Browse results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 63 items for :

  • Human Rights and Humanitarian Law x
  • Ethics & Moral Philosophy x
Clear All

Series:

Edited by Lon Olson and Stuart Molloy

This volume offers diverse insights on how the practice of torture has impacted society and how we view human nature. After the Second World War, it was hoped that torture had been permanently vanquished among modern liberal states, and was only practiced by brutal totalitarian regimes. However, events after 9/11 revealed that the re-emergence of torture is an ever-present threat, even among leading democracies. Drawing from their knowledge of the humanities and social sciences, the contributors offer their expertise on the deleterious effects of torture and reveal that its trauma is interwoven into the fabric of modern society, requiring constant diligence to be rooted out and kept at bay. Contributors are William Fitzhugh Brundage, Federico Ciavattone, Noora Virjamo, Toni Koivulahti, Diana Medlicott, Stuart Molloy, Lon Olson, Martin Previsic, David Senesh and Hedi Viterbo.

Series:

Toni Koivulahti

Abstract

This chapter begins with Milbank’s reflections on the torture of Christ. The aim is to examine alternative narratives that Milbank’s thinking opens up regarding the universality of the experience of torture, from the standpoint of the Passion narrative. According to Milbank, the torture and death of Christ happened in a manner that resembles Agamben’s writings on homo sacer, a person who exists outside the community and who can be killed without punishment, but not sacrificed in a religious ritual. For Milbank, who views Christ as structurally analogous to a homo sacer, the Passion is a ritual sacrifice and, therefore, a variant of the homo sacer. This opens up a new avenue for questioning Christ’s execution by a way of examining his paradoxical position outside of the law, but at the same time ‘crowned’ the king of the Jews, and the son of God. This essay follows Derrida’s three figures that exist outside the law: the beast, criminal, and sovereign. A theological understanding of these classifications can broach new avenues in analysing secular questions of torture and exteriority to the legal order. Christ’s suffering combines these Derridean figures and ritualizes extra-legal violence, helping us understand how ritual violence becomes political violence.

Series:

Lon Olson

Abstract

The approach to ‘redefining’ torture utilized by the George W. Bush Justice Department after 9/11 was founded on a particularly erroneous legal interpretation which led to human rights abuses that should have been prevented. In addition to the horrific suffering inflicted upon both the guilty and the innocent, this redefinition of torture led many Americans, civilian and military, to commit acts that both compromised their own moral integrity and besmirched the moral reputation of the nation they were sworn to serve. In contrast, I argue for a definition that is grounded in principles that emphasize respect for the dignity of human life as well as rationality, of both the torture victim and the torturer. In light of this, the definition of torture for which I argue relies heavily on natural law principles that articulate the dignity of all human beings. The end result is a definition of torture that has the capacity to serve as a foundation upon which to build more fine-grained laws designed to curtail this destructive practice.

Series:

Noora Koivulahti

Abstract

This chapter addresses the connection between torture and a position outside the law, a relation that is examined from the point of view of three social theorists, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Costas Douzinas. Arendt argues that the only effective protection of human rights are national rights established by states; Agamben develops the concept of homo sacer, meaning a person living beyond the reach and interest of the law and at the same time being especially vulnerable because of that position; and Douzinas criticizes the concept of human rights as legitimizing violence committed by western liberal democracies. The starting point of all three is that grounds for torture of human beings are borne out of, and even necessitated by, exclusion from the state. Drawing on the work of Gary Francione, I argue that the same logic is structurally analogous with regard to the position of non-human animals, which are outside the law specifically because they are not legally recognized as possessing any rights that would not be overruled by the rights of their owners. This chapter argues that denying legal personhood makes torture possible, and even encourages it, both with regard to humans and non-human animals.

Series:

Diana Medlicott

Abstract

This chapter stems from reading accounts by prisoners on Death Row in the United States, which shows the processes and machinations that contribute to the prolonged and agonising nature of life on Death Row, and the psychological effects produced by brutal regimes and processes. It is argued that the only way to understand life on Death Row is as a form of torture operated, regulated and controlled by the State. Those that are targeted are distinctive in terms of race, poverty, deprivation, marginalisation and lack of access to proper legal defence. In addition, it is claimed that the death penalty, as practiced in the United States, fails the usual tests for the institution of punishment, and retention of it is counter-rational. Nevertheless, it has become domesticated and made ordinary in those states where it is practised, a visible and accepted cultural artefact, albeit in a fantasised version. Its true horror remains unseen, invisible and misunderstood. The reasons for its survival, which run so counter to the trends in Europe and in other industrialised nations, are suggested as originating partly in historical processes of state formation, partly in particular cultural discourses surrounding race and crime, and partly in features of localism and the politics of fear. Bringing proper visibility to this phenomenon is an important task, made possible by the voices of those on Death Row.

Series:

David Senesh

Abstract

Torture is a case of man-made relational trauma with devastating mental consequences for the victims that undermines basic beliefs about world order and human nature. This is equally true for mental health professionals who have borne witness to torture or who treat torture victims, as proximity to evil can trigger intense reactions and bear grave consequences for lay and professional witnesses alike, especially for those who document and evaluate cases of extreme maltreatment and abuse. Therefore, it is imperative that we delineate therapists’ range of possible responses. In search of an optimum range of personal equanimity and professional integrity, there is a risk of setting rules of thumb and standardization based on an elusive sense of experience and familiarity. There is an apparent paradox when experts’ gained knowledge and experience in documenting and assessing torture may lead to professional distancing from the experience and from the victim who becomes part of a faceless crowd. As will be demonstrated in this chapter, the dialectical tension between accumulating experience and an attitude of ‘not knowing’ is critically important when dealing with experiences that are unrecognizable and unspeakable.

Series:

Martin Previšić

Abstract

After the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, Yugoslavia was faced with many challenges, not the least of which was to figure out how to survive without the abundant Soviet help upon which Yugoslavia had been relying since 1945. Members of the Communist Party who supported Stalin (and the Informbiro Resolution) posed a major problem as the establishment feared they might turn into enemies and help the Soviets in overthrowing Tito’s regime should the Soviets take military action and invade Yugoslavia. In order to prevent a potential takeover from the inside, the kpj (Communist Party of Yugoslavia) set up a system of concentration camps between 1949 and 1956 in which some 16,000 Stalinists were incarcerated. Most of them, about 13,000, were incarcerated in the biggest and most notorious top-secret prison and labour camp on Goli Otok*. It operated through a special system based on torture as a key method of imposing duress aimed at forcing the Informbiro members to denounce the members who were still free. Detained under false accusations, they were tortured to confess that they were Stalin’s supporters and promise that they would restore their loyalty to the Party. Later on, Goli Otok generated heated debates over the justifiability of the violence committed.

Series:

Edited by Lon Olson and Stuart Molloy