The assassination of Osama bin Laden has rekindled the discourse about the efficacy and legality of using torture in the “war on terror.” Torture is illegal under all circumstances, even in wartime. Moreover, the United States located Bin Laden with traditional interrogation methods over several years, not by the use of torture.
Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is held down during a simulation of waterboarding. (Reuters)
When the United States ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it became part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties are the supreme law of the land. The Torture Convention states, “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.” The prohibition against torture is unequivocal, regardless of the circumstances.