Deterring torture: The preventive power of criminal law and its promise for inhibiting state abuses

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The use of torture in the War on Terror reinvigorated a longstanding debate about how to prevent such human rights violations, and whether they should be criminalized. Using US history as a case study, this article argues that the criminal sanction is likely to be more successful in preventing such abuses than many other often suggested methods. Analyzing thousands of pages of released government documents as an archive leads to the counterintuitive finding that torturers were often deterred, at least momentarily, by fear of criminal liability, and would have been successfully deterred if not for the lack of prior prosecutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-212
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Rights Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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