'Behind this Mortal Bone': The (In)Effectiveness of Torture

25 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2008 Last revised: 1 Jul 2013

See all articles by Jeannine Bell

Jeannine Bell

Indiana University Maurer School of Law


This Essay addresses the theoretical debate on torture in an empirical way. It urges that as part of our evaluation of the merits of torture, we take a shrewd look at the quality of information brutal interrogations produce. The Essay identifies widespread belief in what the author identifies as the "torture myth" the idea that torture is the most effective interrogation practice. In reality, in addition to its oft-acknowledged moral and legal problems, the use of torture carries with it a host of practical problems which seriously blunt its effectiveness. This Essay demonstrates that contrary to the myth, torture and the closely related practice, torture "lite" do not always produce the desired information and, in the cases in which it does, these practices may not produce it in a timely fashion. In the end, the Essay concludes, any marginal benefit the practice offers is low because traditional techniques of interrogation may be as good, and possibly even better at producing valuable intelligence.

Keywords: torture, human rights, false confession, police, investigation, international law, interrogation

JEL Classification: K10, K42

Suggested Citation

Bell, Jeannine, 'Behind this Mortal Bone': The (In)Effectiveness of Torture. Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 83, No. 1, 2008, Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 113, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1171369

Jeannine Bell (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
812-856-5013 (Phone)
812-855-0555 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics