Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Right Against Torture? Essay

Explain how you would try to justify an absolute right against torture, and how you would try to meet the main objections to such a proposed right. This essay sets out to deal with the very important issues raised by the practice of torture in today’s society. More precisely, the point of this paper is to defend a right against torture, of which all people should benefit, and not just any kind of right, but one of an absolute nature. In order to deal with these issues the essay will firstly justify why and absolute right against torture is mandatory from a philosophical point of view as well as a methodological one. Secondly, this essay aims to present its defences and critiques against the main objections to this proposed absolute right. In achieving both goals the paper will present empirical and normative evidence of why people from all over the world should benefit from this absolute right, and not just in writing, but also in practice. Before venturing forth with the arguments necessary to defend the absolute right against torture I will explain the term of ‘absolute right’ as it is needed so that everyone understands the importance of such a right and even more, so that everyone can acknowledge the gravity of infringing upon such a right. An absolute right is a right that cannot be infringed upon under absolutely any circumstances. The right against torture qualifies as such an absolute right under agreements such as the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), the UKHRA (UK Harm Reduction Alliance) and the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). There are today 192 signatory states of the UDHR; these states are legally bound to respect all of the articles of this document. The main problem is that even though all of these states have signed the declaration, there have been reports between 1997 and 2001 of torture being practiced in 140 countries. It is therefore sad when we come to the conclusion that even though this right is one from which these people should have been protected from, that has not happened and it has not been enforced, but severely infringed upon in many of the states it should be guaranteed. An absolute right against torture as far as I am concerned should not even be defended in any kind of way, but instead it should be implied, it should be a given and it should not be a topic of conversation in any corner of the world. The reasons why I will always try and be a stalwart defender of such a right are many. The two main arguments I would like to propose in order to defend this right are the fact that torture constitutes an incredibly immoral and degrading practice, and that furthermore, torture practised in today’s society will halt, at least on some level, the capability of human beings to progress. The world has evolved from all points of view, today we live in a world that has significantly improved technologically, a world that has seen major improvements in ways of thinking, a world that is now more human rights based than ever, and yet the same world cannot seem to be able to let go of one of the most backwards practices it has ever invented, torture. The status-quo of today’s world is not violence as it was in the Middle Ages, on the contrary, we live in a world that has more and more tried to enhance its defence of human rights and to reduce the as much as possible the unnecessar y use of force, terror and violence against humanity and not only. Perhaps if we had all lived in the Middle Ages, the practice of torture would not seem as appalling as it does to so many people today. I strongly believe that torture is wrong no matter what approach I take. Torture is immoral and fundamentally wrong and it has both short-term and long-term disastrous consequences on all human beings – not just those people it is used against. Although torture has been declared an illegal it has been used many times. This means it happens in an undisclosed manner, people do not really know when and where it happens most of the times, and if they find out it is because some mistakes have been made. With the technological advancements today it is easier to capture and present to the public such acts of violence than it was before. One of the discourses on torture has been on what kind of approach should be taken. The solutions when dealing with torture are as follows: make torture legal and resort to it when needed; never resort to torture no m atter what the circumstances; declare torture illegal and always declare that torture will not be used but resort to practicing it when needed but only ‘under the radar’. The only reasonable approach as far as I am concerned is to never under any circumstances resort to torture. Using a process of elimination this is still the only reasonable opinion in regards to torture as the other two options are immoral. First of all, making torture legal should again require no arguments as to why this is immoral. The arguments are plenty and yet its defences are few if any, but first let us address the arguments against making torture a legal act in any society. This is a case that need be taken in consideration in democratic states and not autocratic ones since in those cases there is no system of checks and balances in place and the state does not answer to its citizens (who are even viewed and treated as mere subjects in some cases). In a democratic society, making torture legal seems a rather impossible task as far as I am concerned. I do not have an actual statistic regarding people’s views on torture and yet I feel confident enough to say that the majority of people would vote against it. Even if that were not the case, people would still need to know what they are voting for. Let us consider a situation where a country would like to make torture legal. The party that would like to propose such a legalization of torture would present its case and try to hide as many realities concerning torture as possible and instil a sense of constant fear into the people, explaining that many deaths would be avoided if they would be allowed to resort to torture procedures and last but not least explain the ‘ticking bomb scenario’ (to which I will come back later) and try to make it seem like a general rule rather than the exception it really is. The opposition would in this case only need to present torture as the immoral, degrading and humiliating practice it is. The best way for this would be to present acts of torture on television so that all the people that were thinking of voting in favour see what torture really is. I find it hard to believe that after such a spectacle anyone would even consider voting in order to pass the legalization of torture. For the sake of the argument let us however consider