent or guilty, a human being should not be tortured.
The fight against terrorism has been a major impetus that governments have used kin their justification of torture (Steiner 229). This should not happen again; torture does not provide the solution to insecurity in the world. The effect of torture includes an increase in insecurity, since people end up losing confidence in their law enforcing agencies. However, courts have gradually improved in their rulings for cases involving torture. The rulings in the past have by and large favored the states. Contrarily, this has tremendously changed and victims of torture are beginning to get fair hearings. Thus, there is a positive shift and the human rights activists should continue advocating for human rights, including the right not to be tortured. Everything points out to the fact that right not to be tortured is absolute and should not be infringed under whatever circumstances.
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