How someone becomes a torturer

very day, thousands of people are tortured in police stations, security offices and prisons around the world. Human rights organizations protest torture and advocate for survivors, but neither they nor the public knows much about the torturers themselves.

Where do torturers come from? How can they do such terrible things? And most important, is there a way to stop torture by stopping the people who do it?

Answering these questions is difficult because torture, or the infliction of severe mental and physical suffering by government authorities, is illegal under international law. Torturers do their work in secret, and few have ever agreed to talk to journalists or researchers.

As part of the Iraq History Project, an oral history project conducted by DePaul University’s Human Rights Law Institute after Saddam Hussein’s fall14 of Saddam’s former torturers were interviewed about what they did and why they did it. Their stories went into a human rights repository, and I analyzed them as part of a recent research project.