Event information

14 March 2018, 18:30-20:30


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Interrogation and Torture: Research on Efficacy, and Impacts for International Law


Papua New Guinea, Southern Highlands province, Katiloma. Barbed wires at the window of a clinic abandoned because of a tribal conflict. Papua New Guinea, Southern Highlands province, Katiloma. Barbed wires at the window of a clinic abandoned because of a tribal conflict.

The international law on torture is clear and comprehensive: torture is illegal, by any authority, against any individual, in any circumstances, anywhere in the world. Yet, the idea persists that using torture can be useful for gathering vital intelligence to save lives — often embodied in the so-called ‘ticking bomb’ scenario. This event proposes to look at torture as an intelligence gathering tool through the lens of efficacy.

Specifically, there will be discussion of the federally funded scientific research program in the United States started in 2010 by the Obama administration to investigate the most effective interrogation techniques. Such knowledge and science are being brought to bear on the realm of international law as the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez launched an initiative at the close of his mandate in 2016 to create a 'Universal Protocol' to set standards for non-coercive interviewing. It is suggested that these developments have the potential to transform the conversation on interrogation and torture.


  • Steven J. Barela, Research and Teaching Fellow, Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva
  • Andra Nicolescu, Advocacy and Legal Advisor, Association for the Prevention of Torture


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