Sunday, December 11, 2005

Britain's Top Court on the Impermissibility of Torture.

Sarah Lyall, "Britain's Top Court Rules Information Gotten by Torture Is Never Admissible Evidence," The New York Times, December 9, 2005, at p. A6.
Abu Ghraib: The Politics of Torture (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2004), p. 29.

Britain's highest court has declared that all evidence obtained by torture is inadmissible in British courts, but also that Britain has a "positive obligation" to uphold anti-torture principles at home and internationally. Once again, the British have demonstrated a sharp moral awareness in their jurisprudence. This judicial opinion has been written with specific reference to the actions of the United States and American tribunals today.

Torture is never a legitimate means to the ends of law or justice. The very terms -- torture and justice -- are mutually exclusive. So is a means/ends analysis in this context. "Rights" are not "widgets," a point I once tried to make to a lawyer, with some claim (in his own mind) to philosophical awareness, not surprisingly he was employed by New Jersey's OAE. Speaking for the Law Lords, Lord Hoffman said:

"In our own century, many people in the United States, heirs to [the] common law tradition, have felt their country dishonored by its use of torture outside the jurisdiction, [it happens even within the nation, in its worst communities,] and its practice of extra-legal "rendition" of suspects to countries where they will be tortured. ... "

In a separate opinion, Lord Bingham states:

"The principles of the common law, standing alone, in my opinion, compel the exclusion of third-party torture evidence as unreliable, unfair, offensive to ordinary standards of humanity and decency and incompatible with the principles which should animate a tribunal seeking to administer justice, ..."

The next day, December 10, 2005, I encountered a surprisingly emotional editorial in The New York Times,

There are many reasons why Americans should not torture prisoners, but there is one that may help those who are still not moved by the fact that it is morally wrong and illegal, damages the nation's image, and puts American soldiers who are taken prisoners in mortal peril: It usually doesn't work.

It has become abundantly clear that some American jurisdictions conduct their own "secret" information gathering missions right here at home, usually involving abuse by forensic psychiatrists of victims, then cover-ups of those psychological tortures. They operate with disregard for the privacy, autonomy and fundamental Constitutional and human rights of their victims. These crimes are justified either in terms of "protecting the public," or by some other, equally transparent falsehood.

Among the most disturbing revelations concerning torture is the evidence of participation by physicians and other so-called "therapists" in the design and implementation of psychological torture methods. These techniques are designed to cause emotional suffering and disintegration of personality, so as to elicit information from "detainees" or "subjects" rendered incapable of resistance. The word "persons" to describe the targeted individuals is rarely used by the psychologists doing such work, either in Iraq or within the United States. Steps are taken by so-called "therapists" to ensure that they will remain anonymous to their victims.

The public must be protected from such self-proclaimed "protectors" in government and from incompetent judges and courts, violating their fundamental rights in the interest of defining or determining what is for "their own good." It is the human rights of persons that are for their own good.

Among those rights is a person's exclusive authority to decide just what is "best" for him- or herself, emotionally, and not to have others presume to do so -- much less to do so secretly, with disdain for their equality and dignity, under the cloak of anonymity. Anyone questioning an impaired person, while concealing his or her own identity, is already a human rights violator, but then to claim the status of a "therapist" for having done so, is to reach a new low of hypocrisy and mendacity. For such a person to speak of ethics is cruel and absurd.

Tribunals making use of illicit information, knowingly relying on information procured through torture -- wherever they happen to be -- deprive themselves of any claim to respect, even as "bureaucrats of torment" deny such dignity and respect to the human beings whose rights they ignore, while continuing to cover-up those violations, every day.

A question to ask ourselves, as we pursue this so-called "War on Terror," is whether we are in danger of becoming the source of terror for millions of persons, especially the poorest people on the planet, through our gobal efforts to "pacify" dangerous regions and apprehend the perpetrators of international crime. We must not become international criminals in opposing international crime. At home, we must not succumb to "psychobabble" rationalizations of rights deprivations that are kept secret from their victims, in the interests of a false and shallow conception of public safety or enforced "normality."

Secrecy is the enemy of freedom and legality. Those government officials who are aware of such tortures and fail to prevent them, lack any standing to discuss the ethics or legality in the actions of others. Do you still call yourselves "justices"?

Unethical actions by powerful hypocrites and torturers can never lead to legitimacy in legal judgments, not even when the hypocrites wear three-piece suits or a stethoscope around their necks, or black robes, for that matter. Lawyers, psychiatrists, and others who reduce persons accused of wrongdoing to instruments of secret governmental purposes, or transform them into unwilling experimental subjects, stand in the dock of history with Dr. Mengele and Adolf Eichman, where they belong, as torturers.

... it is still possible to chart, in the history of "extreme interrogation" since the late '50s, a general move towards more "scientific" and "touchless" techniques, the lineaments of which are all-too evident in the morbid accounts now coming out of Iraq. The most famous compilation of these techniques can be found in the CIA's manual KUBARK COUNTERINTELLIGENCE INTERROGATION, produced in 1963, and in particular its chapter "The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistance Sources," ...

That CIA manual states:

The result of external pressures of sufficient intensity is the loss of those defenses most recently acquired by civilized man ... "Relatively small degrees of homeostatic derangement, fatigue, pain, sleep, loss, or anxiety may impair these functions."

With a complete and cynical disregard for Constitutional guarantees, too many government functionaries in the worst American jurisdictions make use of the fruits of psychological torture, secretly, then obtain what they regard as confirming information, externally, so as to present that information to tribunals (who pretend not to know how the information was obtained in the first place), relying on it in reaching their tainted decisions, while wrapping themselves in the grand phrases of the law and the same Constitution that they systematically ignore and violate.

What have we become?



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