Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cameron to launch inquiry into MI5 torture allegations.

It's so rare that Cameron and Clegg's coalition do anything which I agree with that it's nice to note that they are doing something with which I am in complete concurrence.

Victims of torture carried out with the knowledge of British agents could receive compensation, the Government has decided.

David Cameron is expected to announce a judge-led inquiry shortly into the long-running allegations that British intelligence officers were complicit in British residents being tortured by the security services of other countries.

Before the general election, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrats called for an investigation. Ministers from both parties hope the decision will clear the air after the repeated allegations and limit the spate of civil cases now being pursued in the courts. Compensation will be payable in cases where the inquiry finds someone was tortured and that British agents were aware of it.
It will be interesting to see how Labour react to this news. I am quite certain that they won't put forward the idiotic defence mounted by some Republicans in the United States that the Con-Dem coalition are attempting to "politicize policy differences" with the previous administration or voice the defence often used by Dick and Liz Cheney that "enhanced interrogation techniques" save lives.

Any Labour MP or minister who tried either of those tactics would face public condemnation, as it is widely understood here that torture is morally reprehensible and is justified under no circumstances.

I also wonder what effect it will have on Obama's "look forward, not backwards" policy if a British judge finds that the British government did facilitate torture of prisoners held in American custody. How long can you go on looking forward when another country's legal systems are saying that the techniques employed by the previous administration amounted to torture and were, therefore, war crimes?

This is the thing which I find most disappointing about the Obama administration. He came to power promising that he would restore the United States as a country of laws, and yet he seems reluctant to have any of those laws applied to the previous President and Vice President, when both are on public record admitting having authorised torture.

I don't see how he can say he is restoring the US as a country of laws whilst this anomaly exists.

Last night human rights groups welcomed the Government's move. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "Only this kind of inquiry can end the slow bleed of embarrassing revelation and expensive litigation and draw a line under this shameful business once and for all."

Clare Algar, executive director of the legal action charity Reprieve, said the inquiry should be as open and transparent as possible. "Torture, and complicity in torture, is morally repulsive, counterproductive, and illegal under both national and international law, and these allegations are, sadly, too numerous to ignore. We cannot learn from history and avoid repeating our mistakes if we do not know what that history is," she said.

Cameron and Clegg are doing what Obama appears afraid to do. They are going to shine a bright light into the shadows and ask what exactly Tony Blair and the Labour government did during the War on Terror.

And they are going to allow the victims of that torture to receive compensation.

That is the very least that the UK can do for these men. And that is the flip side of Obama's refusal to examine what Bush and Cheney did on a much larger scale.

I thought it shameful that Obama's government behaved the way it did in the recent case of Maher Arar. But, more importantly, Obama's refusal to ever examine the criminal behaviour of the Bush regime man that the victims of that criminality can never be compensated.

As The New York Times said at the time:
There is no excuse for the Obama administration’s conduct. It should demonstrate some moral authority by helping Canada’s investigation, apologizing to Mr. Arar and writing him a check.
Hopefully, Cameron and Clegg's inquiry will reveal enough to shame Obama into doing what he should have done long ago.

You can't turn the page without reading what is on that page. And yet that is what Obama is trying to do.

Click here for full article.

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