Torture and soup
No, it’s not one of the lesser-known stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but a Radio 4 programme from last night.
I don’t catch as much R4 evening radio as I’d like to (whenever I tune into this 8pm slot I nearly always stumble across something excellent) but I reckon the 30 minutes of “The Torturer’s Tale” was especially good.
Basically, it was short interviews with people who had tortured other people and – to different degrees – were prepared to talk about it. Not something you actually come across very often.
There was a torturer from Kinshasa in the DRC who (though he sounded like a black Congolese man himself) talked like an old-style colonial master about how “Africans need to be hit to make them tell the truth”. There was a Greek torturer from the time of the military dictatorship who talked about torturing recruits in the army as well as suspected insurgents. (Actually, as the narrator said, this off-puttingly genial old man was – purposely? – “vague”, so you couldn’t always tell what he was saying about who did what to whom).
There was an American Vietnam vet who spoke about torturing Vietnamese prisoners but wouldn’t quite admit that he was talking about himself (though he clearly was). “Conflicted” was a word that kept coming up – “he’s now conflicted”, “he seems conflicted about what he did”.
This wasn’t an easy listen (see my little two-minute YouTuber on how my girlfriend deserted the dinner table – and the soup – when she realised I was going to have this on in the living room. Hey, I feel for her! It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who works at Amnesty!)
But it was, as the record reviewers like to say, “essential listening”. Catch it on iPlayer before next Monday.
It’s amazing, when you think about it, how far the issue of torture has entered into the “mainstream” in recent years. Once it was esoteric “high art” stuff like “The Battle Of Algiers” or specialist documentaries. Now it’s “Reservoir Dogs”, “24” and … “Spooks”. Check out Tim Hancock blogging on the Telegraph site on a forthcoming episode of Spooks that features a scene where one of the MI5 heroes is waterboarded. (You’ll recall our excellent 90-second viral film “Stuff Of Life”, where we showed how horrible this form of torture actually is).
In fact don’t just check it out – but get signed up to My Telegraph (their blogs platform) and have your say in the comments later today.
And don’t forget to eat some soup.
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.