NEW YORK - A majority of people around the world reject the use of torture even if it is supposed to extract information that could save lives from terrorism, pollsters say. The finding suggests there is little support at home and abroad for President George W. Bush's defense of the abuse of terror suspects.
Bush often has defended a raft of extreme measures--from extreme interrogation tactics to kidnappings and secret extraditions to places where torture is commonplace--as necessary to save lives.
Some six in 10 people--including 58 percent of Americans--disagree, according to a survey of 27,000 individuals in 25 countries, including the United States. International pollsters Globescan and the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) conducted the study for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
''The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture,'' said Steven Kull, director of PIPA.
Only 30 percent of respondents said they thought governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture in order to extract information about terrorist plans. Americans were among those most in favor of torture, however, with 36 percent backing the practice in certain cases.
The survey, concluded last July, was released in the wake of Bush's signing last week of a law that gives him the authority to decide which techniques interrogators can use.
The law sets out a new system of military trials for terror suspects and has been enacted despite a recent Supreme Court ruling rejecting such arrangements already in place. The measure also bars non-U.S. citizens from filing, in federal court, habeas corpus petitions against their detention.
Bush described the law as ''one of the most important pieces of legislation in the war on terror.'' Critics, however, have described it as a brazen attempt to violate the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law.
According to the PIPA/Globescan poll, most people around the world are unwilling to compromise on the protection of human rights, including the rights of those put behind bars on suspicion of involvement in terrorist acts.
The poll ''reveals a public opinion climate in which human rights violations by governments are likely to cause outrage,'' said Doug Miller, president of Globescan. This was particularly so in Western Europe, he added.
The poll found more than 65 percent of Italians, French, Germans, Britons, and Spaniards standing totally opposed to any form of torture of terror suspects. More than 80 percent of respondents in Italy told pollsters that they would not approve the abusive treatment of prisoners.
In Rome and many other major cities across Europe, millions of people have protested the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Media there remain extremely critical of the way Washington is waging its self-styled ''war on terror''.
Explaining that most countries have already signed international agreements banning the use of torture, pollsters asked respondents which of two positions sounded closer to their own opinion.
The first position held that terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture if this might yield information that could save innocent lives.
The second position held that clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and would weaken international human rights standards against torture.
Pollsters said they found relatively high tolerance for torture in Israel and India.
In Israel, some 43 percent of respondents said torture should be allowed although 48 percent expressed opposition.
In India, researchers said more than 30 percent favored relaxing the rules against torture while more than 20 percent said current prohibitions should be maintained.
In Nigeria, China, and Mexico nearly 50 percent people rejected torture while about 40 percent or less supported it. In Russia, 43 percent opposed torture but 37 percent said they would accept it.
An earlier survey found that a majority of Americans wanted their government to comply with U.N. rules and stop the mistreatment of detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
According to that poll, conducted in June and July by pollsters Knowledge Networks for Worldpublicopinion.org, two in three Americans believed terror suspects should be treated in accordance with international law and should be given full due process rights.
In recent months, a number of investigations by U.N. bodies and international human rights groups have reported evidence that the U.S. military continues to use torture as an investigative technique, placing the Bush administration in the position of denying those charges even as it defends the need to resort to severe interrogation and detention tactics.
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