Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century

[ Country-by-Country Reports ]


According to the UN Convention against Torture, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.


Why Torture Doesn’t Work - The Neuroscience of Interrogation

Shane O’Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College, Dublin, and Director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience -- Harvard University Press, ISBN 9780674743908

[accessed 24 Aug 2015]

[accessed 26 October 2017]

Torture is banned because it is cruel and inhumane. But as Shane O’Mara writes in this account of the human brain under stress, another reason torture should never be condoned is because it does not work the way torturers assume it does.

In countless films and TV shows such as Homeland and 24, torture is portrayed as a harsh necessity. If cruelty can extract secrets that will save lives, so be it. CIA officers and others conducted torture using precisely this justification. But does torture accomplish what its de-fenders say it does? For ethical reasons, there are no scientific studies of torture. But neuroscientists know a lot about how the brain reacts to fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, and immersion in freezing water, all tools of the torturer’s trade. These stressors create problems for memory, mood, and thinking, and sufferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable—and, for intelligence purposes, even counterproductive. As O’Mara guides us through the neuroscience of suffering, he reveals the brain to be much more complex than the brute calculations of torturers have al-lowed, and he points the way to a humane approach to interrogation, founded in the science of brain and behavior.

Statement by Mr. Juan E Méndez

Mr. Juan E Méndez, SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT, 16th session of the Human Rights Council, Agenda Item 3, Geneva, 7 March 2010

[accessed 9 January 2013]

The ordeal of victims of torture endures even when the torture itself has ended. Victims experience many forms of long-term physical and psychological damage as a result of torture and ill treatment. In this regard, I am encouraged by the heroic efforts of various organizations whose work ensures that there are appropriate remedies and reparation for victims. The work of such organizations seeks to include and promote the perspectives of victims and survivors in the development of programmes and policies aimed at addressing torture. This is a goal that I wholeheartedly support and will pursue during my tenure.

European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Council of Europe, European Treaties, ETS No. 126, 1989

[accessed 18 January 2013]

[accessed 17 March 2020]

The member States of the Council of Europe, signatory hereto, having regard to the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

Recalling that, under Article 3 of the same Convention, "no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment";

Noting that the machinery provided for in that Convention operates in relation to persons who allege that they are victims of violations of Article 3;

Convinced that the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment could be strengthened by non-judicial means of a preventive character based on visits,

Have agreed as follows ... 

Hooded Men: Can the use of torture by a State be justified?

Conor Courtney,, 25 March 2018

[accessed 25 March 2018]

[accessed 25 March 2018]

LEGAL PHILOSOPHY -- In legal philosophy, there are two main sides to the torture debate. One approach, which is the dominating position of Western societies, is that torture is never acceptable. This is reflective of an absolutist approach, as there is never a moral basis upon which one can warrant torture.

UTILITARIAN SCHOOL OF THOUGHT -- Jeremy Bentham has been hailed as being a principal exponent for the utilitarian school of thought. Utilitarians propose that nothing, in theory, is ever intrinsically wrong. Their argument is that each case is different, and merits individual inspection to observe whether it is morally acceptable or not.  They strive for, ‘The greatest happiness of the greatest number’, so, if the torture of one person could save 100 lives, then they would have no objections.

The main issue with torture, from both perspectives, is that it has been proven to be unreliable, and it undermines civilian support towards the government involved in the torture,