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Reading Hall  » TORTURE

 Torture is the use of physical or mental pain, often to obtain information, to punish a person, or to control the members of a group to which the tortured person belongs.

Torture began as a legal procedure and was typically used to gain a confession for use as legal proof. Early Greek and Roman law permitted the torture of slaves, foreigners, and people considered dishonorable. During the A.D. 200s and 300s, torture in the Roman Empire spread to other classes of people and became more routine. Its use declined after the fall of the empire in the late 400s. But in the 1100s, certain Roman legal procedures, including torture, were revived in many parts of Europe. Civil and religious courts legally employed torture to obtain confessions until about 1800. At that time, torture was abolished and widely criticized on moral and legal grounds.

Torture slowly reappeared during the 1800s and 1900s. Military forces, police forces, and other groups with public authority began to use torture illegally to punish and control people and to gain information about civil, military, and political matters. Since 1900, torture has especially increased during political revolutions, when leaders have placed political beliefs above human rights.

Forms of torture have long included stretching, burning, and beating the body and suffocating a person with water. Newer and more painful methods involve electric shocks, pain-causing drugs, or psychological techniques. Human-rights organizations firmly oppose the use of torture.

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