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With recent media coverage of some controversial situations of alleged or proven unethical behavior by authorities in power, torture has vigorously regained centrality in global debates. This entry aims at clarifying what we deﬁne as torture, its historical development, the creation of internationally recognized documents and charts, the current cases, and the main theoretical positions revolving around the very notion of torture. This contribution will also give relevance to practices annexed to animal torture, with a particular emphasis to its global implications of the phenomenon.
Torture has a long shadow in human history, but its speciﬁc connection with bioethics is to be traced back to the end of World War II, when the global community decided to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UN (2014b) as the result of the atrocities committed by the Nazi and Japanese doctors. This step resulted in two groups of documents produced by the international establishment. The ﬁrst one focused on the avoidance of torture on prisoners of war in order to extract sensitive information (currently considered under the range of military ethics). The second group of documents is instead concerned with the doctorpatient relationship, with special emphasis on the boundaries of the former toward the latter (this approach constituted the backbone of the rise in the centrality of the principle of autonomy in Western medical ethics). In recent years, both conceptions have come under attack for different reasons. Torture does not only affect human beings however, and part of this entry must be left to take into account nonhuman animals suffering from torture, as this too is an aspect of contemporary, globalized society that deserves to be considered.
History And Development Of Torture
An accurate bioethical analysis of torture needs to consider the physical aspects related to the practice, as well as its social, political, and empirical dimensions. The term torture derives from the Latin verb torquere (to twist) and initially referred quite directly to the practice of bending the tortured body beyond is natural limits. In the course of history, the practice of torture was widely present in ancient civilizations. In ancient China, torture had a number of grim forms (including slicing a person alive) that have lasted through centuries. In India, there is a legend that Emperor Ashoka had a special chamber (called Ashoka’s Hell) fully dedicated to torture – albeit disguised as an elegant room. In ancient Greece, using torture when interrogating slaves was common (as the result of thinking them being unable to choose freely to say the truth). Romans extended the practice to free men. Some centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church gave new vigor to the practice with its wide use during the Inquisition (where torture was alternatively used to extract a confession of repentance from “sinners” or to prolong the agony of those unwilling to succumb to the Inquisitors’ agenda). This methodological implementation of torture was the ﬁrst systematic use of the practice that had a clear political goal that went beyond the suffering of the speciﬁc tortured individual.
In a special issue of the Hastings Center Report in 2008, Steven Miles (2008) published an article in which he underlined how during the Renaissance the institutionalization of torture was reinforced as doctors were for the ﬁrst time required to assist interrogational torture. In 1532, the German Constitutio Criminalis Carolina expressly asked doctors to certify whether a person was capable (or not) to testify despite their blindness, deafness, or insanity and if those impediments were substantial enough to avoid a regimen of torture aimed at accessing the truth about facts. In cases of conﬁrmed pregnancy, midwives were able to spare torture for those women. Slowly, this procedure became widely implemented throughout Europe, until – with the advent of the Enlightenment – torture was fully banned for both its practical inutility (aside from being sensitive to abuse, the “extraction” of information was now considered unreliable) and cultural developments in Europe (torture was now seen by the general public as a barbaric tool).
However, the role of physicians as active negative actors in torture was not over. The involution of the conceptualization of torture as a legitimate tool of the authorities – combined with a racist ideology – found its inhumane zenith in the approach of the Nazi physicians to the prisoners in the death camps. Deprived of their humanity by the Nazi system, Jews, Rom, Sinti, and other groups of individuals considered “inferior” were used as test subjects for sadistic medical experiments often aimed just at discovering the level of resistance of the given person to one of the perverse techniques applied.
