Water torture encompasses a variety of techniques of torture using water.
In this form of water torture, water is forced down the throat and into the stomach. It was used as a legal torture and execution method by the courts in France in the 17th and 18th century, was employed against Americans and Chinese during World War II by the Japanese, and was also used against Filipinos by American Forces during the Philippine-American War. The Human Rights Watch organization reports that in the 2000s, security forces in Uganda sometimes forced a detainee to lie face up under an open water spigot.
Water intoxication can result from drinking too much water, and this has caused some fatalities over the years in fraternities during initiation week. For example, a person was hazed to death by Chi Tau of Chico State (California) in 2005 via the forcing of pushups and the drinking of water from a bottle.
Fear of drowning
Waterboarding refers to a technique involving water poured over the face or head of the subject, in order to evoke the instinctive fear of drowning. Often a wet cloth is placed in the subject's mouth, giving them the impression that they are drowning.
What is called the "Chinese water torture" was a torture described by Hippolytus de Marsiliis in the 16th century that was supposed to drive its victim insane with the stress of water dripping on a part of the forehead for a very long time. It may also be characterized by the inconsistent pattern of water drips. Supposedly, the desire for the human brain to make a pattern of the timing between the drops will also eventually cause insanity to set in.
This form of torture was used in the early modern period as a trial by ordeal.
Other forms of water torture
- Supposedly, the Rasphuis in Amsterdam, a 17th-century institution that attempted to rehabilitate young male criminals through labor, contained a "water dungeon," the so-called Waterhuis. If prisoners refused to work they were placed in a cellar that quickly filled with water after a sluice was opened, and were handed a pump that enabled them to keep from drowning. Geert Mak and other authors, however, point out that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of this room and this punishment.
- The House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary, shows examples of water torture used by the Nazi and Arrow Cross Parties against the Jews. One involves a sunken cell filled with ice cold water; the prisoner must stand on a tiny metal plinth in the centre of the room. When the prisoner becomes tired or falls asleep, they will fall from the plinth into the icy water.
Sources and notes
↑ Human Rights Watch, Human Rights News: Torture Worldwide