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Argument: Torture can protect the life and dignity of the innocent

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Argument summary

While some argue that torture violates the dignity of man, it is necessary to view torture in the proper context of defending the life and dignity of the innocent lives that the man who is being tortured threatens. It would never be questioned morally if a man pulled out a gun to shoot innocent civilians and a policeman then shot him down. There would be no argument about the assailants dignity because the assailant was threatening the dignity, life, and rights of other human beings. As such, the assailant sacrifices many of their rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and to continue living (if the man threatens others). There is little difference between a man on the verge of shooting innocent civilians and a man that retains and witholds vital information that could help save the lives of innocent civilians (possibly millions). Both are poised to kill innocent civilians, and both have foregone their right to dignified treatment and life itself. The state has the obligation to protect the rights of the innocent over the assailant in both moments.

Supporting evidence

  • Oren Gross comments on PBS "Is torture every justified?" page. - "...in my opinion, to deny the use of preventive interrogational torture in such circumstances may be as cold hearted and immoral as it is to permit torture in the first place. It is cold hearted because, in true catastrophic cases, the failure to use preventive interrogational torture will result in the death of innocent people. Upholding the rights of the suspect will negate the rights, including the very fundamental right to life, of innocent victims."

Counter-argument(s)

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