Eventually, the world came to ﬁnally confront the topic with the end of World War II. In 1946 and 1947, 20 Nazi physicians faced the Nuremberg trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity (for the ﬁrst time in history) pertaining to their unethical behavior – structurally contraposing the mission of their medical profession. This ofﬁcial acknowledgment of their misconduct contributed decisively in the production of the 1948 UDHR, the ﬁrst document to address speciﬁcally human rights as an inalienable feature of each human being. However, this was only a ﬁrst – and more general – step toward a number of legislative documents of the global community. In 1975, the World Medical Association (WMA) passed the Declaration of Tokyo – Guidelines for Medical Doctors Concerning Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment (WMA 2014b). Here the international community explicitly condemned the involvement of physicians in any episode of torture and in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Following on from these guidelines, in 1977, the United Nations passed the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions ICRC (2014), speciﬁcally barring any compliance in torture or mistreatment of prisoners by medical personnel. Finally, in 1982, the United Nations adopted the Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
These principles have functioned as groundwork for a number of successive medical codes against torture across the globe, including regional documents such as the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, despite this theoretical progress, torture has never really stopped being used, and in the past decades, numerous instances have given criminal doctors the opportunity to perform their sadistic fantasies. From Rwanda to Bosnia, passing through Libya, many doctors have kept on collaborating with regimes that used torture as a political tool. In addition to these cases of civil war however, recent scandals concerning the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib by US soldiers, as well as controversies over the nature and legitimacy of interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay, have brought to the international community’s attention that the issue of torture needs to be readdressed even within the Western world.
What Constitutes Torture?
In the introduction of the 2004 Istanbul Protocol UN (2014a), there is reference to deﬁnition provided in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) HREA (2014), where it is explained that torture refers to a practice – or technique – in which a person is subject to an intentional inﬂiction of “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,” with the aim of gaining direct or indirect sensitive information or a confession. Torture can also mean to punish someone for a proved or alleged crime, committed by him or a third person, as well as function as intimidating or coercing tool. Finally, it is stated that torture can be used as an instrument of discrimination “of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inﬂicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public ofﬁcial or other person acting in an ofﬁcial capacity.” Such a deﬁnition encompasses both the military and medical ethical variables mentioned above, and in recent years, the application of the principles embedded in it has gradually come under attack. Although interconnected between them, three different kinds of torture can be distinguished.
This is the most standard form of torture and, as its deﬁnition suggests, its implementation is applied by inﬂicting physical pain on the prisoner. In the course of history, humanity has managed to invent and use a countless number of ways to torment a person. Some of the classic methods of physical violence include beating, cutting, burning, whipping, and branding. Another common form of physical torture is sexual violence. This comprises rape and other forms of sexual assault (including incest) as well as inﬂicting pain through torturing sexual organs – such as genital mutilation, for example. For strategic reasons however, the most common area of the body that is used for torture is the foot. The cause is twofold: if on the one hand the feet (as the hands) have plenty of nerve endings that ensure that the application of pain is “properly” perceived by the sufferer, on the other hand, their distance from vital organs and the brain guarantees that the life of the prisoner is not put in danger. The combination of these two elements provides an ideal ground for a successful use of torture, as it can be prolonged for extremely long periods without endangering the life of the potential source. Thus, torture methods such as the application of thumbscrews, denailing, foot whipping, and roasting or torture devices such as the foot press or the boot have been (and are) probably the most popular tools used by torturers willing to gain some information from the victim. Tooth extractions of healthy teeth are also a common way of torturing extensively a person without putting their life at risk. Other ways of torturing without endangering the victim’s life can be deprivation of light, sleep, food, oxygen, and sensory information and force feeding.
These last two methods deserve particular attention. In the 1978 case Ireland v. the United Kingdom, sensory deprivation (constituted by the so-called ﬁve techniques used by the UK police: wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink) was deﬁned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as not precisely torture but amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment breeching a gap between the deﬁnitions that has been given further relevance in the last years and that will be analyzed more in details later in the entry. Force feeding instead introduces a speciﬁc form of physical torture: that of medical torture. In these instances, the role of physicians crosses the thin line from curing a person because of the Hippocratic Oath doctors are expected to abide by, to restore their health only in order to prolong their agony. An ill-famed example of such a vicious distortion of the medical profession is that of Dr. Josef Mengele (also known as the “Angel of Death”), who perpetrated numerous atrocities to his prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp. Interestingly, the goals of medicine and its interaction with torture have, once again, come under the scrutiny of the Western world in recent years. In particular, advocates of assisted suicide in cases of permanent vegetative state (PVS) or other extremely painful and doomed conditions claim that prolonging the lives of these people against their (written) will amounts to torturing patients. While in current scenarios the sadistic dimension characteristic of Mengele and other deviated doctors is not generally in the picture, the presence of torture is ascribed to an illegitimate overriding of the patient’s values for the sake of preserving those imposed by society. Although very interesting, for reason of space, this biopolitical reading of the debate cannot be developed further here, but a number of the entries of this category expand on the theme more in depth.
