'It's all about the use of torture...'

As zingy catchphrases go, it's … er, different.

But this is how Kate Allen opened her Channel 4 News interview last night talking about the Abu Qatada case (which I blogged on yesterday). 

Today's news – that the much-anticipated inquiry into allegations that UK officials have in some way been involved in torture in other countries is to be cancelled while other investigations are underway – kind of proves Kate's point: it's all about torture (or at least a whole series of recent human rights stories have been). Lately we've also had the ten-year point in Guantánamo’s deeply inglorious history (multiple allegations of torture of detainees both in the camp and en route to it), and the DPP's announcement on UK spies (alleged collusion in torture), that, of course, was also linked to development on the inquiry.

It's not literally all about torture. It's also about unfair trials, detention without trial, rendition, and any number of related issues. But torture – and the total ban on torture – goes to the heart of so many human rights cases. How are vulnerable people to be treated? Political opponents. Prisoners of war. Criminal suspects. Those deemed to be “terrorists” or a “threat to national security”, and so on and so on.

The whole point is that countries can’t opt out of the ban on torture, or be mostly in but sometimes not quite in. The UN Convention Against Torture spells it out: “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.”

That’s about as categorical as one can be. Or to quote Kate Allen again – this time in slightly Dickensian mood – “The ban on torture is there for the best of us and the worst of us”.

Amnesty UK Director Kate Allan on Channel 4 News

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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