Professor Coral Dando, Professor of Psychology in the Faculty of Science and Technology, has written an article for the Independent questioning the use of forms of torture such as waterboarding in regards to intelligence gathering techniques.

US President Donald Trump recently stated that he was in favour of the re-establishment of the use of some forms of torture such as waterboarding in order to “keep [the US] safe”. Following this statement, a debate was raised as to whether or not the use of these torture techniques were actually effective.

In the Independent article, Professor Dando explained that waterboarding: “is done by forcibly immobilising the victim, tilting the head, then placing a cloth or plastic wrap over the victim’s face and pouring water over the cloth and into the breathing passages […] It is designed to overcome the will of the individual by causing physical and psychological suffering”.

Professor Dando revealed that “this form of torture causes serious physical and psychological traumas which actually may interfere with the quality and quantity of any information that might be forthcoming”. She added: “In situations of extreme stress and pain (physical and psychological) human cognitive processes begin to break down, sometimes irrevocably – extreme stress and pain bring about false memories, reduce the ability to remember information, and seriously affect decision-making and memory performance”.

Professor Dando concluded that the efficacy of waterboarding or to any forms of torture in gathering information is unclear. According to her, it would be relevant to look for “other cerebral interrogation techniques which offer much to those tasked with gaining intelligence from high value detainees”. Waterboarding could be therefore “not the best way of persuading information-holders to yield”.   

Read the full article on the Independent.

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