To inflict on a captive person (under the torturer's control) actions of severe torment, whether physical or psychological.
Its purposes may be any of intimidation, deterrence, revenge or punishment ... or as a method for the extraction of information or confessions.

Torture is often associated with terrible pain, severe suffering, and long-term trauma in its subjects. There has been a history of torture usage in most societies, used and supported by rulers or governments as an exercise of their power, until the late 1600s when opposition to it began to limit its usage in some Western European countries.

Psychological torture methods include:

* Extended solitary confinement

* sensory overload (bright light, painfully-loud noise)

* Sleep deprivation

* Shunning

* Mock execution
* Being forced to witness atrocities including torture
* Being forced to commit atrocities including torture
* Covert (non-contact) Incest


Torture is now widely treated as an extreme violation of human rights, as formally stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention agree not to torture protected persons (enemy civilians and POWs) in armed conflicts, and signatories of the UN Convention Against Torture agree not to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on anyone, to obtain information or a confession, to punish them, or to coerce them or a third person.



However despite such conventions and agreements organizations such as Amnesty International estimate that around two-thirds of countries do not consistently follow the spirit of such treaties.
(source: wikipedia, page with further details at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture)



Organizations like the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture try to help survivors of torture obtain medical treatment and to gain forensic medical evidence to obtain political asylum in a safe country and/or to prosecute the perpetrators.

Torture is often difficult to prove, particularly when some time has passed between the event and a medical examination. Many torturers around the world use methods designed to have a maximum psychological impact while leaving only minimal physical traces. Medical and Human Rights Organizations worldwide have collaborated to produce the Istanbul Protocol, a document designed to outline common torture methods, consequences of torture and medico-legal examination techniques.

Torture often leads to lasting mental and physical health problems.

Physical problems can be wide-ranging, e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, musculo-skeletal problems, brain injury, post-traumatic epilepsy and dementia or chronic pain syndromes.
Mental health problems are equally wide-ranging; common are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorder.

Treatment of torture-related medical problems might require a wide range of expertise and often specialized experience.