Medieval and early modern European courts used torture, depending on the accused's crime and social status. Torture was deemed a legitimate means to extract confessions or to obtain the names of accomplices or other information about a crime. Often, defendants already sentenced to death would be tortured to force them to disclose the names of accomplices. Torture in the Medieval Inquisition began in 1252 and ended in 1816 when a papal bull forbade its use.
While secular courts often treated suspects ferociously, Will and Ariel Durant argued in The Age of Faith that many of the most vicious procedures were inflicted upon pious heretics by even more pious friars. The Dominicans gained a reputation as some of the most fearsomely innovative torturers in medieval Spain.
Torture was usually conducted in secret, in underground dungeons. By contrast, torturous executions were typically public, and woodcuts of English prisoners being hanged, drawn and quartered show large crowds of spectators, as do paintings of Spanish auto-da-fé executions, in which heretics were burned at the stake.
Throughout the early modern period, the torture of witches became commonplace. Countless people were targeted and tortured for their supposed relationship with the devil.
In 1613 Anton Praetorius described the situation of the prisoners in the dungeons in his book Gründlicher Bericht Von Zauberey und Zauberern (Thorough Report about Sorcery and Sorcerers). He was one of the first to protest against all means of torture.
In early modern times under certain conditions, torture was used in England. For example the confession of Marc Smeaton at the trial of Anne Boleyn was presented in written form only, either to hide from the court that Smeaton had been tortured on the rack for four hours, or because Thomas Cromwell was worried that he would recant his confession if cross examined. When Guy Fawkes was arrested for his role in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 he was tortured until he revealed all he knew about the plot. This was not so much to extract a confession, which was not needed to prove his guilt, but to extract from him the names of his fellow conspirators. By this time torture was not routine in England and a special warrant from King James I was needed before he could be tortured. The wording of the warrant shows some concerns for humanitarian considerations, the severity of the methods of interrogation were to be increased gradually until the interrogators were sure that Fawkes had told all he knew. In the end this did not help Fawkes much as he was broken on the only rack in England, which was in the Tower of London. Torture was abolished in England around 1640 (except peine forte et dure which was abolished in 1772).
In Colonial America women were sentenced to the stocks with wooden clips on their tongues or subjected to the "dunking stool" for the gender-specific crime of talking too much.
While in Egypt in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to Major-General Berthier that the
barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief forbids the use of a method which is contrary to reason and humanity.
Johann Graefe in 1624 published Tribunal Reformation, a case against torture. Cesare Beccaria, and Italian lawyer, published in 1764 "An Essay on Crimes and Punishments", in which he argued that torture unjustly punished the innocent and should be unnecessary in proving guilt
Torture was abolished by Frederick the Great in Prussia in 1740. Italy followed suit in 1786, followed by France in 1789 and Russia in 1801.
The last European jurisdictions to abolish legal torture were Portugal (1828) and the canton of Glarus in Switzerland (1851).
Torture in recent times
Main article: Uses of torture in recent times
Modern sensibilities have been shaped by a profound reaction to the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Axis Powers in the Second World War, which have led to a sweeping international rejection of most if not all aspects of the practice. Even so, many states engage in torture; however, few wish to be described as doing so, either to their own citizens or to international bodies. A variety of devices bridge this gap, including state denial, "secret police", "need to know", denial that given treatments are torturous in nature, appeal to various laws (national or international), use of jurisdictional argument, claim of "overriding need", and so on. Many states throughout history, and many states today, have engaged in torture (unofficially). Despite worldwide condemnation and the existence of treaty provisions that forbid it, torture still occurs in two thirds of the world's nations.
Torture by proxy
In 2003, Britain's Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, made accusations that information was being extracted under extreme torture from dissidents in that country, and that the information was subsequently being used by Western, democratic countries that officially disapproved of torture.[
The accusations did not lead to any investigation by his employer, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and he resigned after disciplinary action was taken against him in 2004. No misconduct by him was proven. The National Audit Office is investigating the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because of accusations of victimisation, bullying, and intimidating its own staff.
Murray later stated that he felt that he had unwittingly stumbled upon what others called "torture by proxy” and with the euphemism of "extraordinary rendition”. He thought that Western countries moved people to regimes and nations knowing that torturers would extract and disclose information. Murray alleged that this practice circumvented and violated international treaties against torture. If it was true that a country participated in torture by proxy and it had signed the UN Convention Against Torture then that country would be in specific breach of Article 3 of that convention.