that the people, even after watching the gruesome shows of torture would still vote on behalf of making torture legal. In that situation, all we need to do is resort to Alan Dershowitz`s argument and ask ourselves whether we really want to create such a society in which someone has a right to torture. We would need to train people in special torture techniques, have companies produce torture equipment, torture rooms would no longer need to be hidden, maybe even build them in the centre of the city with glass walls so that everyone can witness what is happening in there and so even more instil fear in potential terrorists. Children would no longer say they want to be policemen, firemen, astronauts or race car drivers, but torture experts. Institutionalizing torture would lead to an increasingly violen t society, a society where normality would shift towards violence. Today many people believe and adhere to the idea that violence is not the answer; not only people, but entire societies try and uphold this idea of non-violent responses, yet by legalizing the practice of torture we would help build a society where indeed violence would be the answer. Even if no other matters, laws or practices would suffer changes directly with the exception of torture being legal that can arguably lead to a more violent society by constantly being in the minds of people as a regular occurrence. One of the major problems today that need be addressed when taking into consideration the possibility of people agreeing to make torture legal is the fact that people are most of the times concerned mainly about their own wellbeing and are hypocritical. People often judge facts or disregard certain realities because of a ‘what they don`t know won`t hurt them’ mentality. This is why they must be presented with the real humiliating act of torture; they must witnes s it in order to truly appreciate its immoral and degrading nature so that in the end they may be able to cast a vote that truly reflects their thoughts and feelings regarding this matter. This is one of the reasons why we need to have an absolute right against torture, since without it we would live in a slowly morally degrading society that allows for such horrendous acts to happen, a society that sacrifices its morals to gain what it misleadingly believes to be protection against terrorist threats. The second choice when confronted with torture would be for the government to allow for it to happen ‘under the radar’ while publicly organizing fake propaganda against it for the people. This again is very immoral. In order for a government to allow for torture to happen would mean that it is renouncing its liberal and democratic values since it would be doing something it does not have approval from its citizens to do. Torture is in all aspects immoral and should always be considered to be immoral. Torture is immoral because it dehumanizes everyone involved in it. It dehumanizes and degrades the victim, the same victim who is humiliated and treated in a way not even animals should ever be treated. It is immoral because it is an assault on human dignity. Furthermore, torture does not only dehumanize the victim, but the torturer as well. This entire process, even if done ‘under the radar’ or with public support, degrades the society as a whole with its practices and implications. The major pro torture defences are self-defence and the ‘ticking bomb scenario’. A democratic society cannot allow for torture to happen in any of these scenarios, as appealing as they might seem at a first glance. In order to understand why an outright ban should be imposed against torture and an absolute right against it be adopted we need to take a deeper look at what these scenarios bring to the negotiation table. In the self-defence scenario, where someone knows the whereabouts of a person that will die if not helped soon, some people will say that by torturing the person who is withholding the information might get them the location of the person in need of saving. This is again immoral since we`ve seen the very big problems th at come with institutionalizing torture but let`s think beyond that. Why would it ever be right to torture one person in order to save another? Sure, it is self-defence when someone assaults you and you fight back and eventually end up injuring or killing the person that tried to assault you, and it would qualify as self-defence. It would even qualify as self-defence if someone were to hold your wife at gunpoint and you would eventually manage to save her and again injure or kill the attacker because in that situation laws in most countries extend the self-defence to the person that was the victim in the first place. But there is however a difference between someone holding a gun to your loved one`s head, and that same person withholding knowledge as to where the loved one is being held and they might die if not helped in time. The difference between the above mentioned cases lies with the certainty factor and how direct the two possible crimes are. It`s one thing to have a gun held at someone`s head, where you could maybe even see the attacker pull the trigger, while a person held somewhere deprived of air maybe is not a direct ‘trigger’ being pulled; not to mention the fact that when seeing the attacker holding the gun aimed at someone makes you almost certain of their intention, while one can never be sure that the attacker even has information as to the whereabouts of the victim. Even if torture would not be completely immoral and encumbered with so many ‘plagues’ against society, the uncertainty and the level of direct or indirect connection to the crime should be enough to outright ban torture. The ‘ticking bomb scenario’ is arguably the strongest defence of pro torture theorists. For this reason I will address it now and try to explain why this case should not allow torture to happen under any circumstances and even with this scenario in mind an absolute right against torture is needed. The main argument of this scenario is that indeed a terrorist believed to have information about the location of a time bomb that will go off in a crowded place should be tortured in order to find out where the bomb is. I find this scenario quite poor in its convincing capabilities but that is not the case for many people confronted with the idea so the problem requires addressing. This scenario is ultimately used as a trap for liberals that out of principle refuse torture on any kind of basis, be it the case of legalization or of it happening ‘under the radar’. When confronted with this situation some liberals cannot hold back out of principle and beliefs anymore and indeed give in to a hypothetical situation where the torture of one terrorist would save the lives of thousands or even maybe more. This scenario is so overstretched