Torture, Intimidation, And “Validity”


Due to the recent events regarding Loujain al-Hathloul, a female activist in Saudi Arabia, many of the law enforcement and higher-level government intimidation and torture tactics have been brought into the public eye. Having been detained and imprisoned nearly a year ago, Loujain al-Hathloul, is currently facing trial in a Saudi court. Leading up to, and during, the trial Saudi state officials have made visits to Loujain. In these visits, they reportedly promised her a release deal with one condition – she appear on video and deny that anyone had sexually harassed/assaulted her or tortured her during her time in custody. According to her family members, Loujain has been under immense pressure to comply. This has brought to light the high-level cover ups occurring in Saudi Arabia for the use of torture. It has been claimed that a senior advisor of Crown Prince Salman, al-Qahtani, was a part of the torture sessions. He reportedly threatened to rape and kill Loujain in these sessions. The Saudi government has denied these claims and it appears as though they are facing a new onslaught of claims against them shortly after moving on from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government and law enforcement officials have and continue to use extensive force, blackmail, and murder to keep people down who present a possible threat to their authority and way of operating. This is the direct result of years of development of governmental cultures (throughout the region), which thrive off of fear and force.

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is fairly progressive for the region, regarding women’s rights and education laws, the rape and torture of those in custody is clearly a glaring issue. A country claiming to be a leader in the development of women’s rights cannot be at the forefront having government officials and law enforcement agents threatening rape and death to women in custody. It is highly hypocritical and this situation with Loujain al-Hathloul raises a key question about Saudi Arabia: Are the implementations of equality programs and women’s rights simply a ploy to distract from the true agenda; an agenda based around deception, violence, and the preservation of historical and familial power?

There has been little to no global backlash towards Saudi Arabia for the claims against them, perhaps because the use of extensive force by governments and law enforcement agencies is a global crisis. There are countries with lower rates of these issues, however most of the global superpowers struggle with police brutality, sexism/racism in law enforcement, and government cover-ups of the use of excessive force in general. Interrogations of every level, from a local thief all the way up to international terrorists have long been the subject of conversation due to the apparent inevitability of conflict surrounding them. For too long, people have sat by and let slide the use of excessive force, threats, and murder in order for governments to hide in the shadows and only let show what they want the world/people to see. The issue lies in the fact that torture has become too culturally accepted across the world. Despite the Geneva Convention and numerous studies proving the inadequacy of torture, it is still a frequent “go-to” method of interrogation in military, intelligence, and law enforcement circles. This is not to say that the interrogation of an international terrorist is the same as that of a local thief or that the two interrogations should be treated the same way or that they require the same tactics. What it is saying is that the use torture is not only inhumane and morally wrong, but it is also barbaric and quite frankly, dated.

Although torture is still a prominent issue in the world today, it has also been a highly talked about issue. It has been talked about within the UN, between countries, and within countries in order to find a solution. Despite all of this talk, torture, blackmail, and government cover-ups are clearly still thriving today. While there have been some things, such as the Geneva Convention, which have proven to be beneficial in the move towards a world without torture, they clearly have not been enough. The abuse of women in custody is yet to be internationally addressed as an issue tied together with torture, as is general police brutality. Clearly, something new needs to happen for any real change to even be possible, much less be seen.

There are a few possible ways for the international community to come together and address the issue of torture as a whole and at every level. The first step here is for the international community to actually place a higher priority on torture and realize the cultural epidemic it has created around the world. From there, one possible direction is to improve a division within the UN. This division is called the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). To address torture in whichever context it takes place, UNCAT needs to become more of an open resource for victims, whistle-blowers, and everyone in between. UNCAT could also promote the implementation of more body-camera use. Even if body-cameras present the possibility for cover-ups, they do make people think twice before using excessive force; sometimes a second thought is all it takes to make the right decision. Regarding official interrogations, there needs to be better security footage monitored by a third party. In high-level military or intelligence interrogations, UNCAT could require that there be a representative of the organization present in order for the interrogation to proceed. UNCAT presence is most often seen as a supervisory authority providing suggestions and working definitions. This must change and UNCAT needs to be seen as a true global authority with the power and international government support to make a difference for the betterment of how people are treated.

At the end of the day, torture at any level comes down to the human tendency to treat other humans inhumanely. This ironic side of humanity can be seen since the beginning of recorded history, however today we have access to the resources to truly promote the betterment of how people are to be treated. The idea of morals is important, however (as previously stated) torture goes farther than that. Torture has been proven, through scientific studies, to be ineffective in gathering accurate information. In fact, information gathered through torture is less likely to be true because the one being tortured was willing to say anything to make the session come to an end, regardless of its validity. Using this fact is what should be used to appeal to the community less effected by moral ideals, while the concept of inhumane treatment should be used towards the communities more heavily effected by moral concepts. One of these communities is not better than the other, they are simply different and require different means of getting the point across. What it comes down to is that torture is morally wrong, ineffective, and used far too often in a day and age with many other humane and more effective options.