Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

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The interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is now available for download

Summary

The Special Rapporteur elaborates on the legal, ethical, scientific and practical arguments against the use of torture, other ill-treatment and coercive methods during interviews of suspects, victims, witnesses and other persons in various investigative contexts. He advocates the development of a universal protocol identifying a set of standards for non-coercive interviewing methods and procedural safeguards that ought, as a matter of law and policy, to be applied at a minimum to all interviews by law enforcement officials, military and intelligence personnel and other bodies with investigative mandates.

Para 18. Behavioural and brain sciences underlie the recognition that mistreatment and coercion are unreliable and counterproductive means to elicit accurate information. Torture and ill-treatment harm those areas of the brain associated with memory, mood and general cognitive function. Depending on their severity, chronicity and type, associated stressors typically impair encoding, consolidation and retrieval of memories, especially where practices such as repeated suffocation, extended sleep deprivation and caloric restriction are used in combination. Such practices weaken, disorient and confuse subjects, distort their sense of time and render them prone to fabricate memories, even if they are otherwise willing to answer questions. They are also detrimental to the establishment of trust and rapport, and compromise the interviewer’s ability to understand a person’s values, motivations and knowledge — elements required for a successful interview.

Reference: See Shane O’Mara, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation (Cambridge,Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2015).

 

Author: Shane O'Mara

Neuroscientist

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