and made to sound so simplistic that it could no longer be deemed as realistic. Sure, maybe most of the people confronted with this largely unrealistic situation mentioned above would give in; after all, it is a no brainer right? Torture one, save thousands, even more. Things are not like that though and other factors need to be taken into consideration when debating on whether or not torture should be allowed at least in these extreme situations. In this situation the overlooked factors are of decisive importance. Pro torture theorists’ make two very big mistakes (on purpose of course to mislead people); they transform this scenario into a general rule, a regular occurrence with which most of the people will be confronted at some point in their livelihood, instead of the exception it actually is. There has only been one case recorded where the Philippine authorities have tortured a terrorist for sixty-seven days in order to get information ou t of him that may have stopped an attempt to assassinate the pope and crash eleven planes into the Pacific Ocean. The planes had approximately four thousand passengers. The first problem is that this extreme act of terrorism is an exceptional occurrence and by no means a regular one, and leads us to the second huge flaw of this ‘ticking bomb scenario’, the fact that it is riddled with uncertainty. The Philippine authorities have tortured the man for such a long a time that they were themselves amazed that he was still alive when he gave them the information; so they tortured him without even being sure that he knows anything, without being sure that he would survive to give them any information at all and without actually being sure that the information he would maybe provide would indeed prove to be useful. How can it therefore ever be right even in this scenario to torture someone? It is close to impossible to ever be sure that a person actually has any useful information; it is also never a certain thing that even if he provides some information that information is true. No one s hould ever be humiliated and treated in such a way as a tortured person is since nothing can ever be one hundred per cent certain when it comes to torture because a person in the pains of torture would say anything to put an end to the pain. What if the tortured person actually does not know anything about a plot? What then? The torturer will never stop since he has to get the information out therefore he tortures with the certainty that the tortured has the information while he might actually know nothing. Should in this situation the torturer be allowed to torture the wife, children and other relatives in order to get the information out? Where would this entire process stop? After all he might know something; even if after he has been tortured and watched his wife be tortured and killed in front of him he still says no, the torturer is still sure that he is withholding information so he continues with his children. If he still does not say anything the torturer might think that he is a very well trained terrorist and very loyal to his cause, so why stop? The torturer can be just as determined and loyal to his cause in return and continue to torture as many relatives of the victim as he possibly can to get the informat ion out of him. This is a built-in problem of the whole ‘ticking bomb scenario’, a problem because the terrorist might know something that if he might disclose to the torturer, might prove as valuable information. Not only does the ‘ticking bomb scenario’ almost never arise, but even in the extreme eventuality that it does, getting the information, and not just any information but the right one seems as probable as finding a needle in a haystack while being blindfolded and wearing boxing gloves; and yet some people are still not convinced and would, even in these given situations, employ the degrading and inhumane act of torture. If so, why not make even make it a fun thing to try and alleviate the gravity of such a situation and allow people to bet on whether or not the victim will give out the right information and foil the plot; a person would easily be offered really good odds and be able to win fortunes with a mere penny. Furthermore, again in the area of how everything related to torture is uncertain and holds no guarantee we must acknowledge that even if after all those presented above, we succumb to the use of torture, we allow for it to happen, we get the information which eventually proves to be right and stops a bombing, the terrorists could just as well plan another bombing, or maybe even more to revenge their tortured friend? As far as I am concerned under no circumstances should torture ever be used? Not only should it always be illegal but no matter how pro-torture theorists try to sugar coat it, it will always be immoral. It degrades everyone involved in it, as well as the entire society, it makes everyone a part of an inhumane act that can never guarantee anything. It should not happen ‘under the radar’ because it would mean that the elected officials that allow it to take place renounce their democratic beliefs and abandon their morals. It should not happen with the approval of the people because then everyone renounces their democratic ideologies and morals; the entire society would become more violent which is not something to overlook even if it raises by a very small degree; an entire torture related authority and mentality would be born that would only sadden and inherently take its toll on everyone`s daily livelihood. As we have seen there are no possible situations that might warrant a use of torture since in all given scenarios the trade-off in the long run would always prove to be a very bad one. Humanity should never trade its morals, its principles and its liberal and democratic values for the smallest odds of saving one, ten, or one million lives. The best way to express this is by thinking about the situation in which the Prime Minister of Italy, Aldo Moro, was kidnapped and when someone suggested the use of torture to find out where he is being held, General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa replied: â€Å"Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro. It would not survive the introduction of torture.† It is not only Italy that could not survive the introduction of torture, but the entire civilized world. For all the arguments employed above against the use of torture in any kind of scenario, even in the strictly utilitarian one where torture should be used as long as the number of people saved is higher than the number of people tortured and killed, we can draw the humane and moral conclusion that torture should always be unlawful and immoral and therefore an absolute right against torture is warranted.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.