44 percent of Americans favour torture for terrorists: Survey


New York : While 53 percent of Americans joined respondents around the world in saying torture should be unequivocally abolished, a high percentage favoured an exception when dealing with terrorists, a US survey said Tuesday.

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The survey found 44 percent of Americans favoured torture in the case of terrorists and 13 percent said torture should be allowed in general, said a study by WorldPublicOpinion.org, which is associated with the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes.

“Support for making exceptions for torture in the case of terrorists has grown among Americans since 2006, from 36 percent to 44 percent, while the majority opposing the use of torture in all cases has fallen slightly, from 58 percent down to 53 percent,” the survey said.

The survey was made public at UN headquarters in New York on the eve of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The government of President George W. Bush has been strongly criticized for using torture against alleged terrorists detained, in some cases in secrecy, since the terrorist attacks of Sep 11, 2001.

But Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, said, “The idea that torture by governments is basically wrong is widely shared in all corners of the world. Even the scenario one hears of terrorists holding information that could save innocent lives is rejected as a justification for torture in most countries.”

Kull said such a scenario is exceedingly rare and torture used by governments usually contradicts the will of the people.

A total of 19,063 respondents were polled in 19 countries and most people in 14 countries called for unequivocal rules against torture, even in the case of extracting information from terrorists that could save innocent lives.

The survey also specifically cited four countries that support the exception of torture in order to save innocent lives: India (59 percent); Nigeria (54 percent); Turkey (51 percent) and Thailand (a plurality of 44 percent).

Support for an unequivocal ban on torture was highest in Spain, Britain and France, at 82 percent in each country.

They were followed by Mexico (73 percent); China (66 percent); the Palestinian territories (66 percent); Poland (62 percent); Indonesia (61 percent); and Ukraine (59 percent).