Overview: Examines personal values regarding torture.

Time: Variable.

Materials: Copy of "The Ladder of Torture."


1. Read/explain this scenario:

A bomb has been planted somewhere in your community. Demands have been made for money and for the release of prisoners. You have caught the admitted bomber, but that person refuses to tell where the bomb is hidden.

2. Ask participants what they would do. Would they use torture?

3. Brainstorm a series of questions participants would like to ask about the situation before making a decision? For example:

• Does it matter whether people or property will be destroyed?

• Does it matter how many people might die?

• Does it matter how much time you have to interrogate (i.e., torture as last resort)?

• Does it matter what kind of bomb has been planted?

• Would you torture the person yourself?

• Would you torture the person's loved ones?

• Would you publicize the fact that you are a torturer?

4. Pass out the "Ladder of Torture" and discuss:

• Where do you draw the line? When, if ever, is torture justified?

• Can you justify violating someone's human rights under any conditions?

• How do you want your police, government officials, or military to respond to this kind of situation?

Source: David Shiman, Teaching Human Rights. (Denver: CTIR, 1999) 140.




• Someone has planted a bomb and admits it. We must torture to save lives.

• Someone is suspected of planting a bomb. We must torture to find out.

• Someone is close to someone suspected of planting a bomb. We must torture the friend/relative to discover the bomber's plans.

• Someone reports someone else who shares the same political views as the bomber. We must torture that political ally to find out others who support them.

• Someone has refused to tell the police where a suspect is. This person must be tortured to make sure others don't dare do the same thing.