Monday, July 21, 2008

Worthless assurances

For the past six years, the Bush Administration has pursued a policy of torturing suspected terrorists, cloaked in a fiction that techniques practiced by the Spanish Inquisition aren't torture, but merely "enhanced interrogation". Now, a UK Parliamentary Select Committee has drawn the obvious conclusion: that US assurances that prisoners will not be tortured are worthless:

In its report, the committee said: "Given the clear differences in definition, the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future."

The MPs also challenged the government to check more actively that Britain had not been used by the Americans for so called "rendition" flights - when detainees are taken to countries where bans on torture may not apply.

This will have far-reaching effects. For a start, the UK is a party to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits both extradition to torture and the use of evidence obtained by torture. Suspected terrorists facing extradition to the US to face terrorism charges - and there have been a few - will be able to challenge that extradition and the evidence which supports it - and the court will have to actually investigate, rather than merely take the assurance of the US that it "does not torture*" (* "except for waterboarding, strapado, electrocution and beating, because those things are only torture when done by non-Americans") at face value. And this will have a significant effect on international cooperation and the ability to prosecute and convict terrorists. So rather than making us safer, Bush's sadistic impulses have in fact endangered us again. Thanks, George!