Реферат: Torture Essay Research Paper We went to

Torture Essay, Research Paper

??We went to the torture room in a kind of solemn

precession, the guards walking ahead with lighted candles.

The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near

the entrance. It was a vast shadowy place and every device

and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed

out some of them to me and said I should have to taste

them. Then they asked me again if I would confess. ?I

cannot.?, I said.?? (Abbott, 1)

Those words were spoken by John Gerard, a Jesuit priest accused of spreading

Catholicism in England. And in 1597 he was captured, taken to the Tower of London

and ?put to the question.? Whatever the country, whatever the crime, one could see the

authorities? dilemma, when suspicion, strong and sometimes reinforced by evidence,

would point to an individual, who usually vehemently denied all accusations. Yet the

truth had to be determined. While in an age where social conditions were brutally harsh,

where epidemics of fatal diseases decimated the population and violence was almost a

way of life, what more natural than to attempt to extract a confession by using force.

Torture which is understood to be the torment and suffering of the body in order to elicit

the truth. It?s concept is based on two fundamental facts, first, that we all have

imaginations. (Abbott, 1-4) Torture is a vile and depraved invasion of the rights and

dignity of an individual. It is a crime against humanity, for which there can be no

possible justification.(Innes, 7)

Torture was used as early as the 11th century, as evidence shows that William the

Conqueror ordered the maiming of criminals, while Henry I ordained that those guilty of

counterfeiting the nations currency, would be punished by having their right hand

severed and then afterwards castrated. The human anatomy seems to have been

expressly designed to be pierced. The human body?s soft, yielding flesh, with

vulnerable parts such as fingers and toes, ears and nose?s, sticking out, positively

invited the attention of a torturer?s keen blade and sharpened spike. (Abbott, 67) Since

the primary principle of torture is to inflict pain or, at the very least, to threaten pain,

therefore exploiting the fear of it. Probably the most infamous instrument of torture in

Medieval England was the rack. (The Tower…..,2) It is believed that the rack was

introduced into England around 1420 by the Duke of Exeter, who was constable of the

Tower of London at the time. (Innes, 87-88) Although many variations of the rack have

been used throughout the centuries, the basic principle has always been the same. The

victims? hands are secured by ropes to a beam at one end, and their bodies gradually

stretched by ropes attached to their feet. At first, they resist the stretching, not only with

the muscles of their arms, and legs but also with their abdominal muscles. Then

suddenly, the muscles of their limbs give way, first in the arms and subsequently in the

legs: the ligaments, and then the fibres of the muscles themselves, are torn. Further

stretching ruptures the muscles of the abdomen, and finally torn from their sockets.

(Innes, 123) If they did not die of their injuries, they were often so injured that they

could not take part in their public confessions. (Tower of….., 2)

Persuasion by means of pressing usually ended in death, hardly desirable in court

cases where confessions and names of accomplices were required. However in the 16th

and 17th centuries, a device was used which, while not endangering life in any way,

positively encouraged the victim to reveal everything he knew, whether true or

imagined. The instrument was known as the Boot. As it?s name implies, the boot was

designed to torture a prisoners legs and feet, and the device was so effective that even

the early stages of it?s application caused injuries so harsh that a hasty confession was

usually the result. the most common form of the boot required the victim to sit on a

bench, to which he was securely tied. An upright board was then placed on either side of

each leg, splinting them from knee to ankle; the boards were held together by ropes or

iron rings within a frame. With the victims legs now immovable, the torture begun with

wooden wedges hammered between the two inner boards and then between the outer

boards and their surrounding frame, compressing and crushing the trapped flesh.