Torture methods and devices
Physical torture methods have been used throughout recorded history and can range from a beating with nothing more than fist and boot, through to the use of sophisticated custom designed devices such as the rack. Other types of torture can include sensory or sleep deprivation, restraint or being held in awkward or damaging positions, uncomfortable extremes of heat and cold, loud noises or any other means that inflicts severe physical or mental pain. The boundary between torture and legitimate interrogation techniques is not universally agreed. In a separate opinion, at the end of the 1978 in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) trial "Ireland v. the United Kingdom" (Case No. 5310/71), Judge Zekia stated that "It seems to me permissible, in ascertaining whether torture or inhuman treatment has been committed or not, to apply not only the objective test but also the subjective test. As an example I can refer to the case of an elderly sick man who is exposed to a harsh treatment - after being given several blows and beaten to the floor, he is dragged and kicked on the floor for several hours. I would say without hesitation that the poor man has been tortured. If such treatment is applied on a wrestler or even a young athlete, I would hesitate a lot to describe it as an inhuman treatment and I might regard it as a mere rough handling".
Psychological torture uses non-physical methods which are used to cause psychological suffering. Its effects are not immediately apparent unless they alter the behavior of the tortured person. Since there is no international political consensus on what constitutes psychological torture, it is often overlooked, denied, and referred to in different names.
Psychological torture is less well known than physical torture and tends to be subtle and much easier to conceal. In practice the distinctions between physical and psychological torture are often blurred. Physical torture is the inflicting of severe pain or suffering on a person. In contrast, psychological torture is directed at the psyche with calculated violations of psychological needs, along with deep damage to psychological structures and the breakage of beliefs underpinning normal sanity. Torturers often inflict both types of torture in combination to compound the associated effects.
Psychological torture also includes deliberate use of extreme stressors and situations such as mock execution, shunning, violation of deep-seated social or sexual norms and taboos, or extended solitary confinement. Because psychological torture needs no physical violence to be effective, it is possible to induce severe psychological pain, suffering, and trauma with no externally visible effects.
Rape and other forms of sexual abuse are often used as methods of torture for interrogative or punitive purposes.
Medical torture is a practice in which medical practitioners use torture to judge what victims can endure, to apply treatments which will enhance torture, or as torturers in their own right. Josef Mengele and Shirō Ishii were infamous during and after World War II for their involvement in medical torture and murder.
Saltwater was also used as an effective torture device; while much water mixed with salt creates a healing saline used for destroying bacteria, little water mixed in with salt creates a searing substance which eats into flesh and irritates raw muscles. Slaveholders would often splash or rub saltwater into a slave's back after the slave had been flogged. The result is a biting pain and can be fatal if the victim is of a weak constitution.
Torture murder involves torture to the point of murder as for punishment in law enforcement agencies of countries that allow torture. Murderers might also torture their victims to death for sadistic reasons.
Effects of torture
Organizations like the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture try to help survivors of torture obtain medical treatment and to gain forensic medical evidence to obtain political asylum in a safe country and/or to prosecute the perpetrators.
Torture is often difficult to prove, particularly when some time has passed between the event and a medical examination, or when the torturers are immune from prosecution. Many torturers around the world use methods designed to have a maximum psychological impact while leaving only minimal physical traces. Medical and Human Rights Organizations worldwide have collaborated to produce the Istanbul Protocol, a document designed to outline common torture methods, consequences of torture, and medico-legal examination techniques. Typically deaths due to torture are shown in an autopsy as being due to "natural causes" like heart attack, inflammation, or embolism due to extreme stress.
For survivors, torture often leads to lasting mental and physical health problems.
Physical problems can be wide-ranging, e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, musculo-skeletal problems, brain injury, post-traumatic epilepsy and dementia or chronic pain syndromes.
Mental health problems are equally wide-ranging; common are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorder. Psychic deadness, erasure of intersubjectivity, refusal of meaning-making, perversion of agency, and an inability to bear desire constitute the core features of the post-traumatic psychic landscape of torture.
The most terrible, intractable, legacy of torture is the killing of desire - that is , of curiosity, of the impulse for connection and meaning-making, of the capacity for mutuality, of the tolerance for ambiguity and ambivalence. For these patients, to know another mind is unbearable. To connect with another is irrelevant. They are entrapped in what was born(e) during their trauma, as they perpetuate the erasure of meaning, re-enact the dynamics of annihilation through sadomasochistic, narcissistic, paranoid, or self-deadening modes of relating, and mobilize their agency toward warding off mutuality, goodness, hope and connection. In brief, they live to prove death. And it is this perversion of agency and desire that constitutes the deepest post-traumatic injury, and the most invisible and pernicious of human-rights violations.
On August 19, 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) voted to bar participation, to intervene to stop, and to report involvement in a wide variety of interrogation techniques as torture, including "using mock executions, simulated drowning, sexual and religious humiliation, stress positions or sleep deprivation", as well as "the exploitation of prisoners' phobias, the use of mind-altering drugs, hooding, forced nakedness, the use of dogs to frighten detainees, exposing prisoners to extreme heat and cold, physical assault and threatening the use of such techniques against a prisoner or a prisoner's family."
