Torture is something some might think went the way of The Inquisition in the Middle Ages, but it hasn’t disappeared. Far from it. In fact, there was still a lot of torture taking place at the hand of secret police agencies in South America as well as in other countries in the 20th century. It was – and is – also used as part of the system of judicial punishments in some nations, and recent events in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay show that the hands of western democracies aren’t clean either. Here we look at ten of the most terrifying torture devices and methods used in the modern era.
10. Fingernail Torture Device
The SAVAK were Iran’s US-backed secret police (one of their members is pictured above). They used fingernail torture regularly as punishment or in interrogations. This cruel method of torture involves the extraction of the victim’s nail, often by forcing pliers, forceps or a tool built for the purpose (as in the image) under the nail. To make it more painful, the torturer sometimes heats the instrument until it is red hot.
Waterboarding is a vile torture technique that has been in use since pre-colonial times but unfortunately continues to be practiced to this day. It consists of tying a prisoner down on a board or a table made for the purpose. Water is then poured over the victim’s face and nasal passages to recreate the sensation of drowning. By all accounts it is a terrifying experience, and the direct physical effects are as severe as the psychological ones. According to Wikipedia: “Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage and, if uninterrupted, death. Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.” It was considered such a serious form of torture that the Americans hanged Japanese prisoners who had practiced waterboarding on World War II POWs. It was also used during the Vietnam War by the Khmer Rouge and has been practiced by the CIA on a top al-Qaida figure.