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Threats of Harm

Threats to an individual’s life or physical well-being or to the well-being of his family or friends can have a long-lasting psychological impact. Such threats are known to induce extreme fear and are associated with PTSD and major depression among trauma survivors. Individuals who have been threatened with death often relive their near-death encounters in nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive memories. These experiences can provoke feelings of intense anxiety that cause dysfunction at work and in family settings. Mock executions and other situations where death is threatened often cause victims to repeatedly experience their last moments before anticipated death and induce chronic fear and hopelessness. Those who experience mock executions and death threats often suffer from PTSD symptoms, anxiety and depressive symptoms and increased frequency of suicidal behaviour.

The UN Human Rights Committee has found that conducting a mock execution within a prison environment constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and breaches a State’s obligation to respect human dignity.[1] The UN Committee against Torture determined that threats, including but not limited to death threats, constitute both torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.[2]

A photograph illustrating the use of military dogs used to induce fear among detainees in US custody.


[1] Broken Laws, Broken Lives pp. 105.
[2] Broken Laws, Broken Lives pp. 105.