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August 12, 2004

Means and ends

An excellent 'Badger Rant' on the admissability of evidence obtained through torture for use in UK courts is commended to all, particularly those of you who think what happens in Guantanamo Bay or Tora Bora has nothing to do with us. He's 'angry and a little scared' and, on reading this, so am I.

We lose all integrity when we abandon basic human rights. As it is done in my name as a British subject/citizen, I lose some of my integrity when my government and my system of justice do this.

Some may ask whether I would be so keen to stick up for terrorists if they had killed a friend or relative of mine. This pernicious line of arguing assumes guilt not innocence before a fair trial, assumes one set of rights for some people and not others and is contrary to the basic precepts of British justice as I understood it. Apparently, though, no more.

August 12, 2004 in Politics | Permalink


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Hopefully no one will ever hold you personally accountable. Seems a lot of us are dealing with this situation now. As an American abroad, I worry about potential consequences I could have to deal with because of what the elected (and non-elected, GW) politicians do on my behalf.

As a citizen of any country, it is our duty to scrutinize the decisions/acts of our governments. Not much consolation when basic decencies are being ignored.

Posted by: aboutJane | Aug 16, 2004 3:07:02 PM

The trouble with the "Hampstead Liberal" set is their unwillingness to acknowledge that the threat faced at the moment by the "West" is totally different to any previous situation and that governments are inevitably grasping in the air for a means to counter it.

Simon Hoggart's sketch in the Guardian recently was an excellent critique of this problem. What do you do when a group of people are prepared to die in the process of inflicting death and destruction to civilians? What do the police do if they suspect that they know who these people are?

On the other hand, whilst the Guantanamo situation was just about excusable 3 years ago, in what might be described as a "state of international emergency", has - of course - long out-lived any benefit of the doubt the international community might have given it. Likewise, the use of torture, even extreme torture is understandable in certain situations (24 series #2, anyone?) but should not be standard practice of "civilized" nations.

However, the Hampstead Liberal set has done itself no favours at all in crowing about Guantanamo and torture with no acknowledgement that this issue is not a black and white one.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 25, 2004 1:15:27 PM

Chris - did I mention the 'Hampstead Liberal' or are you just suggesting I am one?

Basic human rights occasionally are black and white. Right to a fair trial. Right to a lawyer. Assumption of innocence until proven guilty. These are black and white issues. Nor would I say that Guantanamo Bay was 'just about excuseable' three years ago.

One of the key issues underpinning resentment among many Muslims is the sense that there is one law for westerners and one for Arabs: do as we say not as we do.

Until such time as all Guantanamo prisoners are treated with the same justice as any US/UK soldier would expect as a prisoner of war or as a citizen of our countries or as a citizen of the country in which they were seized, the starkness of these double standards rankle in the middle East and in Pakistan - making peace less, not more, likely.

The short term upshot may be marginally increased risks, that I acknowledge, but the payoff of being seen to act in accordance with the principles we espouse in the 'free world' will long term be greater.

Posted by: Tim Aldrich | Aug 31, 2004 1:58:46 PM