Channel 4 is condemned over torture TV show

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The Independent Online

A "reality" TV show by Channel 4 where seven volunteers are subjected to Guantanamo Bay-type torture has been condemned by medical and human rights groups as "grossly distasteful" and "offensive".

A "reality" TV show by Channel 4 where seven volunteers are subjected to Guantanamo Bay-type torture has been condemned by medical and human rights groups as "grossly distasteful" and "offensive".

The programme, Guantanamo Guidebook, was filmed in an east London warehouse and shows the men being assaulted, stripped naked, verbally abused, sexually humiliated and exposed to sensory deprivation by a team of former US military interrogators.

Several of the men - who include a martial arts champion, "Britain's fittest fireman" and a triathlete - became ill during the 48 hours of ill-treatment - called "torture-lite" by the US authorities. One man fell ill with hypothermia, another wet himself, and others suffered cramps, hallucinations and vomiting.

Channel 4 is screening the show late tomorrow night as part of a series investigating the Pentagon's illegal use of torture in the "war on terror", but has been accused of glamorising the abuses suffered by torture victims.

Dr Nimisha Patel, chief psychologist for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which treats torture survivors, claimed the programme risked being seen by some viewers as "sadistic voyeurism". He said: "Torture is torture, and as such is always inhumane and unjustifiable. The packaging of it as entertainment by Channel 4 is not only grossly distasteful but potentially offensive to many, including survivors of torture and their families.

"Where should we draw the line? What would we say if there was a similar recreation of experiences in a Nazi concentration camp?"

Frank Ledwidge, the senior human rights lawyer for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the official Vienna-based arms control and security agency, said: "There is no such thing as 'torture-lite' any more than there is 'rape-lite'."

Their criticisms follow complaints earlier this month from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Denmark, which called on Channel 4 to drop the programme because it had broken the "absolute prohibition" against torture.

But Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, insisted all volunteers had been screened by doctors and psychologists and carefully chosen from 150 potential participants. They were briefed on what to expect and filming was overseen by a doctor. She said Channel 4 was determined to educate viewers on the use of illegal torture by the US and British complicity in that torture.

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