Friday, June 17, 2005

You mean we haven't already?

The Human Rights Commission is urging the government to use the opportunity presented by theie review of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 to explicitly ban the use of evidence obtained by torture. You mean we hadn't already?

Article 15 of the UN Convention Against Torture is absolutely clear:

Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

The reasons for this are simple and obvious. The first is to remove any incentive for torture by preventing the evidence being used in a prosecution. And the second is that such information is fundamentally unreliable - people who have had holes drilled in their limbs and electrodes applied to their genitals will say anything in the hope that it will get the torturers to stop. We've known this since the middle ages - unfortunately, it seems some intelligence agencies have forgotten it...

Again, this is an important test of the government's commitment to fundamental human rights. And if they refuse to enact such a provision, the responsible minister deserves to be put on the spot and (figuratively) grilled about it.


Even without such an amendment, it would still not be possible for the state to introduce evidence (in the form of a confession) obtained through torture into a criminal trial. At common law, such a confession would be coerced or involuntary, and hence inadmissible. In the US, it would also violate the Constitution.

Of course, this doesn't apply outside of the normal criminal justice system (i.e. to most of the terrorist suspects), although the Bush Administration has quite famously played tortuous semantic games to avoid allegations of torture.

Posted by John : 6/17/2005 12:48:00 PM