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Homeland Security


Survey Finds Many Support Torture in Terror Cases

By Mona Ghuneim
New York
24 June 2008

A new survey released Tuesday by a U.S.-based research center shows a significant number of people around the world support the use of torture when related to terrorism. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports on the findings.

The international poll surveyed about 19,000 people in 19 countries, presenting them with a specific scenario. The group WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted and published the poll through a consortium of research centers around the world. The group's director, Steven Kull, says the survey "pushed the envelope" somewhat by trying to locate people's vulnerability to the argument in favor of the use of torture.

Kull says people were asked specifically if they would support the torture of a terrorist if it could gain information that would save innocent lives, or if they were completely opposed to torture because it is immoral and would weaken international human rights standards.

Kull said the results were worrisome when it came to the percentage of people who would support the use of torture in the case of a terrorist.

"A significant number of countries show some openness to this - 59 percent in India say they [the government] should allow some degree of torture," he said. "So a majority in India, a majority in Nigeria, a slight majority in Turkey, and South Korea is about equally balanced."

Kull says that surprisingly, China, at 66 percent, and Indonesia, at 61 percent, had large numbers of people who opposed torture entirely. He says that overall, most countries involved in the poll were in favor of the rules against torture being applied in all cases, with 14 of the 19 nations rejecting any kind of exception.

Yvonne Terlingen of the human rights group Amnesty International says the U.S. results in the poll were alarming. She says only 53 percent of people polled in the United States opposed torture under any circumstances, and the nation scored high - at 31 percent - in acceptance of torture of suspect terrorists in order to save lives.

Terlingen said the overall results of the survey were disturbing in relation to the world's official adherence to the torture prohibition. Currently, 145 out of 192 countries officially reject torture.

"Against the background of that strong international framework, it is really shocking to see that only half of all those interviewed in the poll in 19 countries, that is 57 percent, agree that all torture should be prohibited," she said.

The results of the poll are being released in advance of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which falls every year on June 26.

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