Tag Archives: ticking bomb scenario


By Kartik Sharma

PC: The Centre for Victims of Torture at http://rejecttorture.cvt.org/neverlegal/.


No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.[1]

While, by a long shot, the vast majority of the countries have confirmed all the significant human rights traditions, however encroachment of Human rights remains normal. Torture is one of them. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984,[2] defines torture as “an act involving agony or suffering; physical or mental, perpetrated upon the victim for a specific reason”.[3] This act is in with the association of an open (for example, State) authority.[4] Further, this enduring must be extreme, purposeful, and baseless in the condition.[5] It has evolved and has become more prevalent juxtaposed with civilisation.

Moreover, as the world evolved, torture strategies turned out to be increasingly specialised, progressively clinical. Torture hardware has turned into a product to be purchased and sold. Governments traded tips on effective torture procedures, and all this despite knowing that torture has turned out to be illicit as indicated by the said universal law.[6] “With this, a debate whether torture can ever be morally and practically justified, arises?” Is it practically and morally justifiable for an individual or a state to extort to torture to extract information or confession which could save a case? Could we have exceptions to anti-torture laws like a necessity in ticking time scenarios?



Torture is brimming with complexities and logical inconsistencies. The legislature, the torturer, even the general population, may legitimise its utilisation in specific conditions, while conventional society denounces it as primitive, underhanded, and bygone. The government may goad this support with stock reactions, for example, national security.

The proclaimed reason for utilising torture is to constrain the enemy, the outsider, to talk and uncover secrets. This disclosure should hinder the slaughtering of the insiders. These lines of thinking are so smooth and shortsighted that it is promptly and uncritically acknowledged. Showing the issues this way gives support and legitimacy to torture.[7]

‘Be that as it may, creating conventions criminalising torture is certain something, and its enforceability is another. Here, as so regularly, where we make laws to control what individuals can and cannot do, we are looked with issues which are characteristics of human instinct. It is an unpreventable actuality of the human condition that we feel pain. We dread pain. This sense of pain and suffering is a reality which we can all use for our benefit. Intensely painful things have considerably more harming results. Therefore, the curse of agony on others is a weapon, particularly in the hands of the deceitful. This fear constrains individuals and their individuality, and torture is a method for imparting fear.’[8]

Though every human being has a right to be free from torture, and we have laws for it as well, but if one looks it with a pragmatic approach one cannot separate the world from torture. In all the countries, the intelligence agency extorts to torturous acts to extract information from captured terrorist, and this is omnipresent. Every movie, drama or documentary depicts the same situations. This ubiquitousness clearly shows that there arise situations where pragmatically one cannot avoid to extort to torture.

There are circumstances in which it is not passable, however ethically required, to torture. For instance, in 1998, an Israeli delegation appeared before the UN Committee against Torture.[9] Allegedly, Israel violated the UN Convention against Torture. In their defence, they put forth the famous ‘ticking bomb’ scenario.[10] They state that,

“On the off chance that we did not put weight on Palestinians for the following strike, nobody will ever know where and when the following suicide bomb is going to strike, and now and again we are in uncommon circumstances where we have to get indispensable data from a psychological militant or a potential fear-based oppressor to keep a further demonstration of dread.”[11]

In another example, in 1982, a man named Michael Levin placed a bomb on Manhattan Island.[12] The location of the bomb was unknown. In this situation, the authorities had no other alternative to get the location of the bomb then resorting to torture.

Counter Justification

All these excuses legitimising torture does not mean that one has the right to torture every enemy of the state. “Torture is always wrong.[13] While it is conceivable that torture may yield dependable insight, we cannot resort to it with any certainty of gaining verified information. Additionally, we ought not to accept that torture is compelling to this end because those with a particular enthusiasm for supporting torment guarantee that it works.[14] Neither would we be sure that torture was the only method to acquire essential data. There is absolutely no solid proof that points towards the far-reaching utility of torture for this reason. Moreover, authorities who guarantee torture has worked along these lines never provided cases in which torture has brought about false admissions or manufactured insight. However, there is sufficient proof to demonstrate that casualties of torment will say anything to end torture.[15]

While it is conceivable that torture may result in some valid insights, it is also unmistakably bound to result in false admissions. It is so because an extorted person looked with the awfulness of torture, is probably going to state anything that will make the torture stop. Torture is exceedingly successful for verifying false data. Despite this, the justification for torture has been made based on its assumed utility for procuring precise intelligence data.[16]


Torture is primitive, and a state ought not to be savage. To treat somebody savagely dissolves the authenticity of the state. It on an elementary level disregards humanity. Wing-Commander of Indian Air Force Abhinandan Varthaman was also mentally tortured despite being an unarmed soldier of an enemy state. All over the globe, similar cases occur round the clock. It is not right. With all possible outcomes, one cannot disregard the fact that torturing someone is not the best and reliable way to extract information. Just to save oneself from brutality the tortured person can say anything without regarding the viability of the info.

Further, extorting to torture fades away the true meaning of interrogation which is to get reliable and viable info; and, not to make other people talk. Likewise, no state should justify acts of torture, and for ticking clock scenarios, countries around the globe should make efforts to come up with a plausible solution. They can work on making policies for resorting to different consensual biological tests and hypnosis to gain information at the last minute; paying all regards to the legality of such tests.

[1] Universal declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article- 5.

[2]United Nations Convention Against Torture, 1984, Article- 1.1.

[3] Ibid.

[4]Darren J. O’Byrne, Human Rights: An Introduction 164 (2004).




[8] David Hope, Torture, 53(4) International and Comparative Law quarterly 808 (2004).

[9] Blakeley Ruth, Why Torture, 33(3) Review of International Studies 377 (2007).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Yuval Ginbar, Why not torture terrorist? 359(2008).

[13] Ben Juratowitch, Torture is Always Wrong, 22(2) Public Affairs Quarterly 81 (2008).

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.