Home > Law & Enforcement > Torture: The Right to Not Be Tortured

Torture: The Right to Not Be Tortured

Author: Liz Lennox - Updated: 10 January 2013 | commentsComment
 
Human Rights Law Interrogation Rights

Pick up any dictionary and you will find something along these lines: ‘To cause extreme physical pain esp. To extract information. To give mental anguish.’ What you may not find in the dictionary is that for ‘torture’ to occur it is usually when someone acting in authority (a police officer, soldier etc.) causes you serious physical or mental pain to make you give them information, to punish you or to cause you to fear them.

Newspapers and history books are often filled with atrocities committed to people. Thankfully these are usually extreme cases but we are not so mentally developed that we cannot do atrocious things to each other in the name of one cause or other.

Protection

The Human Rights Act (Article 3) and The European Convention on Human Rights specifically prohibit torture; there are no provisos. This is an absolute right. Interestingly, it also includes threatening to torture someone or treat them in an inhumane or degrading manner – so it is not just the act that can breach your rights, it is the suggestion that this will be done. And that’s not all.

The same Article also strictly prohibits inhumane or degrading treatment.

Inhumane Treatment

Inhumane treatment, and punishment; include:
  • inhumane living conditions
  • serious assault
  • interrogation using psychological methods
  • failure to give or refusing medical treatment to someone with a serious illness, disease or defect

The authorities have a duty to protect you from someone treating you in this manner, and they are certainly prohibited from inflicting this on you themselves. Because this right is absolute, it cannot be restricted through, for instance, lack of funding, or limited as a result of some crime that you may have committed.

Nor can it be accepted as a means of treating suspected terrorists. From immigrants on the street to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, there are stories of horrendous acts perpetrated against people in the name of national security. This can never be acceptable, no matter what the cause.

I do not claim to have ever been in a war-zone, nor to have worked for the security services but, as an ordinary person on the street, I find it abhorrent that someone should use the name of my country to degrade or torture another human being. The shame of it is that the stories that make it back to us via the media are usually of soldiers treating inmates in this way for fun, for no other purpose than their own amusement. I am not saying that it would be acceptable for the purpose of obtaining information, it isn’t, but at least it would be close to understandable.

It may be that someone could say, ‘well they would do it to us’. This is an argument akin to ‘Billy made me do it’; do we lower ourselves to the level of these ‘others’; do we sacrifice our self-respect and dignity in the name of national security?

As a nation we benefit from the protection of Article 3 and the Convention it stems from, we cannot therefore justify behaving in this way to others. As a generation, these things may be lost in memory one day, but equally history will judge us and our leaders.

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