Who Deserves Basic Rights? People Condone Violations of Procedural and Physical Rights in the Treatment of Terrorist Suspects

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Public discourse regarding the treatment of terrorist suspects typically emphasizes utilitarian “greater-good” justifications related to ensuring public safety. By contrast, we hypothesized that laypeople’s judgments of how suspected terrorists ought to be treated are more strongly informed by retributive concerns related to deservingness. Participants (N = 607, Mage = 34.25, recruited via Mechanical Turk) read about a terrorist suspect who was (vs. was not) presented as deserving of punishment and described as posing (vs. not posing) a continued threat to public safety. Participants rated the acceptability of procedural and physical rights violations occurring during the arrest and interrogation of the suspect and provided their perceptions of the suspect’s dangerousness and deservingness of lawful treatment. We found that participants were more willing to condone rights violations when the suspect was (vs. was not) deserving of punishment. This willingness was not affected by the continued threat manipulation. Moreover, the effect of the punishment deservingness manipulation was mediated by perceptions that suspected terrorists are less deserving of having their rights upheld, but not by perceived dangerousness. Retributive concerns related to deservingness can thus lead people to condone the denial of suspected terrorists’ basic rights, which may have consequences for the curtailment of all citizens’ civil liberties.

    loading  Loading Related Articles