(Abbott, 30-31) The torture of the boot was described by those who witnessed it as it as

?the most severe and cruel pain in the world.? Indeed, as Bishop Burnet wrote:? When

any are to be stuck in the boots, it is done in the presence of the council, and upon that

happening, almost all offer to run away. The sight is so dreadful that, without an order

restraining such a number to stay, the press would remain unused.? (Innes, 3)

Torture remained strong throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period,

however; punishment by death was beginning to become a very infamous form of

torture. The ultimate torment, slow death by burning at the stake, was practiced in

England for several centuries. The victim would be smeared with pitch, and then

dragged on a hurdle to the place of execution. There the accused was made to stand on a

barrel of pitch surrounded by faggots, and chained to the stake. A noose was then placed

about the victims neck, the rope ran through a pulley at the top of the stake and into the

executioner?s hands. The fire was lit, and the rope was pulled, however; sometimes the

fire would reach the victim before the executioner?s had a chance to strangle the accused.

Because of this the victim would suffer feeling their body being burned from the outside

in at least till the flames consumed their whole body, which in some cases could take up

to an hour. (Innes, 94)

To be executed by having one?s head removed by cold steel was considered an

honorable death by the Norman?s, in as much in keeping with one?s rank as being killed

in battle by the battle-axe or the sword. This method of being punished for one?s crimes

was introduced into England by William the Conqueror in 1076. The instrument used

was the sword, and this type continued to be used for many years to come. (Abbott,

191) In England the sword was soon superseded by a weapon which resembled the

battle-axe in name only, for the ?heading axe? was a crude and ill-balanced implement

little better than a heavy, unwieldly chopper. The clumsy weapon weighs seven pounds

fifteen ounces and kills, not with a clinical cutting action, but by crushing it?s way

through the vertebrae, not unlike a very blunt chisel.(Beheadings, 3) To a dedicated

executioner, and even more to the victim prone in front of him, a sliced shot had results

too horrific to contemplate, as James, Duke of Monmouth, found out to his cost in

1685. Jack Ketch, the public executioner could not after five strokes sever the Duke?s

head from his body. Ketch had to take a knife, and sever the strip of skin still

connecting the head to the torso. After every decapitation it was the executioner?s duty

to pick up the head by the hair, remove the blindfold if necessary, and display it from

each corner of the scaffold, shouting, ?Behold the head of a traitor! So die all traitors!?

(Abbott, 94)

Stocks were perhaps the most widely used punitive device, some also being

utilized to secure offenders awaiting trial. Portrayed in Anglo-Saxon books, Stocks were

in constant use for many centuries, changing little in design. They were of simple

construction, consisting of two sturdy uprights fixed in the ground, having grooves

down their inner surfaces in which were slotted two solid timber boards, one above the

other. Each plank had semicircular notches in it, positioned so that when aligned with

the other, the notches formed holes which encircled the culprits ankles. With the upper

plank locked in position with a padlock, there was no escape for the victim until he or

she was released by the appointed official. (Abbott, 149) Situated as they were in the

centre of the village, the unhappy occupant of the stocks was inevitably the focus of

attention. They became targets for jibes and taunts, if nothing more injurious, the

victims could do little to retaliate, or even defend themselves. This of course was the

whole purpose of the punishment, literally to make a laughing-stock of them by exposure

to the scorn and opprobrium of the others in the community. (Peters, 35)

In an age when there was little or no entertainment as we know it, and poverty

and disease made life cheap, an excution anywhere in the country was a diversion to

look forward to. A wide range of offenses, from shoplifting to murder, carried the death

penalty. In earlier days London boasted to have the best hangings. The vast majority of

the criminals were hanged at Tyburn. Tyburn fields originally consisted of 270 acres of

rough ground It is estimated that over 50,000 people died a violent death at Tyburn. In

the early part of the 12th century the gallows, used for hanging, consisted merely of two

uprights and a crossbeam, capable of accommodating ten victims at a time. Once the

victim arrived, at Tyburn, the doomed men and women were forced to mount a ladder

and the rope about their necks was tied to the beam above. After a prayer or a speech,

one by one they would be the ladder would be kicked out from under them so that they

swung in the empty air. (Hanging, 4) In course the procedure was speeded up by the use

of a horse and cart, one large enough to transport a number of prisoners together with

their coffins. The English language was thereby enriched by such phrases as ?in the cart?

and ?gone west,? the direction of Tyburn from the two places of imprisonment.

