The most common way of inducing asphyxia to near-death is submarino as it is nicknamed in Latin American countries. The head is immersed in water for minutes at a time to the point of drowning, then brought out and immersed again. In some countries the victim is suspended by the ankles and lowered repeatedly into a tank. A variant of submarino is for a plastic bag or similar impervious material filled with liquid to be tied over the head. In all these techniques the water is often contaminated with sewage or chemicals, adding to the immediate distress and increasing the likelihood of permanent ill-effects.
“Waterboarding” is another form of asphyxiation torture that dates back to the Middle Ages and recently practised by the United States. Victims are strapped to a board or made to lie in a supine position with their heads lower than the rest of their bodies, their faces covered with cloth, and water is poured over their mouths to create the sensation of drowning.
Dry submarino is practised with a plastic bag or similar impervious material placed over the head and tied tightly around the neck. Again, there is often contaminated material or an irritant such as chilli powder inside the bag. In Sri Lanka a small amount of petrol is often put in the bag so that there is chemical poisoning as well as asphyxiation.
The immediate effects of these techniques vary according to whether there has been any contamination. If so, there is likely to be severe upper respiratory and perhaps broncho-pulmonary inflammation. Conjunctivitis or otitis media may follow, particularly after submarino. Irritants such as petrol or chilli may cause a dermatitis which is indistinguishable from acne. Any long-term effects of these techniques are not easy to assess but many victims attribute their asthma or bronchitis to having been asphyxiated many years previously. If there was no history of pre-existing disability, it may be reasonable to consider this as a possibility.