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Torture and Ethics Essay

According to Steven Biko, “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” This is very true when it comes to the way of the world and torture. This is because torture has been used as a tool since the beginning of history. Since the 18th century B.C., torture has been practiced because of the Code of Hammurabi- an eye for an eye. Moreover, it has been used as a method to control a person or group of people who are seen as a threat (Jayatunge, 2010).This is why some people feel that it is a violation of human rights that has global implications. Ethical theories such as ontological, deontological, utilitarianism and natural laws all have differing viewpoints on whether or not torture can be justified.

Although many feel that it is morally wrong, others think it is just depending on the situation or circumstance. There are many opposing views surrounding the act of torture. According to (“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, n.d.), torture is defined as an action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment in order to force them to do or say something.

Furthermore, words used to describe it are pain and torment. The word torture along with pain and torment all have bad connotations in most cases regardless of the situation. Being that torture is deliberate; many disagree with the idea of intentionally inflicting pain or agony on a person. Some people are tortured as revenge or punishment while others are tortured for interrogation or personal gratification.

Some forms of torture are not meant to kill or injure the victim. However, many types do result in fatalities. Torture that does not kill the victim usually prolongs their pain and suffering. This is sometimes considered the worst type because if it results in a fatality, it will probably be a long and painful death. There are also many psychological effects that can occur because of torture. Family and friends of the victim can also be affected by the effects of torture.

Currently, there are both international and domestic laws that prohibit the act of torture in many countries all over the world. Whether the torture is deemed acceptable or not sometimes depends on the location or culture. Many cultures view it as inhumane and a direct violation of human rights. According to (“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, n.d.), Article 5 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that torture is unacceptable. United Nations Convention against Torture also prohibits it and was ratified by over 147 countries in the world. These two alone shows how much some conventions and organizations feel strongly against the act of torture.

Many people are against torture because it can trigger a number of things. Torture is usually so violent that it can have a variety of affects on a person, a group of people, as well as an entire country. Some people who experience torture sometimes suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. Others have nightmares and flashbacks while some undergo a great deal of anxiety. Depression is another common reaction to torture as well as DESNOS (Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified). Lastly, mental effects can also be a direct result (Jayatunge, 2010).

Torturing enemy combatants has been a controversial subject since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center by Al Qaeda. This “War on Terror” gave the President of the United States authorization to use force from the military. As a result, this gave the President even more power to use “all necessary and appropriate force against nations, organizations, or persons- he determines who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist’s attacks or harbored such organizations or person.”

Therefore, any person that fits under that category of having anything to do with the terrorist attack as considered to be unlawful enemy combatants. This means that those persons must be kept in custody until the “War on Terror” is over. After this is done, everything must be done to protect the United States as a country as well as to develop new leads and details on the terrorist attack. In order to do this, some compromises have to be made. Also, some form of torture may be necessary. These enemy combatants have lost all of their rights and have been having both humane and inhumane acts done to them in an effort to prevent future attacks and to uncover information about terrorism and these attacks.

According to Professor Shaun Casey, torture is never morally acceptable in regards to Christian principles. Furthermore, Dr. Casey says that this all goes back to the social teachings of Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, they feel like it is wrong to torture any human being (“The Moral Debate about Torture “, 2009). Global implications can develop based off the differing perspectives on whether or not torture is moral. There are a few theories that seem to support the idea of torture. Utilitarianism is the idea of the maximum amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.

Therefore, if torture is something that would benefit or make a large number of people happy, that is exactly what this theory supports. Another theory is ethical egoism. Ethical egoism could support torture because of the type of mentality possessed by an egoist. Egoists make decisions and do things without considering how these types of things may make someone else feel. Furthermore, these types of people feel like they are against everyone else in the world because they see it in two different parts. This means that they would torture a person if they saw a way they could benefit from it without considering anyone else and how it would make them feel (Souryal, 2007). Natural law is defined as rules or many rules that outline what is legal and acceptable behavior in human society.

The natural law is definitely against torture because it is illegal to harm another individual. If this is done, consequences such as jail or parole time can come as a result. Deontological is a theory that focuses on actions more so that consequences. It also focuses on the biblical sense of how to treat others. Therefore, this theory would not support torture because it is not Christ-like. Those who believe in this theory live their lives according to what is pleasing to God. One example used to describe the theory is the story of Abraham in the bible. The slaying of his brother was considered morally wrong. However, the fact that is what commanded to do by God made the difference. In fact, it made it intrinsically good. This relates to torture because a person may say that they were commanded to torture a person by God. Nonetheless, this theory as a whole does not support torture. Ontological theory could be viewed as support for torture.

This is because ontology does not believe that certain acts are always bad. It believes that the reasoning behind the act is the determining factor. For example, although a certain religion may believe murder is wrong, those who believe in ontology may find a murder justified depending on the reason it was committed (Souryal, 2007). Although torture is considered to be one of the most heinous crimes, there are a number of cases where torture is present. For example, there have been victims tortured in prison and under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some of the perpetrators have been both police officers and interrogators. Perhaps this is why torture is labeled as a “double edged sword.” It is known to possibly affect both the victim and perpetrator.

Many people who enjoy inflicting pain on others crave satisfaction sadistically. The perpetrators usually lack empathy and get a feeling of satisfaction because they feel superior to their victims (Jayatunge, 2010). Regardless of these acts, there are still ethical theories that support and disapprove the act of torture. This is because some people think it is acceptable when dealing with enemy combatants because of previous terrorist attacks. Utilitarianism and ontological theory can be viewed as theories that support such a violent act like torture. However, the deontological theory does not support torture. In addition, there are conventions, organizations, and laws that prohibit torture because they strongly feel like it is a violation of human rights.

Jayatunge, Dr. R. M. (2010). Psychological effects of Torture. Retrieved from http://groundviews.org/2010/04/15/psychological-effects-of-torture/ Souryal, S. S. (2007). Ethics in criminal justice: In search of the truth (4th ed.). Retrieved from

The University of Phoenix eBook Collection.
The Moral Debate about Torture. (2009). Retrieved from
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/may-1-2009/the-moral-debate-about-torture/2865/ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

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