Two other subtypes of physical torture can be considered unique: chemical and electrical. Chemical torture is a mainly “internal” kind of torture method. It consists in the forced ingestion of chemical or differently damaging substances or elements (such as hot water or broken glass). Irritating substances can be applied both inside and outside the sexual organs. At times, this way of torturing has a symbolic value associated with it: in India, for instance, there have been reported cases of women punished for adultery by inserting hot chilies into their vaginas. Electrical torture is a relatively new method of torture (mostly implemented after World War II) in which the victims suffer electrical shocks through a number of devices – most commonly through the application of the electrodes to their bodies. To increase the discomfort and pain provoked by this kind of torture, torturers often apply the electrodes to particularly sensitive areas, such as the genitalia or nipples, or insert them in the victim’s mouth, rectum, or vagina.
Because of the difﬁculties in reaching an international agreement on what constitutes psychological torture, this method of torture is often denied the deserved consideration and is labeled as nonrelevant. Nonetheless, the mental and emotional damages that this nonphysical way of torturing entails can be as harming as – if not more than – physical torture. For example, US Senator John McCain – having been a ﬁrst person victim of the practice – stated that this constitutes the ultimate form of torture. In the vast majority of cases, psychological torture overlaps with physical torture. Being kept in conﬁned spaces or forced to witness or commit repulsive acts, forced labor, suffering various forms of treats, verbal abuse and taunting, extended sleep, and total sensory deprivation are some of the most common methods classiﬁable as psychological torture. A speciﬁc version of psychological torture is that of psychiatric torture. This form of torture was based on false diagnosis of mental disorders in sane prisoners so to legitimize the implementation of procedures (including drugs and other means) associated with the recovery from the – inexistent – mental illness. This method was used by both sides during the Cold War but in recent years is less common.
Torture By Proxy
As the deﬁnition quite explicitly implies, the term “torture by proxy” can refer to the application of torture to third persons not capable to provide the information required or comply with the requests of the torturer. For instance, the ancient Assyrians developed speciﬁc techniques aimed at heartlessly torturing the children (i.e., by roasting them alive) of the people they were interested in getting information from. In recent years however, torture by proxy has gained a different connotation altogether, moving the proxy in question from a physical person into a political entity. More speciﬁcally, the practice started to refer to the indirect use of torture by Western, democratic countries. This indirect involvement was represented by a number of accusations claiming that despite the disapproval of torture at ofﬁcial level, the Western countries (especially the USA) were taking advantage of the practice to gain sensitive information without ofﬁcial approving of the torture implemented to extract it. This was done either by implementing personnel from a third (proxy) country not able (or not willing) to guarantee the avoidance of torture to its prisoners or by carrying out torture directly in one of those compliant proxy countries without ofﬁcial jurisdictional coverage. 9/11 had a direct impact on the “exceptional means” that the Bush administration decided to apply in order to ensure appropriate counterterrorism measures. Although coined under the Clinton administration, the term “extraordinary rendition” becomes a widely used method of interrogation only under President Bush. The method consists in abducting and transferring suspected terrorists to countries were relevant knowledge concerning past or future terror attacks could be extracted by implementing torture. Notably, just 2 days after swearing into ofﬁce, President Obama signed an executive order called “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations,” underlining the awareness reached by US authorities over the ethical doubts related to the practice of “extraordinary rendition.” It must be pointed out, however, that the order did not end the practice but rather provide a framework of supervision for it (by establishing a committee asked to provide recommendations within 180 days of the executive order).
