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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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‘Slippery Slope’ and Other Dangers

‘Slippery Slope’ and Other Dangers

(p.111) 9 ‘Slippery Slope’ and Other Dangers
Why Not Torture Terrorists?

Yuval Ginbar

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines ‘slippery slope’ and other dangers of states resorting to torturing terrorists in ticking bomb situations. First, general consequentialist reasons are cited supporting an absolute prohibition on torture in the real world, because of the extent of harm that would result if torture were ever to be allowed. Specific problems in the immediate context, including certainty, immediacy, deciding whom to torture, the effectiveness of torture, and alternatives thereto are examined, as are problems in the wider context, including the ‘institutionalization trap’, the legitimacy torture would accord other inhumane means of fighting terrorism and crime, the effect of torture on conflicts, resort to torture as a victory for terrorism, and the ramifications of legalising torture in a ticking bomb situation for laws and their enforcement. Finally, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal is described as the quintessential ‘slippery slope’ torture case.

Keywords:   moral philosophy, torture, practical aspects, Abu Ghraib, slippery slope arguments, slippery surface arguments, democracy, terrorism prevention, institutionalization, war on terror

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