Is Torture Ever Justifiable?

Is Torture Ever Justifiable? May 5, 2009

I’m curious how UF readers respond to the torture question, so here’s a poll.

I’m assuming this definition of torture: the act of inflicting pain on another person for the purposes of punishment, information, or pleasure of the inflicter.

Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can…

I’d like to say never, but I can imagine rare situations where I would grudgingly find it acceptable. For instance, if a bomb was going to go off and kill innocent people, and they had the person who knew the location of the bomb but wasn’t talking. These types of situations I’m sure are very rare, but I can’t in good conscience say torture is never acceptable.

What do you think?

Update: This has stirred up quite a bit of debate, which is very interesting.

If you answer “never,” I’d like you to give some alternatives — what should the authorities do instead when they quickly need information to save innocent lives?

People didn’t like my bomb example, so let me give a different example, which was a real scenario:

A man kidnapped a boy, held him for ransom, and was arrested when picking up the ransom money. The kidnapper refused to reveal the location of the boy, and the police knew his life was in danger  — if he was not already dead. So they began threatening the man and told him they were going to torture him if he didn’t give them the information they needed. He gave up the information. Unfortunately, the boy had already been murdered by the kidnapper.

I think it would have been acceptable to torture that man. He forfeited his rights to be treated nicely when he kidnapped a person. That boy should not be tortured further, or die, because we don’t want to hurt a very bad man. If necessary, I think the guilty man can be hurt to give the innocent a chance to live.

But if you think that would be wrong, then I want to know what you think should be done instead to protect the innocent.

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