Sunday, October 28, 2007
Word of the Week
Now there's a hot-button word. Under the UN Convention Against Torture, torture means "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind" -- provided that a "public official" was involved. Private acts of cruelty without official sanction don't amount to torture. " In the US statute that codifies the Convention (18 USC 2340), Congress added the requirement that mental pain or suffering must be "prolonged" in order for the act to constitute cruelty.
Words like "severe" and "prolonged" are a little too vague for comfort -- or so it seems to POFP. However, my suggestion that "torture" requires a more precise definition was met with howls of derision on Huffington Post. I guess not everyone enjoys law dictionaries as much as POFP.