Friday, 27 March 2009

UK complicity in torture

There's been a lot of talk, falling out of the case of Binyam Mohamed, about 'complicity in torture'. But what does that mean? I suggest it's all a bit murky.

Let's pretend Country X has captured a man, AB. AB is a suspected terrorist, and thought to be well placed within a significant terrorist organisation.* Country X comes to the UK and says, 'We have captured AB. We are going to question him. We are willing to share the intelligence from that interrogation with you. Would you like us to put any particular questions to him?'

Now, we know that Country X has a poor human rights record. It is likely that AB will be mistreated during his interrogation. It is possible that mistreatment will qualify as torture.

We also know that AB may have information that if we had it would lead, directly or indirectly, to innocent British lives being saved. In any event, it's pretty much a dead cert that he can provide exceptionally valuable intelligence, and this is a very rare opportunity to get it.

We also know that Country X is going to interrogate him whether we ask for questions to put to him or not.

So we say to Country X, 'Ok, thanks, but the UK does not torture and does not condone torture. Do you promise not to mistreat AB during his questioning?'

And Country X replies 'We don't torture! And of course we won't mistreat AB'.

We doubt whether Country X's assurance is worth much. But it might be.

Is the UK complicit in torture and at moral fault if we take up Country X's offer to put some questions to AB, and it turns out he was tortured during the interrogation?

*I'm not suggesting that this applies to Binyam Mohamed.

1 comment:

dNo said...

Of course the UK should use the information if it protects us. But then dont be sanctimonious liars and pretend we don't...
We take China's money when we are broke, we deal with Saudi... lets just be honest and get on with it.