Ergun Cakal

Ergün Cakal

Enrolled PhD student, PhD fellow

Current research

Psychological suffering and human rights

Torture, as with all forms of violence, can prove amorphous and ambiguous. Psychological suffering, as produced by solitary confinement, sleep deprivation or threats, and not physically evident in bruises, burns and broken bones, presents a distinct difficulty. Prominent accounts of torture trace the evolution of practices towards leaving fewer physical marks to evade detection and accountability. This is recognised, at least in principle, by those tasked to argue and assess such experiences – namely advocates and adjudicators working with international human rights law. Yet, how this has played out in reality is less clear. My research examines the dimensions and dynamics of human rights decision-making with respect to psychological suffering under the prohibition of torture. It asks: how have international human rights adjudicatory bodies (and their users in advocates, adjudicators and non-legal experts) responded to cases involving psychological suffering? How have they imagined and evidenced these cases? Through a critical-theoretical and socio-legal lens, the research sets out to empirically explore the individual and institutional factors that shape the processes and outcomes of litigation on psychological suffering (such as those related to judicial perception, availability, admissibility and probity of evidence, and professional competence). Three prominent international adjudicatory bodies central to torture-related claims will be focussed on: the European Court of Human Rights; the UN Committee Against Torture; and, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Through 80 semi-structured interviews, a fuller understanding is presented of experiences, practices, competencies, and positionalities operating at these sites.

Primary fields of research

International human rights law, international law, torture, litigation, adjudication, dynamic interpretation, lawful sanctions, use of force, representation of violence, sociality, severity, subjectivity, vulnerability, pain, penality, in/visibility, law and emotion, law’s violence, state crime, indeterminacy, sociology of human rights, sociology of punishment, sociology of adjudication, violence, interpretation, suffering.

ID: 283305198