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May 05

Torture Note

I’m just going to add one thing to the torture debate. Reading through various arguments against Bagaric and Clarke’s views, I wonder if there’s a point that could be validly made about comparing the norms of “right to physical integrity” and “right to life” (the latter being made out to be a “peremptory” norm, to borrow a term from international law). It’s assumed that the latter right trumps the former:

In the hostage scenario, it is universally accepted that it is permissible to violate the right to life of the aggressor to save an innocent person. How can it be wrong to violate an even less important right (the right to physical integrity) by torturing the aggressor in order to save a life in the second scenario?

Why is death necessarily assumed to be a greater travesty than torture? I make this specific point because this assumed hierarchy of “bad things that can happen to a human being” is not so cut and dried. Let me use a hypothetical to illustrate: would you rather be sentenced to death by lethal injection, or sentenced to life imprisonment which includes daily torture regimes as an additional punitive measure? Even if you think this is a facetious hypothetical question, I also make this observation in light of the euthanasia debates. The reason there is such a debate is because (to greatly oversimplify things, but also sufficient to illustrate my point) on one side you have people who regard life as a paramount right, and on the other, you have people who recognise that people should be able to decide how much they value their own life vis-à-vis the suffering they endure.

  9:20pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Law  •   •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment