The United Nations and the prohibition of TORTURE
Volume 6: 2010
Torture is the deliberate, state-sponsored infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for reasons such as punishment, extracting a confession, interrogation for information, or intimidating third parties.
Torture has been carried out since ancient times. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Western countries abolished the official use of torture in the judicial system, but torture continued to be used throughout the world. A variety of methods of torture are used, often in combination; the most common form of physical torture is beatings. Since the twentieth century, many torturers have preferred non-scarring or psychological methods to provide deniability. Torturers often operate in a permissive organizational environment that facilitates and encourages their behavior. Most victims of torture are poor and marginalized people suspected of crimes, although torture against political prisoners or during armed conflict has received disproportionate attention. Judicial corporal punishment and capital punishment are sometimes seen as forms of torture, although this is internationally controversial.
Torture aims to break the victim's will and destroy their agency and personality. Torture is one of the most devastating experiences that a person can undergo. Torture can also negatively affect perpetrating individuals and institutions. Public opinion research has shown general opposition to torture, although a minority of people support the use of torture in certain cases. Torture is prohibited under international law for all states under all circumstances, under both international customary law and various treaties, as it is considered a violation of human dignity. Opposition to torture stimulated the formation of the human rights movement after World War II, and torture continues to be an important human rights issue. Although its incidence has declined, torture is still practiced by most countries in the world.