Is Torture Ever Acceptable

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Blog ›› Law ›› Is Torture Ever Acceptable

Is Torture Ever Acceptable

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It is rather difficult to determine whether torture is ever acceptable. From different points of view, it can be said that each person has his own opinion considering the issue, and this issue is rather contradictive. It is known that are thousands of various situations of torture and consequently, in some of them torture is being used, for example to prevent terrorist attacks or to get the important information.

Thesis: Torture is unacceptable, as all human beings have their rights, and there are other modern ways of punishment and ways to get information from people. Many experts find torture unnecessary and claim that it is not effective any more.

Obviously, there are other methods of getting useful information that can save lives, but it has also been proven that not all people can be tortured and as a consequence tell the truth. Some of them lie when they are tortured and some of them just say nothing. Many experts think that torture is effective, but the other side of this issue is still unclear, as even an innocent person can get tortured by a mistake and then, probably, killed. In this case torture is unacceptable.

Torture has been known since the ancient times as a means of punishment, deterrence, and to obtain confessions. In particular, a variety of torture is widely used in ancient Egypt, Assyria, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and other ancient nations.

Torture – is the infliction of deliberate torture (both physical and mental) in order to obtain information or to punishment. In a broad sense, torture is considered as any procedure causing human suffering and pain, regardless of the circumstances and objectives, regardless of whether the sentence ends with this procedure or followed by homicide. In the narrow sense it is usually understood as “physical abuse, torture during interrogation”.

Some people think that “torture, when used for interrogative purposes is acceptable and necessary, as long as it is within legal means, specifically the Geneva Convention. This would therefore not apply to what we consider enemy combatants, primarily terrorists who do not fight under a flag or in a uniform and do not fight for any particular state.”, according to Is torture acceptable? (2010).

Among people, their personal tolerance and the lack of information do not allow them to fully imagine the situations when torture is used, the cruelty that was prevented with the help of torture methods. There is a lot that the society does not know, and, for example, for the terrorists torture can be a unique way of getting information. According to Torture acceptable, says former NCA chief (2005), “A former chairman of the National Crime Authority says torture is acceptable against terrorists and in some domestic criminal situations. “What I’m trying to establish is that this is a legitimate issue to be on the table for debate… but people start saying you’re a Nazi because you want to debate it.””

Under torture, false testimony can be given as innocent and guilty, as a betrayal of the traditions of the countries can been considered as a grave sin. At the same time, there are exceptions. If the evidence can be quickly checked repeatedly (for example, if you want to know the lock code or the location of the safe money in the apartment), it tries to be able to learn the correct information. If the authorities are able to identify even a small number of underground workers, it is more important than a large number of innocent victims, from the standpoint of the authorities of torture in this case can also be effective.

“There are a number of important issues affecting the criminal justice system being debated at present without being diverted by some ludicrous concept of introducing legalized torture by police as an investigative technique.”, as stated in Torture acceptable, says former NCA chief (2005).

After 2001, the world’s attention was drawn to the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA in secret U.S. prisons, designed for foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. There was a special resonance to news reports on torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison. To avoid the use of such methods in 2005 in the United States has passed a special law on the treatment of detainees- The Detainee Treatment Act.

The majority of people find torture unnecessary and claim that it is not effective any more. There are many other ways to prove whether the person it telling the truth and to get information from him, as the technologies nowadays are advanced and other techniques can be also used. According to Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques (2004), “Given pro and con arguments, 63 percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say torture is never acceptable, even when other methods fail and authorities believe the suspect has information that could prevent terrorist attacks. Thirty-five percent say torture is acceptable in some such cases.”

The main international instrument in the fight against torture is the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, In human or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by Resolution 39/46 of UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1984. There were acceded to the Convention 127 countries. Art. 1 of the Convention defines “torture” as follows: “any act by which a person is intentionally inflicted severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, to get from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected, and or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence . It does not include pain or suffering arising only from lawful sanctions, are inseparable from these sanctions or incidental.”

All in all, it can be said that there will never be a one unique opinion considering the issue and it will always be contradictive. In many countries it is believed that the testimony that were received during torture were truthful. It is difficult to realize that tortures exist in the modern world, and that the consequence of this fact is that there is a threat of terrorism. Torture is also generally condemned in the moral and ethical considerations, and I think that torture is unacceptable in the modern world. According to Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques (2004) , “Perhaps surprisingly, views on torture and physical abuse are virtually identical whether the targets are suspected terrorists, or suspects in recent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Half the public thinks international terrorists are involved in those attacks.) Just over six in 10 call torture unacceptable for either type of suspect and just over half call abuse unacceptable in either case.”