(Hanging, 1) Even though the process of hanging was speeded up, the effectiveness was

brought down. Many times a victim didn?t die by the snapping of the neck, but by the

strangulation which was very tormenting to the victim. (Davis, 112)

At a more domestic level, and years away from barbaric religious tribunals and

torture chambers, the Ducking stool it?s place in the life of many villages.? Innocuous

as the words may sound, nevertheless its name sent shivers down the spines of nagging

wives, shrews, harlots, strumpets and, rarely, dishonest tradesmen. The device took

many forms, and was governed by deciding factors as whether the village had a deep

river nearby, a muddy scream with or with out a bridge, or just a pond. (Abbott, 116)

In its simplest form, a chair or stool was fixed to one end of a long pole, which was

either pivoted on a support, or manhandled by a number of people. Sometimes it was

mounted on a wheeled trolley, when it was known as the tree bucket. The victim was

strapped in the seat, and then lowered into water, generally a muddy or stinking pond.

The process could be repeated several times, until the victim, spluttering furiously; was

nearly drowned and, on at least one occasion, the outcome was death. (Innes, 137-138)

Such rural punishments gave rise to many a ribald verse. One, composed by Benjamin

West in 1780 read,

There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,

An engine call?d a ducking stool;

By legal pow?r commanded down,

The joy and Terror or the town.

If jarring females kindle strife,

Give language foul or lug the coif,

If noisy dames should once begin

To drive the house with horrid din,

Away, you cry, you?ll grace the stool,

We?ll teach you how your tongue to rule.

The fair offender fills the seat

In sullen pomp, profoundly great,

Down in the deep the stool descends,

But here at first we miss our ends.

She mounts again, and rages more

Than ever vixen did before.

So throwing water on the fire

Will but make it burn the higher.

If so, my friend pray let her take

A second turn into the lake;

And, rather than your patience lose

Thrice, and again repeat the dose

No brawling wives, no furious wenches,

No fire so hot water quenches. (Abbott, 119-120)

We are to understand that torture is a pretty usual part of criminal proceedings,

unless the defendant is a noble whose alleged crime does not touch the safety of the state.

It is also true that wise men have discouraged the practice, which Pope Nicholas I did in

AD 866. When he wrote? A confession must be voluntary and not forced, by means of

torture an innocent man may avowal in such a case what a crime for the judge! Or a

person may be subdued by pain, and acknowledge himself guilty, though he be innocent

which throws an equally great sin upon the tribunal!? (Abbott, 166) The official

justification for torture has always been the need to obtain information: from a criminal

concerning the extent of his crimes, and the names of his accomplices; from a prisoner

taken in war, who may have knowledge of his general?s intentions; from heretic who

can be persuaded to confess his beliefs and implicate others; or from a terrorist whose

actions can endanger dozens maybe hundreds of innocent lives. Sadly, the application of

torture in such instances in itself is inexcusable, has been over shadowed by the fact that

it is regarded also as a punishment. The inevitable outcome is that the trade of torturer

has attracted only the most sadistic of human beings, and that the use of torture has

moved away from any practical need to obtain information, or impose a legal penalty for

wrongdoing, to allow the more powerful to enjoy the pleasure of inflicting random pain

upon the less fortunate. (Innes, 7-9) Anyway you look at it torture is just a vile and

depraved invasion of the rights and dignity of an individual, a crime against humanity for

which there can be no possible justification.


Press.Abbott, G. (1997). Rack, Rope And Red- Hot Pincers. Great britain:


?Beheadings? (1999). [1/12/00], www.auburn.edu/chaucer/judicial-torture.html.

Davis, W.S. (1951). Life on a Mediaeval Barony. New York: Harper and Row

?Death by Hanging? (1999) [1/12/00], www.auburn.edu/chaucer/hanging.html.

Innes, B. (1998). The History of Torture. New York: St. Martin?s Press.

Peters, E. (1985). Torture; expanded edition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsyvania


? The Tower of London.? [1/13/00], www.torture-museum.com/tower.html.


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