London, 19 Oct. (AKI) – Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances, the results of a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) survey suggest. Although 59 percent were opposed to torture, 29 percent thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism. While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere.
More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives.
Some 36 percent of those questioned in the US agreed that this use of torture was acceptable, while 58 percent were unwilling to compromise on human rights.
“The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture,” said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), whose organisation helped conduct the survey, told the BBC.
All of the countries surveyed have signed up to the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of torture and cruel and degrading behaviour.
But countries that face political violence are more likely to accept the idea that some degree of torture is permissible because of the extreme threat posed by terrorists.
Israel has the largest percentage of those polled endorsing the use of a degree of torture on prisoners, with 43% saying they agreed that some degree of torture should be allowed.
However, a larger percentage – 48% – think it should remain prohibited.
Other countries that polled higher levels of acceptance of the use of torture include Iraq (42%), the Philippines (40%), Indonesia (40%), Russia (37%) and China (37%).
The Israeli figure conceals a stark difference in attitude within the country, split along religious lines.
A majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53%, favour allowing governments to use some degree of torture to obtain information from those in custody, while 39% want clear rules against it.
But Muslims in Israel, who represent 16% of the total number polled, are overwhelmingly against any use of torture.
Meanwhile opposition to the practise is highest in Italy, where 81% of those questioned think torture is never justified.
Australia, France, Canada, the UK and Germany also registered high levels of opposition to any use of torture.
The survey was carried out for the BBC World Service by polling firm Globescan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).