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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vanderbilt Law Hosts: "The Rule Against Torture as a Legal Archetype"

WaldronNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeremy J. Waldron, University Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law and Philosophy at Columbia University, will discuss “The Rule Against Torture as a Legal Archetype” at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, at Vanderbilt University Law School.

Waldron will deliver the third Jonathan I. Charney Distinguished Lecture in International Law. This lecture series honors Charney, one of the world's pre-eminent experts on international law, who held the Lee S. & Charles A. Speir Chair at Vanderbilt University Law School until his death in 2002. A reception with Waldron will follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public and will be held in the Bennett Miller Room.

The lecture is based on Waldron’s recent Columbia Law Review article, “Torture and Positive Law: Jurisprudence for the White House,” published in October 2005. In that article, Waldron writes: “In recently published memoranda, Justice Department lawyers have suggested that it is not in all circumstances wrong or unlawful to inflict pain in the course of interrogating terrorist suspects. Also, at least one legal scholar has suggested that the United States might institute a system of judicial torture warrants, to permit coercive interrogation in cases where it might yield information that will save lives. “The shocking nature of these suggestions forces us to think afresh about the legal prohibition on torture.”

Waldron argues that “the prohibition on torture is not just one rule among others, but a legal archetype – a provision which is emblematic of our larger commitment to non-brutality in the legal system. Characterizing it as an archetype affects how we think about the implications of authorizing torture (or interrogation methods that come close to torture). It affects how we think about issues of definition in regard to torture. And it affects how we think about the absolute character of the legal and moral prohibitions on torture.” Waldron concludes “not only that the absolute prohibition on torture should remain in force, but also that any attempt to loosen it (either explicitly or by narrowing the definition of ‘torture’) would deal a traumatic blow to our legal system and affect our ability to sustain the law's commitment to human dignity and nonbrutality even in areas where torture as such is not involved.”

Waldron joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 1997 as Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law. Prior to that, he was Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics at Princeton University and professor of law at Boalt Hall, the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He is author of The Right to Private Property; Liberal Rights: Collected Papers 1981-91; The Dignity of Legislation; Law and Disagreement; and God, Locke and Equality. He edited Nonsense Upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man. More. . . [Mark Godsey]

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