Torture is an unreliable way to obtain information


Since the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, many western governments have been found to be resorting to tortures as a way to obtain information. The U.S. used questionable methods such as water boarding, which is a torture but deny that it is; or using information from the countries that still practice it. I can say from my own experience that torture is not only immoral but it is not an effective way to obtain reliable information.

No, I was not tortured. But being detained for three days in a windowless locked room was bad enough. I would have said anything they wanted just to get out. I wished they asked me what they wanted to know. Nobody came to speak to me. I had no idea why I was kept there. I went crazy. It was in January, 1972 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I was on the way back to my home in Lesotho where I taught at an university. I get off the plane, pick up my car, go home and cook supper for my 8 year old daughter: that was the plan. Her mother went away that morning to a conference. As soon as I got off the plane I was picked up at the gate. The man took away my passport, and took me to a room and locked the door behind him. The room had a proper bed, sort of, and the toilet had a toilet seat. So it wasn’t a jail. Nobody came to talk to me for three days. The thought of my little girl waiting alone in a house wondering where her Dad was drove me absolutely nuts. I just wanted to get out, I would have said anything they wanted to know. I didn’t need any physical discomfort or pain to say things. Could I have said the truth? I didn’t care. Call me a coward, fine, I am a coward. I love my child. I just wanted to get out.

It so turned out, I found out a few years later, that I kept a bad company as far as the South African government was concerned: Desmond Tutu was my faculty colleague in the Religious Studies Department; Steve Biko was a student at the University Christian Movement, etc. But me? Like I said I am not brave: I didn’t say anything dangerous in public; I wasn’t a terrorist. I just kept bad company by default.

I am sure I am not an exception. Not everybody is dangerous nor brave. Like me, they will say anything to get out of pain.

One thought on “Torture is an unreliable way to obtain information

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