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Why Not Torture Terrorists?Moral, Practical, and Legal Aspects of the "Ticking Bomb" Justification for Torture$
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Yuval Ginbar

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199540914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199540914.001.0001

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(p.349) 21 Conclusions
Why Not Torture Terrorists?

Yuval Ginbar

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides the book's conclusions. The consequentialist morality of extreme situations, as advocated by those who justify interrogational torture in a ‘pure’ theoretical ticking bomb situation (TBS), is reflected in the actual legal positions and practices of states facing terrorism that have chosen to torture. However, such states face moral, practical and legal obstacles, some of them insurmountable. The words of a UK diplomat, a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber, and an international terrorist are quoted to illustrate everyone's freedom to make — even facing emergencies, danger, and oppression — minimal absolutist choices, rejecting totally both terrorism and torture. Such choices are not fanatic, impractical, or defeatist. In facing a TBS, we must do anything humanly possible to save the lives at risk, which means doing everything in our power that does not involve losing our own humanity. Which in turn means never to torture or otherwise ill-treat another human being.

Keywords:   torture, legal issues, morality, consequentialism/utilitarianism, minimal absolutism, terrorism prevention, war on terror, ticking bomb situation, international law, human rights law

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