However, the APA rejected a stronger resolution that sought to prohibit “all psychologist involvement, either direct or indirect, in any interrogations at U.S. detention centers for foreign detainees or citizens detained outside normal legal channels.” That resolution would have placed the APA alongside the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association in limiting professional involvement in such settings to direct patient care. The APA echoed the Bush administration by condemning isolation, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation or over-stimulation only when they are likely to cause lasting harm.
Treatment of torture-related medical problems might require a wide range of expertise and often specialized experience. Common treatments are psychotropic medication, e.g. SSRI antidepressants, counseling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, family systems therapy and physiotherapy.
Laws against torture
On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 5 states, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Since that time a number of other international treaties have been adopted to prevent the use of torture. Two of these are the United Nations Convention Against Torture and for international conflicts the Geneva Conventions III and IV.
United Nations Convention Against Torture
The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) came into force in June 1987. The most relevant articles are Articles 1, 2, 3, and the first paragraph of Article 16.
- For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means 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.
- This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
- Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
- No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
- An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
- No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
- For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
- Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Map of the world with parties to the Convention against Torture shaded dark green, states that have signed but not ratified the treaty in light green, and non-parties in gray
Note several points:
Article 1: Torture is "severe pain or suffering". The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) influences discussions on this area of international law. See the section Other conventions for more details on the ECHR ruling.
Article 2: There are "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever" where a state can use torture and not break its treaty obligations"[
Article 16: Obliges signatories to prevent "acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", in "any territory under its jurisdiction"
As of June 2008, 145 states are parties to the Convention against Torture, and another nine states have signed but not ratified the treaty.
Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture
The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) entered into force on 22 June 2006 as an important addition to the UNCAT. As stated in Article 1, the purpose of the protocol is to "establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Each state ratifying the OPCAT, according to Article 17, is responsible for creating or maintaining at least one independent national preventive mechanism for torture prevention at the domestic level.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Map of the world with the states parties to the International Criminal Court (as of June 2008) shown in green
Main article: International Criminal Court
The Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), provides for criminal prosecution of individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The statute defines torture as "intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions". Under Article 7 of the statute, torture may be considered a crime against humanity "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack". Article 8 of the statute provides that torture may also, under certain circumstances, be prosecuted as a war crime.
The ICC came into existence on 1 July 2002 and can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The court can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a national of a state party to the Rome Statute, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. The court is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore reserved to individual states.
The four Geneva Conventions provide protection for people who fall into enemy hands. The conventions do not clearly divide people into combatant and non-combatant roles. The conventions refer to "wounded and sick combatants or non-combatants" separately from "civilian persons who take no part in hostilities, and who, while they reside in the zones, perform no work of a military character" as well as "Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces", "Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements", "Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power", "Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces", "Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory"
The third (GCIII) and fourth (GCIV) Geneva Conventions are the two most relevant for the treatment of the victims of conflicts. Both treaties state in Article 3, in similar wording, that in a non-international armed conflict, "Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms... shall in all circumstances be treated humanely." The treaty also states that there must not be any "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" or "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment".
GCIV covers most civilians in an international armed conflict, and says they are usually "Protected Persons" (see exemptions section immediately after this for those who are not). Under Article 32, protected persons have the right to protection from "murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments...but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by non-combatant or military agents".
GCIII covers the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) in an international armed conflict. In particular, Article 17 says that "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." POW status under GCIII has far fewer exemptions than "Protected Person" status under GCIV. Captured enemy combatants in an international armed conflict automatically have the protection of GCIII and are POWs under GCIII unless they are determined by a competent tribunal to not be a POW (GCIII Article 5).
Geneva Convention IV exemptions
GCIV provides an important exemption:
Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention [ie GCIV] as would ... be prejudicial to the security of such State ... In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity (GCIV Article 5)
Also nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it, and nationals of a neutral State in the territory of a combatant State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, cannot claim the protection of GCIV if their home state has normal diplomatic representation in the State that holds them (Article 4), as their diplomatic representatives can take steps to protect them. The requirement to treat persons with "humanity" implies that it is still prohibited to torture individuals not protected by the Convention.
The George W. Bush administration afforded fewer protections, under GCIII, to detainees in the "War on Terror" by codifying the legal status of an "unlawful combatant". If there is a question of whether a person is a lawful combatant, he (or she) must be treated as a POW "until their status has been determined by a competent tribunal" (GCIII Article 5). If the tribunal decides that he is an unlawful combatant, he is not considered a protected person under GCIII. However, if he is a protected person under GCIV he still has some protection under GCIV, and must be "treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention" (GCIV Article 5).
Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions
There are two additional protocols to the Geneva Convention: Protocol I (1977), relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts and Protocol II (1977), relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts. These clarify and extend the definitions in some areas, but to date many countries, including the United States, have either not signed them or have not ratified them.
