Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in:  Talking Point: Debates: South Asian
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Friday, 16 November, 2001, 12:52 GMT
Should America be allowed to relax its ban on torture?
Despite having arrested over 1000 people of Arab and South Asian descent since the World Trade Centre attacks, the FBI isn't having much luck getting the information it so desperately wants from its chief suspects.

Frustration at the lack of progress has sparked a debate in the American media over whether what some say amounts to torture should be used to get to the truth.

Talk is of psychological pressure rather than physical torture, but many in the US worry that it will set a dangerous precedent, and are shocked that a practice condemned under international law should be seriously debated.

So is it time for America to rethink its approach? Will such practices guarantee to get to the truth? And is such a debate healthy? Or does it represent a dangerous threat to human rights? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

NEVER!!! My parents came to the US 40 years ago, in part to get away from a government that abuses human rights. Torture will not defeat terrorists, it just makes citizens fearful and hateful of their government. America can survive any terrorist threat, but it cannot survive the introduction of torture. It's just that simple!
Basil Kiwan, Maryland, USA


Torture has no place in civilised society

Rakesh Dhingra, USA
Torture has no place in civilised society. The much greater question is: Who is to blame for this breakdown in intelligence? Is it the FBI/CIA failure or the ban on torture that is to blame for September 11 terrorist attacks?
Rakesh Dhingra, USA

Torture goes against every principle that America stands for. The use of physical coercion in interrogation by any American government agency is simply unacceptable. We do have partners in the coalition against terrorism who do not share our views on this matter and who would no doubt like to ask these people some questions of their own. I have no qualms about turning over suspects to other countries that may use more rigorous methods of interrogation.
Scott W, USA

If we resort to torture, then the terrorists have already WON. We shouldn't descend to their level and show to the world that liberty and justice prevails above all else.
Shahzad Ansari, USA


What is morally wrong cannot be politically right

Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, USA
This is a bad idea morally, strategically and even tactically. Torture, once permitted, cannot be contained. It would spread through the system and subvert human rights, individual freedoms and democracy. The Taleban and co routinely torture and mutilate prisoners, as was evidenced in the recent Kargil conflict. It would indeed be ironic if the enemy drags democracies down to its depth of depravity. As Abraham Lincoln said, " What is morally wrong cannot be politically right".
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, USA

During this very difficult period, I pray that we don't lose our humanitarian side. Being a leader in technology and science, America has an obligation to the rest of the world to uphold human rights. Rather than applying primitive barbaric methods of torture (even on suspected criminals), I guess it is high time to utilise technological advancement to save the lives of the innocent and bring the guilty to justice.
Vivek Pathak, India/USA

After living in New York for about 18 months in the past 2 years, I am confident that it won't happen. There are many people who value human rights and will fight for them.
Jee, India/USA


Evidence extracted under torture has no place in the courtroom of any country

Peter, Netherlands
International human rights law prohibits torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in absolute terms and whatever the aim pursued. No exception is provided for, even in case of war. This is dictated by civilisation, as opposed to barbarism. There can be no doubt that evidence extracted under torture has no place in the courtroom of any country.
Peter, Netherlands

Let me get this right: American authorities want the right to arrest people without charge, hold them without trial, and torture them? Well - they do say that irony is lost on some people.
John Wilson, England

Torture is an appalling practice and is absolutely unacceptable under any circumstances. I am a New Yorker and would like to see those responsible for September 11th punished just as much as anyone does, but God help us if we degrade what this country and the civilized world stand for in order to do so.
Suzanne, USA


Timely information extracted could save hundreds of lives

DC, USA
Timely information extracted could save hundreds of lives. Or do we expect a hardened fanatical terrorist to come out in the open and tell all? To avoid misuse however, this has to be strictly controlled and only allowed on cases where suspicion borders near certainty to avoid persecution of the innocent. This war is more real than a real one and we better learn the importance of intelligence here.
DC, USA

I am surprised to hear this issue even being debated. I think politicians in this country have gone mad. Legalising torture in the United States would put us on par with unsavoury regimes like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. What next? Gas chambers and concentration camps?
Brian Fernandes, USA

State funded torture! And you call that a civilised action by a "civilised country"? That really makes me laugh.
Sahar Choudhury, London, UK


Torture is a form of terrorism

Umesh Bali, India
Torture is a form of terrorism. We cannot become barbaric in order to gather leads in criminal investigation. The USA should not withdraw the right to life. As a result a lot of innocent individuals would also stand to suffer. Torture would mean the suspension of the principles of natural justice.
Umesh Bali, India

What a strange idea! I thought that the US was founded because people wanted to escape torture for their beliefs.
A. Ercelawn, Pakistan

Non US residents with expired or fake passports/ID caught performing suspicious questionable activities have no rights here. We are a civilized people but drastic times call for drastic actions.
Todd, USA

How about truth serum? It is a non-voluntary way to make the suspect speak the truth without being violent?
Vijayaraghavan, UK/India


I pray that we don't lose our humanitarian side

Vivek Pathak, India/USA
During this very difficult period, I pray that we don't lose our humanitarian side. Being the leader in technology and science, America has an obligation to the rest of the world to uphold human rights. Rather than applying primitive barbaric methods of torture (even on suspected criminals), I guess it is high time to utilise technological advancement to save the lives of the innocent and to bring the guilty to justice. Torture would only hit at the culprits, whereas advanced investigative methods would protect from future attacks.
Vivek Pathak, India/USA

If the US resorts to torture how are they any better than the terrorists? If gradually they lose their values in the fight against terror what values will there be left to defend?
Rayhon Ali, Canada

It does us no good to defeat terrorists if by defeating them, we become what we hate. Torture is not justified, even if it is due to attacks by terrorists is successful.
Larry E. Ramey, USA

Absolutely not! Americans do not torture and get away with it. I support our president and the aggressive prosecution of this war. I have no problem with decreased privacy for the duration of conflict, which might last years. Historically, America gives up freedoms during crises, and recovers them afterwards. I love America and the ideals for which she stands. Torture is not one of them and will not be tolerated in America.
Scott, USA

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Listen now
... to both sides of the debate


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asian stories