Ethical Boundaries Of Torture
The Evolution Of Military Ethics In Relation To Torture
The eruption of the global War on Terror has revived the debate among academics, politicians, and military ethicists over the permissibility of torturing individuals in order to gain sensitive information, creating three main positions. The ﬁrst (pro-torture) perspective tends to be based on consequentialist – often utilitarian – grounds, and it stresses the importance of considering the “greater good” produced by the practice (i.e., the suffering of one individual vs. the safety of many people). In some instances, the menace of terrorism has been deﬁned so threatening that an institutionalization of torture has been argued as legitimate in extreme situations (Dershowitz 2003). The second, midway, position defends that – under extraordinary circumstances – torture could be allowed (making it legal), but these cases are so sporadic that the best results would be achieved by not institutionalizing it (Steinhoff 2013), as the cases are extremely rare and such a move could prove more damaging than beneﬁcial. The third perspective takes on this potential jeopardy of liberal institutions as a reasonable worry related to a legitimized implementation of torture. As deontologists and pluralist theorists, advocates of this position see torture as an inherently immoral act never justiﬁable (Matthews 2008). All of these viewpoints deal – more or less directly – with the ticking time bomb argument. The “ticking time bomb” metaphor is a classic example of philosophical speculation aimed at providing an extreme scenario under which the reader should be able to see things in the right perspective. The ﬁrst conceptualization of the “ticking bomb” argument appeared in a ﬁction novel titled The Centurions, written by Jean Lartéguy (1962), and gained wide visibility for being one particularly inspiring book for US General Petraeus. In the novel, the suggestion is that the torture of a suspect believed to have relevant information necessary to prevent a terrible event from happening in the near future is justiﬁable. The classic scenario used in philosophical literature is that where a member of a group of terrorists planning a catastrophic attack on civilians has been captured and the only way to obtain the necessary information to stop the terrorist attack is to torture the prisoner. The justiﬁcation derives from the idea that – under exceptional circumstances – the state can allow torture to take place. In strictly utilitarian terms, torture is the lesser of two evil at a number of levels: (1) it is better to torture than to kill (and authorities are not killing the prisoner), and (2) torturing one person is less evil than letting someone else die. In the example, if the single – potentially killed – individual is replaced by a larger group, then the force of the argument justifying torture is even more compelling for utilitarians. Still, for deontologists these considerations have no relevance: torturing another human being (even if moved by criminal, hateful motives) would put us in a position of equal moral condemnation.
The Interpretative Side Of Torture
Article 5 of the UDHR states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” Since their inception, these words have certainly functioned as an inspiration for a more ethical behavior by doctors, law enforcers, and armies around the globe; and they have been taken into account by the various international documents and treaties derived from the UDHR following their formulation. Yet, the terminology present in the deﬁnition leaves room for interpretation on the meaning of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading,” and this blurriness can represent a problem when seeking to establish a more consistent application of certain principles. Speciﬁcally in relation to torture, this issue became even more evident in following documents focused on the theme, most notably in the UNCAT – evidently an expansion of the very terms used in the UDHR’s article just mentioned. A close look at some of its content is necessary in order to understand some of the most recent controversies surrounding the practice. The UNCAT treaty has currently been signed by roughly half of the countries in world.
Article 1 of the UNCAT afﬁrms that torture is the practice in “which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inﬂicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” To clarify further its meaning, Article 1 further speciﬁes that such method of potentially gaining information “does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” In Article 2 instead, it is clearly explained that each signatory state of the UNCAT should take all the necessary steps to ensure that no acts of torture would take place in any of the premises under the jurisdiction of the given country. In addition, it is clearly stated that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justiﬁcation of torture,” while no order from a superior authority (be it military or political) can be invoked as a justiﬁcation for torturing a prisoner. Finally, Article 16 reinforces once again the duty of each State Party “to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as deﬁned in Article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public ofﬁcial or other person acting in an ofﬁcial capacity.” With reference to other articles of the UNCAT, in this part of the Convention, it is underlined how the signatories of the UNCAT have an obligation to go beyond the banning of torture by ensuring the avoidance of techniques not qualiﬁed as torture but yet morally despicable such as degrading, cruel, and inhuman treatment. In the next section, the UNCAT will be analyzed further, and the distinction between “torture” and “inhuman treatment” will be explained more in details.
