Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Notes on a Definition

The question of definition has come up a number of times whole talking to people about my thesis. Back in January I posted the following on my blog "def 1: Physical or mental coercion used by be a person or group to extract information or action from an individual." This comment was based solely on thinking about how I could create a broad enough defection to use in many situations in 24.

Now, as i begin a more intensive research, I feel that it is time to put together a definition that is more clear, and lines up with treaties and conventions set u by the United States and the Untied Nations.

In the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" torture is defined as:

"Any act by 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, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, 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 or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

While this definition is tight, I would expand it to include the so-called "Five Techniques" described by the European Court of Human Rights in Ireland v. the United Kingdom. They are wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep and deprivation of food and drink. While the court did not find that these constituted torture, but "inhuman and degrading treatment."

By including this into my working definition of torture, it works strike a balance between the legal definition to a more colloquial definition. This is important because this project is going to deal with popular understanding and popular representations of torture.



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