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Reed’s Rejali wins 2007 Human Rights Book Award for Torture and Democracy


PORTLAND, OR (July 7, 2008) -- Reed College professor of political science Darius Rejali will soon add the 2007 Human Rights Book Award to his list of accolades for Torture and Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2007). The human rights section of the American Political Science Association unanimously chose Torture and Democracy for this year’s honor. The award is decided on the merits of the book’s scholarship and for its capacity to influence policy or bring about change in human rights conventions. Rejali will receive the award at the association’s four-day meeting, which begins August 28 in Boston, MA. 

Torture and Democracy is an unrelenting examination of the use of torture by democracies in the 20th century. As democracy, human rights, and the free press blossomed after World War II, so did the market for “clean” torture techniques that leave no evidentiary scars, such as the use of drugs, stress positions, and waterboarding. Rejali reveals the most controversial Western intelligence-gathering techniques, explains their origins, and questions if their use actually hinders the torturer’s ability to gather credible intelligence. 

Torture and Democracy has placed Rejali in the international media spotlight, positioning him among the world’s preeminent scholars on torture. He has been interviewed so often, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, that a Google search of his name returns over 20,000 results from news sources that range from Democracy Now! to Al Jazeera and from the BBC to the Washington Post.

The American Political Science Association, founded in 1903, is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 15,000 members in over 80 countries.

The following is the APSA nominating citation for Torture and Democracy:

Darius Rejali's book constitutes an impressive contribution to the study of modern torture. Rejali surveys the evolution of torture techniques from the late nineteenth century to the aftermath of Abu Ghraib and makes a series of important claims concerning the appearance of what he calls "clean techniques" in the main democracies. While dictatorships and authoritarian regimes may have tortured more, and more indiscriminately, it is the police and the military in the main democratic states who were leaders in adapting and innovating clean methods of torture; methods which after World War II spread all over the world.

Rejali proposes three models of torture in democracies: the national security model, the juridical model and the civic discipline model. These models correspond to the three main purposes of government torture: to intimidate, to coerce false confessions and to gather accurate security information. In two of the most fascinating chapters of this book the author addresses the critical question of whether torture really works and takes on the new apologists, convincingly challenging their arguments point by point; these chapters are immensely relevant to the prevailing torture practices in the post-9/11 era. This major study could not come at a more appropriate time and will definitely shape our debates on torture for years to come.

In recognition of this achievement, the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association is both pleased and honored to select Torture and Democracy as the Best Book in Human Rights for 2007