Article 1 deﬁnes torture as “severe pain or suffering,” implying that other levels of pain and suffering do not constitute torture (making them more ethically acceptable). This aspect was given relevance in the Daschner case, a real application of the ticking time bomb thought experiment. After having kidnapped a child in order to get a ransom, the kidnapper accidentally killed him but did not let the parents know in the hope of the getting the ransom anyway. In order to save the – supposedly alive – child, the police decided to opt for a more harsh treatment of the prisoner after repeated refusals to disclose the location of the (body of the) child. The victim’s corpse was eventually discovered after the prisoner confessed under torture. Thus, as expected, the German court conﬁrmed that the information was extracted against the law. However, it allowed the evidence obtained to be admitted in the trial. Finally, the suspect confessed again in the course of the trial aware that the earlier confession could not have been used against him. The case reached the ECHR, where – building on the Ireland v. the United Kingdom precedent – it provided a further distinction between torture and inhuman treatment, becoming the landmark Gafgen v. Germany case. Here the German police conﬁrmed the use of inhuman treatment, but at the same time, it was established that there was absence of torture – contributing to marking a difference between “torture” and “inhuman treatment.” This case was contrasted by Uwe Steinhoff (2013) with the Mook case – where instead the child was found alive thanks to the information obtained through torture.
Article 2 of the UNCAT gives more relevance to the role of the signatory states, underlining that if a state has signed the treaty without reservations, then there are “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” where a state can use torture without breaking its treaty obligations in so doing. However, given the nebulous deﬁnition of “severe,” and the relatively innocuous sanction that can be derived from breaking the treaty (a public record that the breach took place), authorities might choose – under exceptional circumstances – to take this acceptable risk and carry out the practice. Finally, Article 16 clearly explains why and how Guantanamo Bay came to existence as a detention and interrogation center for suspects of terrorism after 9/11. Being deﬁned as outside US jurisdiction by the Bush administration for years (to the extent that the same administration afﬁrmed that the prisoner could not have been granted any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions), this location constituted an ideal context in which applying controversial “enhanced interrogations” techniques such as waterboarding for example. The speciﬁc advantage of having such interrogations in Guantanamo Bay was that even if torture was proved to have been taken place (the Bush administration always denied any allegation, but President Obama has recently speciﬁcally referred to those episodes as cases of torture), the US government would have authorized its personnel to use such treatment on a prisoner in territory not under its jurisdiction, ensuring that technical breach of the UNCAT had not taken place. Eventually in 2004, the US Supreme Court determined the US courts had jurisdiction, and it subsequently ruled in the 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case that prisoners had to be granted the minimal protections listed under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. As of 7 July 2006, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo afﬁrming that the personnel working in Guantanamo Bay will be required to comply with the directives, ensuring to protect detainees under Common Article 3 in the future.
Enforced Medical Treatment And Torture
In line with the considerations above, it is important to emphasize that – mainly due to drastic improvements that technology has had in preserving life– the role of medicine (and medical practitioners) has entered a new phase in recent years. While the very departure from a paternalistic approach that medicine (at least in Western and semi-Western contexts) has had as the result of World War II atrocities is understandable, a more detailed analysis is necessary to put the current situation in context. Because if on the one hand the shift of modern Western medicine has allowed individual autonomy to be granted more power and centrality in the patient’s decision, on the other hand this process gave rise to new problematic ethical scenarios. Mainly, this is to be ascribed to the enormous improvements that biomedical techniques have had in the last decades but also to the biopolitical dynamics that medicine carries with it.
