Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How Do I Torture Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

Methods of Torture in the Late Twentieth & Early Twenty-First Centuries

(From Edward Peters, Torture, pp. 169-170)

I've highlighted those techniques we know have been used by US interrogators (military, criminal, civil, and intelligence) since WWII. There may be other techniques used for which we have no documentation.

Somatic Tortures

Beating: punching, kicking, striking with truncheons, rifle butts, jumping on the stomach

Falanga: beating the soles of the feet with rods

Finger torture: pencil placed between victim's fingers, which are then pressed together violently

Telephono: the torturer strikes with his flat hand at a victim's ear, imitating a telephone receiver, producing rupture of the tympanic membrane; telephono may also consist of blows delivered against a helmet worn by the victim

Electricity: probing with pointed electrodes; cattle prods; shock batons; metal grids, metal beds to which victims are tied; the dragon's chair, an electric chair used in Brazil

Burning: with lighted cigarettes, cigars, electrically heated rods, hot oil, acid, quicklime; roasting on a red-hot grill; byt he rubbing of pepper or other chemical substances upon mucous membranes, or acids and spices directly on wounds

Submarino: the submersion of the victims head in water (often filthy water) until on the brink of suffocation (US readers: sound familiar?)

Dry submarino: the victim's head is covered by a plastic bag or blanket, or the mouth and nostrils gagged until the point of suffocation is reached

Suspension in mid-air: victim is suspended with knees bent over a metal rod and tied tightly to wrists

Prolonged assumption of forced and stressful positions of body

Prolonged standing

Traction alopecia: the pulling out of hair

The forcible extraction of nails

Rape and sexual assaults

Insertion of foreign bodies into vagina or rectum

Operating Table: table to which victim is strapped, either for being forcibly stretched, or secured only below the lower back, necessitating victim's supporting his or her own weight that is off the table

Exposure to cold: submission in cold air or water

Deprivation of water: providing only soiled, salty, or soapy water

Forced consmption of spoiled or deliberately heavily spiced food

Dental torture: forced extraction of teeth

Psychological Torture

Witnessing the torture sessions of others: relatives, children

Threats made to witness the torture of others

Sham executions

Sleep deprivation

Continuous exposure to light

Solitary confinement

Incommunicado (being held without any human communication)

Total sensory deprivation

Conditions of detention


Shame-infliction: stripping naked; forced participation in or witnessing of sexual activity

Pharmacological Torture

Enforced application of psychotropic drugs

Enforced application of nerve stimulants: histamines; aminazine; trifluoro perazine-stelazine

Enforced injection of faecal matter

Enforced ingestion of sulphur or poison
Photo: Vietcong suspect being subjected to field submarino by US interrogators