Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Outsourcing torture

Last night Four Corners continued its two-part series into the case for officially-sanctioned torture. My review of the first part was here. The second part is entitled Ghost Prisoners. It deals with the outsourcing of torture. This show is less concerned with the theory and with more of the practical implications of torture. Its findings confirm my initial impressions that torture is almost never a reasonable way of dealing with a terrorist suspect.

Routinely, under its so-called Rendition Program. the CIA fly terrorists, low level militants and innocents to Egypt and even to Islamic countries like Syria (yes!), Jordon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia – the prisoners are ‘rendered’ – they are dealt with effectively by people ‘with similar cultures’. In practice this means they are brutally tortured.

In countries such as Egypt torture is routine for almost any police suspects.

Much of this episode is taken up with the case of the Australian, Mandouh Habib who was taken to Egypt for 6 months. Habib had connections with terrorists and was in some respects a creepy, violent man with links to Islamic fanatics. He had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan he claims to escape death threats at home. In Kabul he coincidentally (perhaps) stayed in the same guesthouse as David Hicks.

Captured in Afghanistan and shipped to Pakistan he was then airlifted to Cairo where he he seems to have been subject to terrible torture - hideous – humiliation, solitary confinement and severe physical abuse. Eventually he admitted everything although it subsequently turned out to be lies. He was then shipped to Guantanamo Bay and eventually released – Four Corners claimed to avoid investigation into the procedures governing his rendition.

Almost certainly the Australian Government knew of his rendition. It would be natural for them to know given that the US is a close ally. Documentary proof seems to confirm this.

Under international law the torture of prisoners is illegal. The US, and other governments, may be able to claim that while they sent prisoners to other countries that they did not know they were being tortured. This would be a certain lie but might be enough to avoid hefty compensation payments.

But the torture of many of these men is probably immoral and again, as the first Four Corners showed, almost completely ineffective. Habib once he had been tortured long enough confessed to anything – but it was uninformative garbage as his eventual release demonstrates. I cannot agree that these practices help fight the international war on terrorism.

Australia cannot reasonably agree or be complicit in the outsourcing of torture if it at the same time condemns countries, like Egypt, for its human rights abuses. We should not mimic or utilize the barbarousc criminal justice practices of these uncivilized regimes.


Sir Henry Casingbroke said...

And almost certainly Mick Kelty, Downer and Phil Ruddock lied about it. I suppose, we can explain a utilitarian MOTIVE as an explanation. As per the Mandy Rice Davies immortal phrase: "well they would say that, wouldn't they?"

rabee said...

Syria is hardly Islamic. They're just a bunch of secular thugs, who have made torture the main component of their legal system. As a rule, if you are ever arrested in Syria, ask what they want you to confess to and then confess.

hc said...

Rabee, They might be thugs but they are (according to my sources) mainly Islamic. The overwhelming majority of the Syria is Sunni Muslim: 70% Sunni Muslim, 12% Christians (mostly Orthodox and Greek Catholic) and 18% other minority groups including Jews and Druzes.

I was amazed that the US would send prisoners to Syria. I thought they weren't on speaking terms.

rabee said...


What are you talking about? Syria is ruled by secular thugs against the will of the majority who happen to be Muslims.

The regime is not Islamic, and the the Christian countries (US, Australia, UK) did not send their prisoners to be tortured by the 70% Sunni population.

hc said...

Rabee, Assad is a member of a Shiite sect (Allawi?) but some of his cabinet ministers are Sunni. I don't know how strong their religious convictions are or whether they are, essentially just thugs.

I didn't suggest Syria was a democracy. Nor did I suggest that Sunni were the torturers. But Syria is mainly an Islamic country.

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