Recent events stemming from the war on terrorism have highlighted the use of torture despite the fact that it is almost universally forbidden. The belief that torture is always a bad choice is typical of a reflexive thinking. Torture should be permissible when all evidence suggests that it is the only way to save innocent lives.

The self-defense right is an inviolable right and given the choice between inflicting harm on a criminal and thus saving innocent people or doing nothing it would be irresponsible to prefer the defense of the wrongdoers. If a kidnapper points a gun to the head of a hostage, police would shoot the criminal if they had the chance and it would be legal. Why then abstaining from doing something that does not go as far as a murder and that can also save lives? They say that if torture were to be authorized in some cases, its use would probable increase in different situations. However, according to Amnesty International, torture is illegally used in 132 countries. Wouldn’t it be better then, in these circumstances, to control its practice? It is said that torture dehumanizes societies but, why don’t they same the same about self-defense? It is also said that we can never be totally sure that torturing a person will in fact result in saving innocent lives.

Of course, perhaps the conditions in which torture may be possible will never be found but we should not deprive ourselves of this choice. Let us remember that no right is absolute.

The Age (Australia)

" A case for torture ", by Mirko Bagaric, The Age, May 16, 2005. This article was adapted from a larger one written by Julie Clarke and published in the University of San Francisco Law Review.