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The Right Against Torture: What's the Deal?

Essay by   •  May 13, 2011  •  Essay  •  522 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,361 Views

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Torture is universally detested not only due to the laws of the land, but also due to the natural morals of the people. No country in the world publicly legalizes or supports it. Its prohibition is jus cogens, meaning that it is held above all customary laws and treaties.1 This right can't be overridden unless faced with another jus cogens.2 This prohibition is a core right that must be upheld in all circumstances including times of war, or other supposed national or public-related emergencies.3 The right against torture and cruel and unusual punishment has always been a part of history, although not much of it is recorded. Traced back to ancient Greek and Roman times, this concept was implemented in one way or another. The first recorded document that related to torture and cruel punishment was the English Magna Carta of 1215. It was created to protect the English people from the overpowering royal authority and included the right to be protected from being taken and imprisoned, destroyed, and exiled without the first consent of the law. In a way, it can be considered the primitive forms of the right against torture.

The exact words, "the government shall not inflict cruel and unusual punishments for crimes," can be first traced to the English Bill of Rights of 1689 that followed the Revolution of 1688. From there, countless bills and treaties followed the Western trend.

Nowadays, it is difficult to state honestly whether or not this right is still upheld. Many accounts of torture have been suspected of the government, but there isn't a sure way for an ordinary citizen to find out the truth without putting themselves at risk instead. For example, rumors of the United States' military generals torturing people in the Middle East have spread like wildfire over the still and oblivious citizens. News of coerced confessions during federal crime investigations aren't officially outlawed in print in the United States, but it clearly violates the Bill of Rights because as stated before, it is jus cogens. People are obvious that it is wrong, but they still watch it happen everyday; police officers beating, threatening, or injecting substances into the witness to make them confess. Threats to loved ones may often be rejected as a form of torture, but the Convention Against Torture defines torture as, "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...."4 Note how the statement stresses "physical or mental", anything that causes abnormality to a human being including their emotions.

Incidents like these throughout the world pressure the future of the prohibition against torture and cruel punishment. If the people don't stop it, who will? It will only get worse from here. The fact that governments are practically allowed to do

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