It is no surprise to me that detectives in the Metropolitan Police have been using waterboarding.
The government has specifically decided that it is acceptable to gain information from torture in the context of the “War on Terror”. When I recently gave evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, to the effect that torture is now government policy, I was disappointed to find that rather than take the view that torture is illegal, the MPs were concerned to establish just how much torture material might be accepted before it becomes illegal.
The prohibition of torture must be absolute. Once you say it is OK in some circumstances, once you admit torture into government policy, it will spread like a cancer. You cannot then claim to be shocked that agents of the state thought that, if it was justified in x case, it might be justified in y case too.
This is well understood in international law. That is why Article 2 of the UN Convention Against Torture states:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
We are a signatory to that convention and bound by it in law. But as anybody will plainly learn who watches the youtube link posted above, we are plainly breaking it. It is the grossest hypocrisy. New Labour have sent public policy back to medieval times. Is it any wonder the police follow?
It also points up perfectly the hypocrisy of Gordon Brown’s reform plan. He says he wishes to
strengthen the powers of parliamentary select committees. But Foreign Secretary David Miliband has point blank refused to appear before the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights to answer questions on government policy on using torture material. New Labour’s real attitude to parliament and people is one of total arrogance.