Monday, May 01, 2006

Tony Baldry MP - Torture and Rendition

In 2005 I was part of the email "Make History Poverty Campaign". Basically what it involved was every other week they asked you to email a political figure about Global poverty policy, the idea being that several thousand would email the said person and create an imperative for action. The usual suspects were included Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, other ministers, European ministers and global leaders. Each email was timed to a certain event such as G8, the budget, European summits etc.

Anyway one such email was to your local MP, mine happens to be Tony Baldry, so I sent the email expected nothing further to happen. Now I am stuck on a snail mail list for International Policy, which if nothing else gives me something to open in the post.

The latest communique from TBa (not to be confused with Blair) is on UK policy of torture and rendition. Apparently his speech (15/02/06) was reported in
The Independent and elsewhere.

TBa seeks confirmation of two things
1. That the UK does not support the use of torture to gain evidence even in cases of major terrorism events and distances themselves from any world power which would seek or has been proved to use terrorism for such means

2. That the UK does not:
(a) deport or extradite any person to another state where there are grounds to believe said person will face torture.
(b) Would not assist in any rendition through UK or overseas territories if to do so would put us in breach of our national and international obligations.

Needless to say TBa receives confirmation from The Minister for Trade (Ian Pearson) on behalf of the govt. Although he states there are some difficulties on the status of Guantanamo Bay. In answer to this anomaly he re-iterates the govt position previously made by TB (Tony Blair this time).

"We have made it clear that we regard the circumstances under which the detainees continue to be held in Guantanamo Bay as unacceptable, and the US Government are fully aware of our views."
- Ian Pearson, Minister for Trade
The other interesting parts of TBa's speech are the quotes from various people that he has found to support his arguments.

On the assertion that torture is somehow acceptable government policy to prevent major terrorist incidents:

"there was a before 9/11 and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off."
- Cofer Black, Former chief of counter-terrorist centre of the CIA reports to a House of Representatives and the US senate Committee on Intelligence.

On historical UK precedence on the use of torture in the UK:

"We have seen that the use of torture, though illegal by the common law, was justified by virtue of the extraordinary power of the crown which could, in times of emergency, override the common law."
- Sir William Holdsworth in his "History of English Law"

TBa notes at this point that the first act of the long parliament in 1640 at the time of the English civil war, was to abolish the court of Star Chamber, where torture evidence had been received.

On the US policy of rendition:

"It is the policy of the United States ... to comply with its laws and comply with treaty obligations, including those under the Convention Against Torture"
- Secretary of State Rice 5 December 2005

President Bush on International Law:

"International Law? I better call my lawyer ... I don't know what you are talking about by International Law "
- 2003

Appellate Committee (House of Lords) findings 8 December 2005 A (FC) and others v the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

"Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country. For centuries, the common law has set its face against torture ... Torture attracts universal condemnation ... No civilised society condones its use. Unhappily, condemnatory words are not always matched by conduct."
- Lord Nicholls

"Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished."
- Lord Brown

These are not all the quotes, there are many more fine words of condemnation as well as comments regarding the unofficial use or blind eye approach to torture.

Although it is good to see policy debated and questioned in society, a mark of a civilised society would be where such topics would not need to be discussed. Any consideration of the use of torture would be abhorrent and universally unacceptable.

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