Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




N. McLaughlin




Torture, no matter how it is conceived is not an uncommon phenomenon (see, for example, Amnesty International, 1998, 1999). Extant conceptions of perpetrators of torture are rooted in a bipolar framework that can trace its origins to attempts to understand the Nazi Holocaust of World War II. This literature has serious limitations in cases where individuals torture in the absence of a bureaucratic machine that orchestrates large-scale, sustained attacks against an 'enemy' group.

There is a segment of the perpetrator population absent from the literature. The theoretical constructs to deal with their actions do not exist. The concept of Independent torturers is developed in this thesis, in order to assist in this goal.

Independent Torturers (ITs) represent a partial hybridisation of the characteristics commonly attributed to the polar categories of leaders and followers, the constituent elements of the bureaucratic torture engine. In addition, a process of internalisation and localisation of positional authority, and the development of impunity beliefs are presented as theorised precursors to IT emergence. Using legal definitions of torture, the idea that many of the episodes of criminal assault we witness in our everyday surroundings actually constitute episodes of independent torture is presented. The specific case of the torture-murder of Shidane Arone by soldiers of the 2 Commando of the Canadian Airborne Regiment (CAR) is explored as an example of the uses to which these novel theoretical concepts can be put.

A combination of social-psychological and organisational factors are necessary to theorise independent torture. This thesis marks the preliminary phase of a multidimensional theoretical and empirical approach to the study of independent torture.

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