12 February 2010

Better that some innocent should suffer . . .

A particularly nasty article by the florid Con Coughlin in today's Telegraph argues that national security should trump human rights.

Listen carefully, you silly little man: I have been tortured, and would have confessed to anything to make it stop. As a source of accurate information, torture only works if the subject is asked the same question time and again, without prompting, and by comparing the answers.

But that is standard interrogation technique without torture, and just as effective - over time. Torture substitutes sadism for forensic skill. Its purpose is to degrade.

This is not to deny that the legal definition of torture is much too broad. Psychological duress is not torture (vide plea-bargaining) and should be separately assessed.

I learned the lesson of due process long ago, when travelling in a Havana taxi with my father shortly after Castro's revolution. The driver said how wonderful it was that so many evil men were being shot. My father demurred, saying that executions without proper trials meant that some might not be guilty.

'Better that some innocent should suffer than that the guilty should escape punishment', the driver declared.

'What if they should shoot you?' Dad asked.

'Why would they do that?' the man replied indignantly. 'I haven't done anything.'

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what an idiot. The phrase "pandering to civil-rights campaigners" say it all to me. It's as if civil rights are some kind of special interest instead of a cornerstone of CIVILisation.

    Also, I wonder if he's stopped to think about whether torturing suspected terrorists - even if some useful information was obtained - has the net effect of improving our security, given what a handy recruiting tool it is for jihadists.