Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A political puzzle

When is torture not torture? When it's done by someone else, or at least that's one of the possible outcomes of the House of Lords review on the use of evidence garnered from currently held suspects who gave statements abroad.

Now to my mind, this sounds like something of a joke. The very idea that we could ban the deportation of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe because they may face torture there, or that we are currently seeking assurances from middle eastern countries (such as Libya)that they will not torture people who we extradite there, shows quite clearly that we don't do torture in the UK. So to think that we might allow evidence from tortured suspects, as long as it happened somewhere else, truly does make me laugh. It sounds like the worst kind of NIMBY-ism possible - 'Well, we'd love to do it, and we'll accept anything you get from it, but our electorate's a bit squeamish see. Perhaps if you could do it for us?'

Thing is, it doesn't just turn the whole issue of torture into a farce, but it also makes Britain look bloody hypocritical on the global scene. The worst thing is that double standards on something as emotive as torture (especially when those countries we're condemning are Islamic ones) plays right into the hands of the very terrorists we're trying to stop. The idea that we can condemn civil rights in the middle east, whilst allowing Camp X-Ray and even using evidence gained from it - well, I can see why people start to hate us quite frankly.

Now I could go into a debate about the ethical considerations of the use of torture, whether it's acceptable under certain conditions, or whatever. But I don't think we need to have that debate, because the vast majority of our laws show the debate is already won in favour of not embracing torture. What we really need is a single coherent approach to torture, either one way or the other. Considering we have gone to such great lengths in the past to ensure torture does not occur in the UK, and that we play an active role in convincing other countries to stop using torture, it would seem to make sense to go the final step and uphold the ban on using evidence gained via torture regardless when in the world it has been obtained.

The other option, to allow torture under 'extreme' circumstances, both lessens our standing as a democratic state, and lessens the liberty of our everyone by condoning torture at any level.

No comments: