Sunday, December 11, 2005

No right to torture - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM

No right to torture - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM: "Underlying the diplomatic parsing that Rice and other US officials are engaged is a persistent view coming out of the George W Bush administration in Washington that winning the 'war on terror' was so critical that any means may be justifiable.

But such a view is the very opposite of the human rights and democratic values that America prays in aid of the very war it is waging.

Indeed, this was the clear message from the United Kingdom when Britain's highest court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled Thursday that evidence obtained through torture in other countries cannot be used in British courts.
The ruling is in favour of eight terror suspects who said they were detained on evidence elicited by torture in US camps. The Law lords ruled unanimously that torture was an abhorrent practice that had no place in the British justice system.

The decision reversed a ruling last year by the Court of Appeal, which said evidence suspected of being elicited through torture could be used in British courts if it was obtained by agents of another state, and no British agents were involved.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, ruling for the Law Lords, said English law had abhorred torture "and its fruits" for more than 500 years. He said last year's ruling endangered that record, the Associated Press reported.

"I am startled, even a little dismayed, at the suggestion that this deeply rooted tradition and an international obligation solemnly and explicitly undertaken can be overridden by a statute and a procedural rule which make no mention of torture at all," Lord Bingham said.

Human rights advocates have long argued that evidence obtained by torture is notoriously unreliable, since torture victims might say anything to stop their suffering.

Interestingly, the New York Times reported Friday that US officials said an inmate in Egyptian custody made up details about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda in order to escape abuse.

It is clear, therefore, that 'evidence' obtained under torture cannot be relied on either for determination of judicial proceedings or for making public policy, especially on grave issues like war and peace.
Right wing ideologues tend to dismiss opposition to torture as liberal squeamishness or a failure to appreciate the dangers of the contemporary world.

Of course the dangers are real. As Kofi Anan also said in his Human Rights day message: "Humanity faces grave challenges today. The threat of terror is real and immediate.

"Yet fear of terrorists can never justify adopting their methods. Nor can we be complacent about the broader prevalence of cruel and inhuman punishment, which in so many of our societies disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people: the imprisoned, the politically powerless and the economically deprived".

I believe this latter observation deserves particular attention. As the sole super-power in a unipolar world, the United States has a grave responsibility to set example of respect for human rights and democratic freedoms.

The rights of the poor and marginalised everywhere in the world are severely undermined if every pumped up autocrat and would-be dictator can cite Washington as its exemplar for secret prisons and extra-judicial punishment.

Again, Kofi Anan: "Let us be clear: torture can never be an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror". No ifs, ands, or buts.

As we commemorate the 1948 Human Rights Declaration we need also to remind ourselves that we all, as citizens and journalists, have a duty to remind governments of their commitments to uphold and defend a range of human rights including the right "to life and liberty and security of person". [END]

Claude Robinson is senior research fellow in the Research and Policy Group, Mona School of Business, UWI"

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