Torture  

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"A Modest Proposal For Preventing Torturers in Liberal Democracies From Being Abused, and For Recognising their Benefit to the Public" – John GrayNew Statesman, 17 February, 2003

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical pain and possibly injury to a person (or animal) who is physically restrained or otherwise under the torturer's control or custody, unable to defend against what is being done to them. Torture has been carried out or sanctioned by individuals, groups and states throughout history from ancient times to modern day, and forms of torture can vary greatly in duration from only a few minutes to several days or even longer. Reasons for torture can include punishment, revenge, political re-education, deterrence, interrogation or coercion of the victim or a third party, or simply the sadistic gratification of those carrying out or observing the torture. The torturer may or may not intend to kill or injure the victim, but sometimes torture is deliberately fatal and can precede a murder or serve as a cruel form of capital punishment. In other cases, the torturer may be indifferent to the condition of the victim. Alternatively, some forms of torture are designed to inflict psychological pain or leave as little physical injury or evidence as possible while achieving the same psychological devastation. Depending on the aim, even a form of torture that is intentionally fatal may be prolonged to allow the victim to suffer as long as possible (such as half-hanging).

Ticking time bomb scenario

The ticking time bomb scenario, a thought experiment, asks what to do to a captured terrorist who has placed a nuclear time bomb in a populated area. If the terrorist is tortured, he may explain how to defuse the bomb. The scenario asks if it is ethical to torture the terrorist. A 2006 BBC poll held in 25 nations gauged support for each of the following positions:

  • Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.
  • Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights.

An average of 59% of people worldwide rejected torture. However there was a clear divide between those countries with strong rejection of torture (such as Italy, where only 14% supported torture) and nations where rejection was less strong. Often this lessened rejection is found in countries severely and frequently threatened by terrorist attacks. E.g., Israel, despite its Supreme Court outlawing torture in 1999, showed 43% supporting torture, but 48% opposing, India showed 37% supporting torture and only 23% opposing.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Torture" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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