Conference: Torture, Law, and War

Friday, February 29, 2008 (All day) - Saturday, March 1, 2008 (All day)

Torture, Law, and War:
What are the moral and legal boundaries on the use of coercion in interrogation?

a conference at
The University of Chicago Law School
February 29-March 1, 2008

Recent events combined with shifts in government policy have reopened questions about how much and what kinds of coercion are appropriately used in the interrogation and detention of suspected criminals, enemy combatants, and accomplices. For the sake of protecting security and pursuing justice, some have urged we reexamine the usefulness and broad prohibitions of torture. Yet some basic questions about torture and coercive interrogation in particular are also in need of answer: How should we define torture? What can we learn from history about it? What are its effects on the tortured, on those who torture, and on societies in which it occurs? What should the law say about it?

In conjunction with the University of Chicago Law School’s year-long Law and Philosophy Workshop focused on coercion, the Law School is hosting a conference to draw speakers from a variety of disciplines together to discuss these and related questions.

Schedule (download program as PDF)

All sessions except for the keynote address take place in Room I of the Law School.

Friday Afternoon

  • 12:00-1:25 Student Presentations: With commentaries by student members of the Law and Philosophy workshop.
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Adam Samaha, Law, The University of Chicago.
    • Samuel Brody, Divinity School, The University of Chicago
    • Garrett Ordower, Law, The University of Chicago 
  • 1:30-1:40 Opening remarks
  • 1:40-3:00 Psychology and Torture: How does torture affect the tortured, the torturers, and those who inhabit a world with torture in it?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Susan Bandes, Law, DePaul University and The University of Chicago
    • William Gorman, Counseling Center, Psychology, and Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
    • Nancy Sherman, Philosophy, Georgetown University
  • 3:15-5:15 Philosophy and Torture: Is torture ever morally permissible, and if so, on what grounds? And if not, can some acts of torture be morally excused after the fact?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Richard McAdams, Law, The University of Chicago
    • Marcia Baron, Philosophy, Indiana University
    • Claudia Card, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin
    • David Sussman, Philosophy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • 5:30-6:30 Keynote Address: “Four tales of terrorism,” by Albie Sachs, Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa
    (this session will take place in the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom)
    Audio | Video
  • Chair: Martha Nussbaum, Law, The University of Chicago
    Introduction: Geoffrey Stone, Law, The University of Chicago

Saturday Morning

  • 9:00-10:20 Torture in History: What can we learn from history about the function and impact of the use of coercive interrogation techniques?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Robert Gooding-Williams, Political Science, The University of Chicago
    • Kathleen Coleman, Classics, Harvard University
    • Darius Rejali, Political Science, Reed College
  • 10:30-12:30 Law and Philosophy: Should the law absolutely ban coercive interrogation? And can and should it really mean it?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Andrew Koppelman, Law, Northwestern University
    • Scott Anderson, Law, The University of Chicago, and Philosophy, The University of British Columbia
    • Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University
    • Eric Posner, Law, The University of Chicago

Saturday Afternoon

  • 1:30-3:00 Torture and Society: How is torture portrayed in media and social discourse? How do social norms affect the willingness to use torture, and vice-versa?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Susan Gzesh, Human Rights Program and the College, The University of Chicago
    • Mary Anne Case, Law, The University of Chicago
    • Scott Horton, Harpers’ Magazine, and Law, Columbia University 
  • 3:15-5:15 Law and Policy: How do U.S. and international law regulate torture and coercive interrogation? Are changes needed in these laws? How well do U.S. practices and policies implement its laws?
    Audio | Video
    Chair: Lee Fennell, Law, The University of Chicago
    • Lisa Hajjar, Law and Society Program, University of California Santa Barbara
    • Richard Leo, Law, University of San Francisco
    • Kim Lane Scheppele, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

The conference has been generously sponsored by The University of Chicago Law School, with additional support from The University of Chicago Center for Comparative Constitutionalism.

For more information, please email or call scott[dot]anderson[at]uchicago[dot]edu, (773) 702-0678.