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Talking about torture

The man was completely immersed in the water. When he emerged he gasped for air. He looked frightened.


Was I watching waterboarding that method of torture in which a detainee is made to think they are drowning? Actually no, this was Griff Rhys Jones upturning his canoe in his enjoyable BBC TV series Rivers but such nastier things were on my mind after a day of interviews about allegations of UK complicity in torture. There was more waterboarding of another sort later in the programme when Griff took to his surf board to ride the Severn bore. Which was impressive.


In the face of criticism and tough questions from two parliamentary committees in less than a week, the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary jointly authored a piece for the Sunday Telegraph. Im not sure whether they will be sharing writing credits again in the future. Somehow I doubt Miliband & Johnson will become as famous as Lennon & McCartney though it does have a nice ring to it.  


Anyway, whatever the Governments strategy and some reckon that by saying that it is not possible to eradicate all risk of suspects being mistreated when they are held by foreign governments the aim is is to prepare the ground for actual damning evidence of UK complicity to emerge Miliband & Johnson  made this a much bigger story than Id expected.  


Mind you, radio phone-ins I did interviews with LBC, 5-Live and TalkSport love it. It is alarming how many callers are ready to try and excuse torture in the name of keeping us safe from terrorists.


If thats a measure of public opinion (it isnt) it is no wonder the Bush administration in the USA found it so easy to justify extreme interrogation methods such as waterboarding, which we now know the US used against two men more than 260 times.


The BBC has been running an interview with John Scarlett, Head of MI6, in which he joins the chorus of denials of UK complicity (Miliband, Johnson & Scarlett I like that) and denies that British intelligence services had been compromised by their close relationship with counterparts in the US.


"Our American allies know that we are our own service, that we are here to work for the British interests and the United Kingdom. We're an independent service working to our own laws nobody else's and to our own values," he says. Which is presumably why the UK has never  felt it necessary to speak out about the USs use of waterboarding.

 Interestingly, the Guardian reports that the US Attorney General is close to appointing a special criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged abuses by the CIA of prisoners held at detention centres around the world. 

There is no suggestion that our agents committed abuses but plenty of reason to think that they may have been complicit in torture. But the Government continues to resist calls by Amnesty International, other NGOs, those two parliamentary committees and many other politicians for a full, independent inquiry. After a torrid few days media coverage an inquiry is needed more than ever to restore public confidence.

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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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