First of all, seeing the respect of the patient’s autonomy under any circumstances as a guarantee to act justly and fairly has been increasingly challenged as an approach unable to consistently deal with real case scenarios. Cases of enforced medical treatment and force feeding (Gross 2013; Garasic 2013) – and their inconsistent application – have highlighted how, at the end, autonomy remains still subordinated to some other values entrenched in society. A good example of this disparity of treatment (and its biopolitical value) is represented by cases of patients affected by anorexia nervosa and prisoners hunger striking (Garasic and Foster 2012). In both cases, the patient/prisoner autonomously refuses to eat. As a result, the medical personnel puts the person under nasogastric treatment, ensuring their survival. The procedure is justiﬁed on the grounds that the anorexic/hunger striker lacks sufﬁcient competence to understand what they really want (i.e., to live). However, while in cases of anorexia nervosa (deﬁned by the DSM-V as a mental illness in which the competence of the sufferer is limited when making decision over food), this approach might be less controversial (but nonetheless abundantly criticized), in cases of hunger strikes, the legitimacy of such a procedure appears less solid – allowing allegation of torture. A number of international documents have tried to deﬁne the status of hunger strikers. For example, the 1991 WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers WMA (2014a) states that “it is the duty of the doctor to respect the autonomy which the patient has over his person and the doctor should ascertain on a daily basis whether or not the patient wishes to continue with his hunger strike. The doctor should also ascertain on a daily basis what the patient’s wishes are with regard to treatment should he become unable to make an informed decision.” The antecedent WMA Declaration of Tokyo states even more clearly on what should be the behavior of physicians in these cases: “where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the doctor as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artiﬁcially.” Competence (or its lack of) seems to be the deﬁning factor to assess whether enforced medical treatment should be considered (or not) torture in certain circumstances. The interpretative side of this crucial deﬁnition represents one of the biggest challenges that society has to face if willing to provide a consistent approach to force feeding detached from its biopolitical impact – and the consequent torture allegations.
Medical Ethics, Do Animals Count?
The atrocities of World War II have left scars in the global community that created a number of documents to defend human beings from any kind of experiments correctly considered torture. However, this shift in medical ethics has been – to a large extent – limited to human animals, allowing various forms of torture and experiments on nonhuman animals to continue unchallenged to this day. This discriminating attitude toward nonhuman animals was (and is) based on the ancient conceptualization of animals as inferior creatures whose function is that of serving human beings in any way useful and on the grounds that they cannot be granted rights because not sufﬁciently sophisticated. In the 1970s, this dogma was challenged by Peter Singer who, with his book Animal Liberation (2002), afﬁrmed that we can consider the interests of animals only focusing on their capacity to suffer, without having to take into account their rights. Moreover, even if animals do not have a conscientious self, we – as human beings capable of conceptualizing torture and sadistic behavior – should refrain from such action because we know we are producing suffering. A more detailed account on this theme can be found in other entries of this encyclopedia, but in relation to torture, two main scenarios involve nonhuman animals in ways that need to be addressed in ethical terms: what level of tolerance should we have toward the involvement of animals in scientiﬁc experiments? Should we ban it altogether, should we not care so much (a cosmetic product valuable for a human being is more important than the suffering of the animals involved in its testing), or should we allow only some degree of exceptionality for a legitimate use of torture in these cases? Clearly, the latter option recalls the reasoning behind the allowance of exceptional torture in the ticking bomb scenarios – even if the threat to life might not be as direct. Although no ofﬁcial documents concerning animal rights are on the horizon, this dimension of the problem seems to be moving toward an international – at least theoretical – consensus (e.g., even if yet not in force, the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare should become effective in a relatively short time). The other aspect concerning the ill-treatment and torture of animals and the global community might be more difﬁcult to solve, as it is more culture sensitive. This aspect relates to the involvement of animals in traditional and religious practices. For example, a number of animals (including endangered species) are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and restrictions over the permissibility of this practice could have an impact in the sphere of international relations. Even if not as central as other aspects related to the issue, the fact that such a change could be seen as an imposition of Western ethics over non-Western traditions should push the global community to consider this concern with the appropriate sensitivity and with a truly intercultural approach.
Torture is a global problem that has recently gained new visibility due to its interconnection with some of the developments of global politics after 9/11. Its legitimate – or not – implementation in some cases requires a careful analysis by the authorities in charge so as to avoid unjustiﬁable inconsistencies of the application of the universal principles stated in the UDHR. To preserve the integrity and trustworthiness of the authorities in charge, scientists, government ofﬁcials, research sponsors, and journal editors should take steps to prevent an unclear attitude toward the practice. Even if it is bound to be controversial, an honest discussion on the current status of the subject must be engaged by the global community. Some consideration should also be given to cases of torture of nonhuman animals – although not as centrally representative of the deﬁnition of torture.
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