Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Common standards of illegality and immorality"

For five years now the US has been running a system of extraordinary rendition, flying suspected terrorists around the world so they can be tortured in shitty despotisms. But it seems that they are not the only country engaged in torture by proxy. Salahuddin Amin was arrested in 2004 in connection with an alleged plot to blow up a shopping centre and nightclubs. He was arrested at Heathrow airport, after being detained and questioned in Pakistan, where he was tortured:

Salahuddin Amin was repeatedly beaten, threatened, and witnessed the torture of other detainees while being questioned by the Pakistani security service, the ISI, over an alleged plot to bomb targets in the UK, said his counsel, Patrick O'Connor QC.

Mr Amin was also questioned by British officials, and agents of the security service and MI6 must have turned a blind eye because they would have had particular knowledge of the "notorious" way in which the ISI mistreats its prisoners. "The idea that they didn't know, in general terms, the practices of the ISI, and what was likely to be happening to Mr Amin, will be regarded by you as risible," Mr O'Connor said.

The British government wants to use the "confession" resulting from this process - a confession made at Heathrow airport immediately after his return from Pakistan, but after a long period of questioning in that country by British agents, interspersed with torture by the Pakistanis - as evidence in court. But both British law and the Convention Against Torture absolutely forbid the use of evidence extracted by torture. The British authorities are attempting to finesse their way around this ban by making it a question of timing: if we have someone tortured, and then they confess (after we've promised to take them home - in effect making the end of torture conditional upon confession), is that then admissible? I think that the only answer has to be "no" - otherwise we are effectively sanctioning an obscenity, not to mention introducing unreliable evidence into the justice system.

Amin's lawyer, Patrick O'Connor, asks whether "sharing of the language of war has led those on both sides to share common standards of illegality and immorality". Looking at this case, and the arguments the British government are making, I'd have to say "yes".