Human Rights

The Question of the Justification of Evasive Torture Techniques as a means of Protecting National Security

The United Nations definition of torture includes the following: Inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering and in doing so deliberately.

Can torture ever be justified? The answer in international law is: No.

As laid down in treaties such as the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the ban on torture is absolute, even in times of protecting national security, which is the ability of a state to provide for the protection and defense of its people. Torture and genocide are the only crimes that every state must punish.

However, in a BBC survey of nearly 30,000 people in 25 countries, more than one out of three people in nine of those countries, including America, considered a degree of torture acceptable if it saved lives. The use of torture in the war against terror as an interrogation technique became part of a broader counterterrorist strategy, supported by the US and some of its allies. George Tenet, the CIA’s director until 2004, agreed that the agency’s widely condemned rendition program had saved lives, disrupted plots and provided “invaluable” information. He said that the program on its own was “worth more than the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” Opposition to this motion was highest in most European and English-speaking countries

In the case of human rights, the right to life and the right to security are fundamental rights a state is obligated to protect. However, a moral justification of torture has not yet been given, neither on deontological nor on consequentialist grounds. From a deontological perspective, torture is morally wrong because it violates and perverts human dignity in an incomparable way. Arguably torture is not a more efficient than other legal interrogation techniques and frequently leads to false confessions. Torture as an interrogation technique does not work and its positive consequences are not met in reality and undermine some of the key foundations and values democratic societies rest upon.

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The Question of whether Soldiers should be held accountable for War Crimes despite it being their Profession

A war crime can be described as: an act carried out during war that violates accepted international rules of war.

The concept of war crimes is a recent one. Before World War II, it was generally accepted that the horrors of war were part of the nature of war. There was no structured approach to dealing with war crimes or an agreement that political or military leaders should take criminal responsibility for the acts of their states or their troops. Attitudes changed during World War II, as the Allied powers prosecuted the people they believed to be the perpetrators of inhuman crimes.

War crimes are now placed into three groups:

  • Crimes against peace
  • War crimes
  • Crimes against humanity

A very detailed list of crimes against humanity and war crimes can be found in articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Actions labeled as war crimes range from the actions of individual soldiers, such as the abuse of prisoners during the Iraq War, to controversial sanctioned actions such as the bombing of Dresden in 1945. The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict published by the UK Ministry of Defence utilizes the 1945 definition “Violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour….” At the heart of the concept of war crimes is the idea that individuals can be held criminally responsible for the actions of a country or its soldiers.

People are usually only tried for war crimes if their country loses the war, but this isn’t always the case. Several Americans were tried for war crimes committed in the Vietnam conflict, which is a significant exception to the tradition. Problems in distinguishing war crimes often arise when a person may have been obeying an order of his Government or of a superior. However, this does not free him from responsibility, but can be considered and may reduce the appropriate punishment.