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Survey Reveals Australian Attitudes to Torture in Conflict


Tuesday, 6th December 2016 at 3:05 pm
Lina Caneva
A new survey by international aid agency Red Cross shows that the majority of Australians oppose torture in war but many don’t know that torturing a soldier for information is wrong, while some think it is acceptable.


Tuesday, 6th December 2016
at 3:05 pm
Lina Caneva


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Survey Reveals Australian Attitudes to Torture in Conflict
Tuesday, 6th December 2016 at 3:05 pm

A new survey by international aid agency Red Cross shows that the majority of Australians oppose torture in war but many don’t know that torturing a soldier for information is wrong, while some think it is acceptable.

The Australian survey coincides with a global report on attitudes to war, conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which found overwhelming support for the laws of war designed to protect civilians and healthcare.

CEO of Australian Red Cross Judy Slatyer said that while most Australians cared very much about their fellow human beings, others needed to better understand why humanitarian laws and values mattered.

“While 57 per cent of people think that torturing an Australian soldier for military information should not be allowed, 23 per cent were undecided and 21 per cent thought it was okay,” Slatyer said.

“Torture is illegal and unacceptable in any circumstances. It has a devastating impact on those tortured as well as our collective humanity.

“The survey finds that more Australians (23 per cent) believe that torturing an enemy soldier for information is acceptable than people from war-torn countries such as Syria (20 per cent) and South Sudan (18 per cent).”

Australian men are more likely than women to agree that captured soldiers can be tortured to obtain information. Overall, 24 per cent of men think Australian soldiers can be tortured as opposed to 18 per cent of women. People aged under 20 or over 65 are also less likely to support torture.

The ICRC People on War report is the result of 17,000 people being surveyed between June and September across 16 countries. Ten countries were experiencing armed conflict at the time including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan. It is the largest survey of its kind ever carried out by the ICRC.

“The global survey finds that more than four out of five people believe attacking hospitals, ambulances and healthcare workers, in order to weaken an enemy, is wrong,” director-general of the ICRC Yves Daccord said.

“In such troubled times, where we face constant, horrific reports from the world’s conflict zones, it’s heartening that there’s overwhelming support globally in the belief that wars should have limits. People truly believe in the importance of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.”

Red Cross said there were worrying trends in the global survey.

An increasing number of people were resigned to civilian deaths as an inevitable part of warfare, particularly in Security Council countries; UK, France, Russia, China, the United States. There was also a growing indifference to the torture of enemy soldiers, despite its absolute prohibition.

“The global results seem to show that people who live in mainly peaceful countries need to be more compassionate and understanding. Here in Australia, I wonder if we risk becoming numb to the true extent of human suffering and the consequences of war and conflict for all of us,” Slatyer said.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.


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