The fight against terrorism and society's need for security know no bounds, not even the prohibition against torture. This study analyzes the actual manifestations of torture and explains where, in a rule-of-law democracy, the limits on the use of force are drawn and whether these limits need to be readjusted in extreme situations.

The fight against ter­ror­ism and so­ci­ety’s need for se­cur­ity know no bounds, not even the pro­hib­i­tion against tor­ture or "milder" means of pro­mot­ing in­ter­rog­a­tion. In light of the fact that tor­ture was an es­tab­lished, le­git­im­ate com­pon­ent of ju­di­cial pro­ced­ure from an­tiquity up un­til the mod­ern peri­od, the ab­so­lute pro­hib­i­tion of tor­ture on both the in­ter­na­tion­al and na­tion­al levels con­sti­tutes a fun­da­ment­al achieve­ment of mod­ern hu­man rights pro­tec­tion and is con­sidered the epi­tome of rule-of-law gov­ern­ment. However, the dis­crep­ancy between the pro­hib­i­tion in in­ter­na­tion­al law and ac­tu­al state prac­tice is great­er for tor­ture than it is for any oth­er hu­man right. Through tra­gic events, such as the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Septem­ber 11, 2001, or the kid­nap­ping of Jakob von Met­z­ler in 2002, the ne­ces­sity and le­git­im­acy of the ab­so­lute pro­hib­i­tion against tor­ture is in­creas­ingly chal­lenged, even in stead­fast rule-of-law states. The ques­tion of how much hu­man dig­nity mod­ern so­ci­ety can still "af­ford" in in­ter­rog­a­tion situ­ations is thus a task that ur­gently needs to be ad­dressed in a demo­crat­ic rule-of-law state.

The fo­cus of this re­search pro­ject is on the pro­hib­i­tion against tor­ture as it ap­pears in in­ter­na­tion­al law and in the leg­al sys­tems of Ger­many, Eng­land and Wales, and the USA. Build­ing on these pro­hib­i­tions, the pro­ject also con­tains an ana­lys­is of the leg­al pro­vi­sions reg­u­lat­ing the use of co­er­cion in the course of in­ter­rog­a­tion in these coun­tries. Co­er­cion is giv­en the broad­est defin­i­tion pos­sible and thus cov­ers psy­cho­lo­gic­al as well as phys­ic­al im­pacts on the in­ter­rog­ated per­son. A dis­tinc­tion is made between in­ter­rog­a­tions in which in­form­a­tion is sought for re­press­ive and those in which in­form­a­tion is sought for pre­vent­ive pur­poses.

The first goal of the pro­ject is to per­form a com­pre­hens­ive ana­lys­is of the phe­nomen­on of tor­ture in its leg­al-his­tor­ic­al and cur­rent mani­fest­a­tions. The second goal is to identi­fy the ab­so­lute and re­l­at­ive lim­its on the per­miss­ible use of co­er­cion in in­ter­rog­a­tion: The ab­so­lute lim­it on the im­pact on the in­ter­ro­g­ee – ir­re­spect­ive of the pur­pose of the in­ter­rog­a­tion and the spe­cif­ic facts of the case – will be pin­pointed. The re­l­at­ive lim­its will show wheth­er or where dif­fer­ent kinds of co­er­cive im­pacts are per­miss­ible – de­pend­ing upon the re­press­ive or pre­vent­ive goals of the in­ter­rog­a­tion and the spe­cif­ic facts of the case. The de­vel­op­ment of a leg­al policy re­com­mend­a­tion on how best to ad­dress the prob­lem of tor­ture in a demo­crat­ic, rule-of-law state is an ad­di­tion­al goal.

From a meth­od­o­lo­gic­al per­spect­ive, the first sec­tion of the study presents a com­pre­hens­ive over­view of the phe­nomen­on of tor­ture – its his­tor­ic­al de­vel­op­ment and cur­rent mani­fest­a­tions – through the eval­u­ation of doc­u­ments, lit­er­at­ure, and sur­veys. Sub­sequently, the in­di­vidu­al do­mest­ic and in­ter­na­tion­al rules are ana­lyzed in light of le­gis­la­tion, lit­er­at­ure, and case law. In a com­par­at­ive law sec­tion, the ap­proaches of the vari­ous leg­al sys­tems are ex­amined for their sim­il­ar­it­ies and dif­fer­ences as well as their con­sist­ency with in­ter­na­tion­al re­quire­ments. Fol­low­ing this, the ab­so­lute and re­l­at­ive lim­its on the use of co­er­cion in in­ter­rog­a­tion are iden­ti­fied in a crit­ic­al and eval­u­at­ive ex­am­in­a­tion of these res­ults. The last sec­tion con­sists of a dis­cus­sion of the solu­tions to the prob­lem of tor­ture that have been re­com­men­ded to date in the lit­er­at­ure and in prac­tice so that, in con­clu­sion, a leg­al policy re­sponse can be for­mu­lated.