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Volume 26 • Number 1

January 2012



 

 

LEGALIZING DEFENSIVE TORTURE


by Uwe Steinhoff


Since people have a right even to kill a culpable aggressor if, in the circumstances, this is a proportionate and necessary means of self–defense (a term that is used here, as is common, to include other-defense) against an imminent or ongoing attack, and since most forms of torture are not as bad as killing, people must also have a right to torture a culpable aggressor if this, too, in the circumstances, is a proportionate and necessary means of self–defense against an imminent or ongoing attack.

But can torture really ever be a form of self–defense? Yes, it can. For instance, a child kidnapper, by holding the child hostage in a wooden box, thereby depriving it of its freedom and torturing it,is an aggressor, whether in custody or not. He is, after all, torturing the child right now while he is in custody. Thus, torturing him to save the child would be a case of self-defensive torture.


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ISSN: 2152-0542