Torture Research

Psychological Preparation & Training for Torture

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Haritos-Fatouros (2003) found that Greek torturers went through months of training, starting with boot camp, continuing with elite military police training, and concluding with on the job training with experienced torturers. However, interviews with torturers in  Brazil (Huggins 2002) and Uruguay (Crelinsten 1995) found that torturers only went through ordinary military or police training before being recruited into units that performed torture.

After they complete basic training, soldiers are placed in combat units, and they learn from their commanders and peers the moral norms regulating the use of violence that are permissible in actual combat or interrogation situations. The actual moral rules that govern small units may differ from the official written legal rules of engagement. These moral rules are transmitted informally among soldiers and line officers. Studies of torturers (Crelinsten 1995; Haritos-Fatouros 2003; Huggins 2002) and of participants in Nazi atrocities (Browning 1992; Lifton 1986) have found that placement into units where torture and genocide are regarded as legitimate acts have caused most individuals to accept these moral norms and participate in these acts. While a few individuals object to the practices and either avoid participation or request transfer out of the unit, most individuals go along.

Browning, C. 1992. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: Harper Collins.

Crelinsten, Ronald D. “In Their Own Words: The World of the Torturer.”  In Crelinsten, Ronald D., and Alex P. Schmid, eds.  The Politics of Pain: Torturers and Their Masters (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1995), 19-34.

Haritos-Fatouros, Mika. 2003. The Psychological Origins of Institutionalized Torture. London: Routledge.

Huggins, Martha K.  2002. “State Violence in Brazil: The Professional Morality of Torturers.” Pages 141-151 in Susan Rotker, ed., Citizens of Fear: Urban Violence in Latin America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Lifton, Robert Jay. 1986. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.

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Written by tortureresearch

January 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm

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