“Just for Fun”: Understanding Torture and Understanding Abu Ghraib

My contribution to this symposium seeks to accomplish two things. First, I want to engage in a dialogue with Professors Levinson and Kreimer about the problems of defining torture and the law’s response to torture. My contentions are that, contrary to Professor Levinson’s suggestion, we should not seek to limit the category “torture,” and that, contrary to Professor Kreimer’s argument, law in fact fails to regulate torture. More precisely, I argue that law provides less of a constraint on torture, properly defined, than most people probably assume. Second, I want to use that dialogue as the launching point for a more open-ended exploration of torture and the more general problem of state violence. To that end, the last section of this essay considers with broad strokes some of the possible reasons for law’s failure to regulate torture adequately.

By John T. Parry

John Parry is Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School. Parry's scholarly work focuses broadly on legal structures that restrain or permit the exercise of state power on individuals, with a particular emphasis on criminal law, civil rights law, and foreign relations law. Before coming to Lewis & Clark, Parry was assistant and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He also spent several years with Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., where his practice included a variety of constitutional and criminal issues. He is a former law clerk to the Hon. James R. Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and a former chair of the Supreme Court Office of the Harvard Law Review. Parry is the author of "Understanding Torture" (Michigan 2010). He has also co-authored a casebook on criminal law and edited two collections of essays. His articles have appeared in a number of law reviews and edited collections. Parry is a member of the American Law Institute.

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