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4 Laws 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/laws4 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Laws 2015, 4, 1-15; doi:10.3390/laws4010001

                                                                            ISSN 2075-471X

The Study of Torture: Why It Persists, Why Perceptions of It
are   Malleable, and Why It is Difficult to Eradicate

Erin M. Kearns

Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue,
Washington, DC 20016, USA;  E-Mail: erin.keams@american.edu; Tel.: +1-202-885-2168

Academic  Editor: Jason Mazzone

Received: 15 September 2014 Accepted 16 December  2014  Published 25 December 2014

     Abstract: Why  does torture persist despite its prohibition? Scholars, policymakers, and the
     public have heavily debated this topic in the past decade. Yet, many puzzles remain about
     the practice of torture. Scholarship on torture spans academic disciplines, which adds
     diversity in perspectives brought to these questions but also can lead to redundancy and
     stunted progress in research on the issue as a whole. This article assesses the state of the
     multidisciplinary literature on torture in counterterrorism with specific focus on why
     democracies torture despite prohibiting it, how public perception of torture is malleable,
     and  why  so few countries are able to move from commitment  to compliance in the
     prohibition of torture. In each section, the article also identifies underexplored areas in the
     research and suggests avenues for future investigation.

     Keywords:  torture; counterterrorism; terrorism; human rights

1. Introduction

   Prior to 9/11 and the war on terror, Americans generally associated the term torture with
atrocities that either happened in the past or occurred in distant lands. Torture evoked images of
punishment  in the Middle Ages, the Holocaust, the wars in Yugoslavia  and Rwanda,  and the
systematic sexual violence that is rampant in conflicts around the globe. For some Americans, torture
also may have evoked  grisly images from our own past, such as the Salem Witch Trials, slavery,
lynching, and the torture scandals in domestic police departments and prisons. Few, however, would
have thought that torture occurred in the present day at the hands of most governments-including
democracies-around  the world. The images of Abu  Ghraib, which surfaced in April 2004, likely

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