There is no arguing the fact that society and moral thinking have undergone a transformation in recent years. The very concept of substantial human rights, those that rest upon a foundation of universality, was one that did not gain momentum until the latter half of the 20th century. With the evolution of modern thinking, debate has been reinvigorated on many key issues, one of which has become pivotal: torture. But how is torture defined?

Offering a definition is, in great part, a subjective matter and varies depending on changing cultural landscapes. What’s seen as gruesome and unjust in one region of the world may be seen as commonplace in another. While discussion on the topic tends away from universality, there are some key aspects that can be agreed upon: the use of torture is done with intent to cause severe bodily or psychological harm, is typically carried out by authority figures and is undoubtedly a process that circumvents all bounds of human morality. Keeping such principles in mind, how can we expect the benefits of human rights advancements to take firm hold if such terrible acts endure?

Many may point to the perceived benefits of such acts, saying that they are effective in extracting vital pieces of information in relation to issues such as criminal activity, or even terrorist plots in some instances. The latter notion gained great popularity after the events of September 11, in which alarm and emotional turmoil were at an all-time high. However, it’s important to note that everybody has a different threshold for pain — a key component of torture practices — and once this threshold is crossed, a person is liable to say almost anything to bring an end to their suffering.

Not only is the quality of the information inconsistent and marred, but someone who is innocent may confess to doing something with which they had no association. This is problematic on all fronts, and offers no true progress when it comes to obtaining true intelligence. Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times stated in his piece, “C.I.A. Report Found Value of Brutal Interrogation Was Inflated,” that the agency conducted an internal review, coined the Panetta Review. The ensuing report was compiled in order to look into the day-to-day interactions between prison guards and detainees.

Accordingly, it was revealed that the value of information obtained during “brutal interrogations” of these detainees was repeatedly overstated. How can torture continue to be a popular form of gaining information when the results often carry such little validity and accuracy? If the largest argument for torture is flawed at its core, there exists a major problem with how intelligence agencies and people of authority handle inmate interrogation. Henceforth, there’s no true practical justification for performing such actions, as the human rights violations amount to minimal gain — should these violations even be occurring in the first place.

International human rights standards take clear stances against the use of torture. As stated in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The term “torture” is used specifically in the text of the article. From this evidence alone, the use of such coercive action stands in direct violation of fundamental modern human rights goals. Even one such violation of a human being’s rights is grave enough to deserve reprimand. As Yousef Munayyer proclaimed, “Acknowledgment of torture is not accountability for it.”

It’s not enough to simply recognize these inhuman practices are occurring; there must be an active effort led internationally to eradicate such practices from the governmental and penal systems. The public needs to be more critical of government and its practices, and we as a people must be guided by our morality in the elimination of such cruel punishment. Once everyone is educated about the true nature and violations torture carries with it —and this is true at every level of society — then the world will advance down a path of upheld rights, leaving such heinous aspects of past society suspended in memory.

Tyler Charboneau is an LSA junior.

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