March 2011 Vol. 109 No. 5 THE REVIEW

Coercion’s Common Threads

Sarah H. St. Vincent

Under international law, the United States is obligated to criminalize acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. However, the federal criminal torture laws employ several terms whose meanings are so indeterminate that they inhibit the statutes' effectiveness and fail to provide adequate guidance regarding precisely which forms of mistreatment may result in prosecution. These ambiguous terms have given rise to serious and prolonged controversies within the executive branch regarding what torture is-controversies that confirm, and may further compound, the uncertainty of liability under the laws in question.

In order to solve this problem of vagueness and provide definitive guidance to persons in control of detainees, the torture statutes should be revised to prohibit specific forms of mistreatment. This task may be accomplished in a straightforward and logically consistent manner by observing the commonalities between torture and domestic violence, a form of abuse American states have sought to eliminate by outlawing specific types of conduct. Torture and domestic violence constitute two manifestations of the same underlying behavioral phenomenon: the use of isolation, pain, and humiliation to create a sense of fear and helplessness in the victim, thereby increasing his or her willingness to comply with the abusive party's demands. After establishing this fundamental similarity, this Note proposes a prototype for a revised federal torture statute based upon state domestic violence laws.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Aftermarketfailure: Windows XP's End of Support

"After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014." So proclaims a Microsoft website with...

Globally Speaking—Honoring the Victims' Stories: Matsuda's Human Rights Praxis

Globally speaking, international law and the vast majority of domestic legal systems strive to protect...

Toward A Multiple Consciousness of Language: A Tribute to Professor Mari Matsuda

I am thrilled to be part of this commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Professor Matsuda's...

House Swaps: A Strategic Bankruptcy Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis

Since the price peak in 2006, home values have fallen more than 30 percent, leaving millions of Americans...

Private Control Over Access to the Law: The Perplexing Federal Regulatory Use of Private Standards

To save resources and build on private expertise, federal agencies have incorporated privately drafted...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List