Is torture acceptable? (2010). Retrieved February 23, 2011 from
Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques (2004). Retrieved February 23, 2011 from
Torture acceptable, says former NCA chief (2005). Retrieved February 23, 2011 from

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Torture of Women

Nancy Spero

With writings by Diana Nemiroff, Luisa Valenzuela, and Elaine Scarry. Edited by Lisa Pearson.


156 pages
96 color & 2 b/w illustrations
8.5 x 9.5
ISBN: 978-0-9799562-2-5
Published in 2010


There’s also a Limited Edition

Someday the hatred and cruelty inscribed in Spero’s work may be a thing of the past, but so long as they blight the world, and so long as women confront state violence with the courage that Spero also commemorates, this work will be a testament to the fact that committed art can speak truth to power—and does so most effectively when speaking with the greatest formal, theoretical and poetic sophistication.



Nancy Spero Biography


“Fourteen Meditations on Torture of Women by Nancy Spero”

Modern Art Notes
The Nation

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Read the complete PDF Press Release .

Torture of Women is Nancy Spero’s fierce and enduring contribution to contemporary art, to feminist thought and action, and to the continuing protest against torture, injustice, and the abuse of power.

This epic 125-foot-long collage, two years in the making, weaves ancient and modern stories of oppression and resistance by juxtaposing mythological imagery with written first person accounts by victims of torture, news reportage of missing women, and definitions of torture from the 13th and 20th centuries. Artistic ingenuity coupled with boldly feminist and political intent, Torture of Women is a public cry of outrage and a nuanced exploration of the continuum of violence and the isolation of pain. It is an ever radical, groundbreaking work of honesty, complexity, and beauty.

Siglio’s publication, three years in the making, translates the work into nearly 100 pages of detail so that the entirety of Torture of Women—with legible texts and vibrant color reproductions—can be experienced with immediacy and intimacy, providing a unique opportunity to engage this influential but infrequently exhibited work of art. Siglio’s publication was conceived not to simply document Torture of Women but to create a space for the reader to engage in multiple acts of reading of it—as an innovative and polyphonous narrative, as a feminist disquisition, as a register of political protest and outrage, and as an extraordinary work of art.

The book includes a selection of quotes by Spero as well as the essay “Fourteen Meditations of Torture of Women by Nancy Spero” by Diana Nemiroff; “Symmetries,” a story by Luisa Valenzuela; and an excerpt from The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World by Elaine Scarry.




Made almost thirty years ago Nancy Spero’s Torture of Women is a seminal work in the history of contemporary art. A model of how appropriated words and images from multiple sources can be spliced and shaped into a forceful, coherent statement about the sexual, social, political, and existential dilemmas and dynamics of the modern world, Spero’s piece is at the same time among the most significant precursors of the “intertextual” practices that are are now regarded as quintessentially “post-modern.” Torture of Women is every bit as current as it was when it was first made. Someday the hatred and cruelty inscribed in Spero’s work may be a thing of the past, but so long as they blight the world, and so long as women confront state violence with the courage that Spero also commemorates, this work will be a testament to the fact that committed art can speak truth to power—and does so most effectively when speaking with the greatest formal, theoretical and poetic sophistication.




NANCY SPERO (1926 – 2009, born Cleveland, Ohio) is regarded as a pioneer in feminist art who has had a profound influence on subsequent generations of women artists. After working for almost twenty-five years in relative obscurity, her work received considerable international acclaim with more than a dozen solo museum exhibitions around the world, including a limited retrospective in 2010 at Centre Pompidou in Paris. In addition to solo shows at the ICA in London, MOCA in Los Angeles, the New Museum in New York, among others, her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including, most recently, WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution, the Whitney Biennial 2006, and Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

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Work of Women Artists  Writers: Siglio Books and Resources

As a part of our commitment to publishing and advocating for women whose work—boundary-defiant…

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Nancy Spero: Tongue, Torture and Free Rein by Catherine de Zegher

“An artist’s job is to articulate what might otherwise be incoherent.” —Nancy Spero

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The Book as Refuge, Beacon, Nexus, and Dissent, Part 1

An interview by Thomas Evans at with Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson.

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Fourteen Meditations on Torture of Women by Nancy Spero

Diana Nemiroff writes in her essay in Torture of Women, “How to make the…

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