The ban on torture is one of the most universally accepted prohibitions in international law.
Torture is viewed unambiguously as an egregious violation of human rights, a practice that no country can countenance.
Codified in international law under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is defined as the intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" to obtain information or a confession, or to punish a suspect.
In the 20th century, the use of torture was revived by several governments, including the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy and the Communists in the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, for example, the French heavily relied on torture in interrogating prisoners during Algeria's revolt against France.
According to Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy organization, more than 130 countries are believed to still be torturing and ill-treating prisoners. The group reports that beatings, electric shocks, rape, floggings and suffocation are some of the forms of torture being employed.
Considering torture's record in obtaining accurate information, adopting it as an interrogation tactic is not worth the risk. Many point out that the quality of information extracted during torture can vary. "People will say anything under torture," Roth says. (executive director of Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.)