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Watch an Irish scientist explain why torture doesn't work

“Torture may get someone to talk, but there’s no evidence that it’s the truth.”
Dec 6th 2015, 7:45 AM 14,774 19

AN IRISH NEUROSCIENTIST has said that torture doesn’t work because the information secured through it is “deeply unreliable”.

shane Professor Shane O’Mara Source: Screengrab/YouTube

According to Shane O’Mara, professor of experimental brain research and director of the Trinity Institute of Neuroscience, there is no scientific basis for the claim that torture works to extract reliable information from detainees.

O’Mara explores this issue in his new book Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation.

torture File photo of protesters demonstrating the use of waterboarding on a volunteer in front of the Justice Department in Washington. Source: PA

He examined the use of torture in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Cambodia, Algeria, and by the CIA.

For ethical reasons, there are no scientific studies of torture. But neuroscientists know a lot about how the brain reacts to fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation and immersion in freezing water – all tools of the torturer’s trade.

O’Mara notes that these methods of torture “create problems for memory, mood and thinking, and suf­ferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable — and, for intelligence purposes, even counterproductive”.

“Torture may get someone to talk, but there’s no evidence that it’s the truth. Confession evidence derived from torture is voluminous and nonsensical – consider the numbers of witches that torture proved existed.”

Source: Trinity College Dublin/YouTube

O’Mara says the prolonged release of stress hormones damages the hippocampus, which is crucial for retrieving memories.

In the book he proposes a new framework for “behavioural and brain science-based interrogation”, drawing on research in clinical psychology.

Source: The Guardian/YouTube

“Ethical and humane interrogations based on fostering respect and modern brain and behavioural science yields usable, verifiable and actionable intelligence.

“Interrogation needs to be conducted by highly-skilled, well-educated, highly-self-aware interviewers; they need to be able to actively listen to subjects, be genuinely curious about people and able establish a connection with them. As professional interrogators themselves say: ‘Torture is for amateurs’,” O’Mara says.

Read: Lawyer describes being strapped to iron chair and beaten by police

Read: Kian Egan ‘not surprised’ Westlife song used as part of CIA torture methods

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Órla Ryan


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