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The word 'torture' comes from the French torture, originating in the Late Latin tortura and ultimately deriving the past participle of torquere meaning 'to twist'.(Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary, 10th Edition ISBN 0877797137) The word may be used loosely for more ordinary or daily discomforts which would be described as tedious rather than painful.

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.[1]

In addition to state-sponsored torture, individuals or groups may be motivated to inflict torture on others for similar reasons to those of a state; however, the motive for torture can also be for the sadistic gratification of the torturer.

Torture is often sponsored by governments. In addition, individuals or groups may inflict torture on others for the same reasons as those acting in an official capacity. Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most countries; however, Amnesty International estimates that at least 81 world governments currently practice torture, some openly.[2]

Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of effecting political re-education. In the 21st century, torture is widely considered to be a violation of human rights, and is declared to be unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention officially agree not to torture protected persons (Prisoners of War and enemy civilians) in armed conflicts. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 145 states.

National and international legal prohibitions on torture derive from a philosophical consensus that torture and ill-treatment are immoral, as well as being impractical.[3] These international conventions and philosophical propositions notwithstanding, many organizations (e.g. Amnesty International) that monitor abuses of human rights report a widespread use of torture condoned by states in many regions of the world. Report 2005 Report 2006