What is Torture?
That’s not the subject of this post and discussion thread. The relevant definition of torture from the UN Convention on Torture is here:
1. For the purposes of this Convention, 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.
To the best of my knowledge the U. S. is not a signatory to this convention. Update: from Alex Knapp:
Actually, this treaty is the law of the land in the U.S. It was signed by the United States in 1988 and ratified by the Senate in 1994.
The parts of the convention that are interesting include that the pain or suffering must be severe, whoever inflicts the pain or suffering must intend to do so, a public official or person acting in an official capacity must consent to the action, and the action must not be incidental to lawful actions. So, for example, lawful imprisonment is not torture however much the one incarcerated suffers as a direct consequence of the incarceration.
In the light of the news stories and commentaries about former AG Alberto Gonzalez’s letter purportedly condoning the use of specific forms of coercive interrogation, I thought it might be instructive to consider the subject in more detail.
Should the definition above be revised? How?
Should the U. S. be a signatory to the Convention? Why shouldn’t it? Why should it?
Should the U. S. be held to this Convention whether it is a signatory or not? What’s the philosophical basis for this? Should other countries be held similarly accountable?
Is coercive interrogation synonymous with torture? I do not take that interpretation away from the definition in the Convention above. Why should it or should it not be considered so?
What is torture?