Lord Hope: Torture and our charming US allies

From the Clifford Chance/Essex lecture by the law lord

The official position of the United States, in response to criticisms of what has been happening at Guantanamo Bay, is that the techniques it uses adhere to international accords that ban the use of torture and that "all appropriate measures" are used in interrogation.

I have no doubt that these words have been carefully chosen. But they are, and are designed to be, inscrutable. We do not know, and we are not meant to know, what is going on. The place where the prisoners are being held is beyond the rule of law. Unless and until the US Supreme Court decides otherwise, they do not have the protection of any court.

We can assume whatever has been, and is being, done to the prisoners has been, and is being, done with the cold and ruthless efficiency that characterises the actions of officials who are determined to obtain results and whose actions are not subject to international inspection.

Douglas Hurd recalls writing angrily to his friend Tony Lloyd from the British Embassy in Peking in 1954: "A French journalist wrote that he had come to the definite conclusion that there were no concentration camps or evil practices in Chinese prisons. Words probably written within a few hundred yards of the prison where recalcitrant Americans eat their food off the floor with their hands chained behind their backs. But the people who came here are not in the mood for that particular brand of fact, which they consider old fashioned and unreal when they see the smiling charming faces of their hosts."

We must not allow the smiling charming faces of our American allies to divert us from seeking to discover what is being done by their interrogators. How can we expect to eliminate torture elsewhere if there is no way of knowing whether or not it has been practised at Guantanamo Bay?

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