Torture, Terrorism and Criminal Justice
Speaker: Professor Phil Rumney
Phil Rumney is Professor of Criminal Justice at Bristol Law School, UWE. His main research areas concern rape and sexual assault, freedom of expression and the debate over the legalisation of interrogational torture. In the past, he has written on the question of whether torture works to produce timely and reliable intelligence and recently completed his book Torturing Terrorists, which was published by Routledge in November 2014.
Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, calls for the use or legalisation of interrogational torture have been commonplace. Numerous scholars and commentators have argued for the use of torture in so-called ‘ticking bomb’ cases and states have defended the use of highly coercive interrogation methods against terrorist suspects. Likewise, the use of torture and coercion has an ongoing presence within the criminal justice sector across the globe – either as a means of gaining confessions or occasionally, as a means of gaining life-saving information from suspects. The post-9/11 scholarly embrace of torture and coercion in extreme cases has included proposals for its use in non-terrorism cases such as those involving the kidnapping of children.
This paper argues against the use and legalisation of interrogational torture and coercion from a regulatory perspective. It points out that the case for its use in terrorism and more regular criminal cases is framed by proponents as a targeted, controlled and effective power to prevent imminent harm. In reality, however, permitting the use of torture against terrorist or other criminal suspects would grant state officials an expansive power that would be largely ineffective and difficult to control. Further, the use of such a power would likely spread to other crimes and have consequences well beyond state officials and the tortured suspect.
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