Protocol I does not mention torture but it does affect the treatment of POWs and Protected Persons. In Article 5, the protocol explicitly involves "the appointment of Protecting Powers and of their substitute" to monitor that the Parties to the conflict are enforcing the Conventions. The protocol also broadens the definition of a lawful combatant in wars against "alien occupation, colonial domination and racist regimes" to include those who carry arms openly but are not wearing uniforms, so that they are now lawful combatants and protected by the Geneva Conventions—although only if the Occupying Power has ratified Protocol I. Under the original conventions combatants without a recognisable insignia could be treated as criminals, and potentially be executed. It also mentions spies, and defines who is a mercenary. Mercenaries and spies are considered an unlawful combatant, and not protected by the same conventions.
Protocol II "develops and supplements Article 3 [relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts] common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 without modifying its existing conditions of application" (Article 1). Any person who does not take part in or ceased to take part in hostilities is entitled to humane treatment. Among the acts prohibited against these persons are, "Violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment" (Article 4.a), "Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault" (Article 4.e), and "Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts" (Article 4.h). There are clauses in other articles which implore humane treatment of enemy personnel in an internal conflict, which have a bearing on the use of torture, but there are no other clauses which explicitly mention torture.
In accordance with the optional UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955), "corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (16 December 1966), explicitly prohibits torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" by signatories.
Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits torture.
In 1950 during the Cold War, the participating member states of the Council of Europe signed the European Convention on Human Rights. The treaty was based on the UDHR. It included the provision for a court to interpret the treaty, and Article 3 "Prohibition of torture" stated; "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the five techniques of "sensory deprivation" were not torture as laid out in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but were "inhuman or degrading treatment" (see Accusations of use of torture by United Kingdom for details). This case occurred nine years before the United Nations Convention Against Torture came into force and had an influence on thinking about what constitutes torture ever since.
On 26 November 1987 the member states of the Council of Europe, meeting at Strasbourg, adopted the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ECPT). Two additional Protocols amended the Convention, which entered into force on 1 March 2002. The Convention set up the Committee for the Prevention of Torture to oversee compliance with its provisions.
The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, currently ratified by 17 nations of the Americas and in force since 28 February 1987, defines torture more expansively than the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
For the purposes of this Convention, torture shall be understood to be any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish.
The concept of torture shall not include physical or mental pain or suffering that is inherent in or solely the consequence of lawful measures, provided that they do not include the performance of the acts or use of the methods referred to in this article.
Supervision of anti-torture treaties
The Istanbul Protocol, an official UN document, is the first set of international guidelines for documentation of torture and its consequences. It became a United Nations official document in 1999.
Under the provisions of OPCAT that entered into force on 22 June 2006 independent international and national bodies will regularly visit places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Each state that ratified the OPCAT, according to Article 17, is responsible for creating or maintaining at least one independent national preventative mechanism for torture prevention at the domestic level.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, citing Article 1 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, stipulates, "visits, [countries to] examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty with a view to strengthening, if necessary, the protection of such persons from torture and from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
In times of armed conflict between a signatory of the Geneva conventions and another party, delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) monitor the compliance of signatories to the Geneva Conventions, which includes monitoring the use of torture. Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture, and Association for the Prevention of Torture work actively to stop the use of torture throughout the world and publish reports on any activities they consider to be torture.
States that ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture have a treaty obligation to include the provisions into municipal law. The laws of many states therefore formally prohibit torture. However, such de jure legal provisions are by no means a proof that, de facto, the signatory country does not use torture.
To prevent torture, many legal systems have a right against self-incrimination or explicitly prohibit undue force when dealing with suspects.
England abolished torture in about 1640 (except peine forte et dure, which England only abolished in 1772); Scotland in 1708; Prussia in 1740; Denmark around 1770;Austria in 1776; Russia in 1801,Baden in 1831; Japan in 1873.
The French 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, of constitutional value, prohibits submitting suspects to any hardship not necessary to secure his or her person. Statute law explicitly makes torture a crime. In addition, statute law prohibits the police or justice from interrogating suspects under oath.
The United States includes this protection in the fifth amendment to its federal constitution, which in turn serves as the basis of the Miranda warning, which law enforcement officers issue to individuals upon their arrest. Additionally, the US Constitution's eighth amendment forbids the use of "cruel and unusual punishments", which is widely interpreted as a prohibition of the use of torture. Finally, 18 U.S.C. § 2340 et seq. define and forbid torture outside the United States.
As the United States Constitution recognizes customary international law, or the law of nations, the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act also provides legal remedies for victims of torture in the United States. Specifically, the status of torturers under the law of the United States, as determined by a famous legal decision in 1980, Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (1980), is that, "the torturer has become, like the pirate and the slave trader before him, hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.