On February 29 and March 1, the Law School hosted an extraordinary conference devoted to the topic “Torture, Law, and War: What are the moral and legal boundaries on the use of coercion in interrogation?” The conference, which was sponsored by the Law and Philosophy Workshop with assistance from the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism, showcased the interdisciplinarity for which a Chicago legal education is renowned. Participants looked at the central question from the perspective of a wide range of fields, from law and public policy to psychology and history. Speakers included scholars from a dozen universities as well as the Law School's own Adam Samaha, Susan Bandes, Richard McAdams, Martha Nussbaum, Geoffrey Stone, Scott Anderson, and Eric Posner.
The conference keynote speaker was Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (pictured above). His talk, “Four tales of terrorism,” gave a first-hand account of his own torture by South African security forces and his brush with death when they attempted to assassinate him with a car bomb. It also described the principles behind the rejection of torture and capital punishment by the ANC, both before and after coming to power in South Africa. His talk discussed at some length four instances of terrorism, and the responses that courts and political leaders in South Africa made to them. Through these, he argued for the importance of adhering to the rule of law, including a refusal to resort to capital punishment, and also for the possibility of reconciliation with those who have previously used torture and terrorism against oneself and one’s own side in political struggles.
Audio and video of the keynote address, along with the other panels of the conference, are now available on the conference web page.