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Cornell University Law School

Interrogational torture

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The Bounds Of Necessity, Jens David Ohlin May 2008

The Bounds Of Necessity, Jens David Ohlin

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

The current controversy surrounding the legality of torture can only be understood through an analysis of the distinction between justified necessity and excused necessity. Although there may be strong prudential reasons for international criminal courts to declare torture unlawful under any circumstance, this would not necessarily prevent a court from recognizing that an excuse may apply. However, the hallmark of the necessity excuse should not be understood, as it is in German law, as an exception that only applies when a defendant breaks the law to save someone close to him. Rather, the basic principle of the excuse ought to …