Illegal interrogation, Private hospital fees and others

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The shocking truth about illegal interrogation methods

The shocking truth about illegal interrogation methods

Sir: I read Hugh McManners' article on torture and interrogation with astonishment ("The truth about torture and interrogation", 2 May). So he doesn't think that hooding people, subjecting them to noise, making them "stressed" by having them spread-eagled against a wall and sitting cross-legged on the floor with their hands on their heads is torture?

He feels that the Red Cross may have noticed this and erroneously considered it to be torture. Well so do I and I hope most other civilised people do too.

There we are, in a foreign country with no reason or invitation to be there and we have the absolute nerve to scoop up the inhabitants who protest at our presence and "stress" them.

Bravo the British military.


Sir: The real truth about torture and interrogation:
Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; August 12, 1949; Part III, Section I, Article 17, Paragraph 4:

"No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."

What part of this legal agreement among nations does Mr McManners not understand? All of the so-called professional techniques that he describes are illegal. Those who practice them are in violation of international law no matter what circumstances, excuses or rationales they might put forth.

Göteborg, Sweden

Latest depravities outrage true Muslims

Sir: I am appalled at the depths of human depravity. First it was the humiliation of the Iraqi detainees at the hands of the US and UK soldiers, then ICRC's report on the ill-treatment of detainees, followed by the Amnesty reports of killings of Iraqi civilians including children. To top it all now the cold-blooded and brutal murder of a poor, innocent man whose only crime was that he was trying to earn a living and hoping to contribute to raising the quality of telecommunications in Iraq.

It seems that the various groups and adversaries are trying to vie with one another in their brutality and savagery. I wonder, has the world gone mad?

As a Muslim, who tries to live a life according to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the example of the Holy prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) I am outraged that this latest atrocity has also been carried out in the name of my religion. It goes without saying that these people have besmirched the sacred name of our religion and they must be marginalised and condemned by all true Muslims.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the parents and family of Mr Berg.

Woodford Green, Essex

Sir: The current Iraq torture scandal demonstrates two fundamental truths.

First, that war makes appalling beasts of the most ordinary people - this is not unique to the Iraqi situation, it is a truism and an excellent reason to search for alternative solutions at all costs.

Second, while it is true that war recruits the worst human instincts, the scandal which has followed these abhorrent acts clearly demonstrates that democracy is alive and well.

No sensible person believes that democracy makes model citizens of all people in all circumstances. But the media reaction and the bringing to justice of those responsible for these crimes is absolutely and exclusively reserved to those countries where democracy is practiced.

The wild statements claiming that these acts of barbarity make hypocrites of those who propound democracy fail to take into account this exclusively democratic reaction to such acts.

Toulouse, France

Sir: In his article "It's a sad end to a fine career, but for the good of his country Mr Rumsfeld has to go" (10 May), Bruce Anderson stated that "US soldiers went into battle to close down the torture chambers".

I seem to remember being told at the time it was to relieve Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, with which he was about to attack us.

Perhaps if we are told the former enough times it will become true. With elections coming, I am sure this will suit Messrs Bush and Blair admirably.


Sir: Inactions speak louder than words. The coalition forces have no estimate of the number of Iraqis they have killed, let alone how many of them were innocent. This communicates to the world only too eloquently the level of esteem in which the coalition leaders hold the Iraqi people. It is no surprise that members of the coalition forces have heard and acted upon that message.

London WC1

Sir: The book of Hosea, which Robert Fisk suggests (7 May) can be pressed into service to justify the horrors of Abu Ghraib, can do no such thing.

The verse about sowing, ploughing and righteousness (hardly in themselves the most belligerent of concepts) is followed by this:
But you have planted wickedness,
you have reaped evil,
you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength
and on your many warriors,
the roar of battle will rise against your people

(Hosea 10:13,14)

Hosea may well have a word for America and her allies in Iraq. But it is hardly one which justifies their actions or offers them much encouragement.

Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

Sir: Tony Blair, speaking of alleged abuses in Iraq, states that people should not leap to conclusions but should wait for the facts. If he had done just that, our troops wouldn't be in Iraq.


Private hospital fees

Sir: Jeremy Laurence's article "Private hospitals charging NHS inflated fees for work" (5 May) inadvertently misleads your readers. It's no secret that NHS trusts have paid high prices in the past for spot-purchasing operations from the private sector, often at short notice.

However, far from the private sector "cashing in" on our drive to treat more patients more quickly, the Department of Health's tough negotiation with the independent sector on a planned, national level is now driving down costs to the NHS and to taxpayers.

This is precisely why, as the article goes on to admit, we are in the middle of a ground-breaking procurement with the independent sector to treat more patients more quickly in treatment centres - in order to avoid expensive, short-term spot-purchasing as far as possible, whilst bringing new capacity and staff to the NHS.

Only two weeks ago we announced a deal to provide 25,000 operations for NHS patients this year - starting within weeks - in existing independent hospitals around England. Under this deal, costs are on a par with equivalent NHS prices. This is considerably lower than previous prices paid under spot-purchasing arrangements, and will allow thousands of patients to have their operations more quickly.

Minister of State for Health
Department of Health
London SW1

Sir: Your article "Private hospitals are charging NHS inflated fees for work" claims that UK private hospitals are demanding twice the NHS cost for treating NHS patients. Such simplistic comparisons do not tell the whole truth.

The finance director of the NHS is on record admitting that there are problems with the data from which the NHS tariff has been calculated and that not all costs are included. BUPA understands that intensive care, high-dependency nursing and some significant staff costs like the full cost of training and pensions are not included in the NHS tariff but are included in our costs.

The Department of Health itself also acknowledges the direct link between low volumes and high unit costs. When afforded the opportunity to plan NHS work, the sector can develop ways of working that suit both sides - as BUPA has in Surrey at the Redwood Diagnosis and Treatment Centre. They provide 12,000 operations per year to the NHS at a price that makes commercial sense to the NHS and to BUPA.

The article considers the contribution of private hospitals in reducing waiting lists for cardiac surgery on cost alone. It ignores the fact that the independent sector reduced waiting lists for this surgery by 80 per cent. These patients would otherwise have continued to wait on an NHS waiting list.

The NHS does not have enough capacity, which is why ministers have been urging hospital trusts to co-operate with the independent sector to increase capacity in the NHS and to meet waiting list targets. I echo these sentiments and would encourage the trend towards greater planning and discussion to ensure that the NHS receives the best possible price.

Managing director, BUPA Hospitals
London WC1

Farm reform at last

Sir: A real good-news story coming out of Brussels! The EU is offering to cut the £2.26bn it spends each year in aid to agricultural exporters (report, 11 May). For years millions of poor farmers around the globe have seen their meagre livelihoods destroyed by the dumping of cheap EU exports. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Stephen Castle's article describes the reaction of the French and German agriculture ministers, but what about the UK response? As supposed champions of reform to the Common Agricultural Policy, Defra should be congratulating the EU commissioners on this groundbreaking proposal and throwing the weight of the UK government behind making it a reality.

Ketton, Rutland

Police advice

Sir: I was dismayed to read your article "Half of terror suspects are freed without any charges" and editorial on 30 April commenting on the recent anti-terror operation in Manchester.

The editorial suggested that the way in which the Greater Manchester police announced the arrests was designed to give them maximum publicity. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact the police requested that the media did not participate in unhelpful speculation, but this request was ignored.

The fact that the individuals arrested were not subsequently charged under anti-terror legislation does not make the operation irrelevant. Six of those released were subsequently re-arrested for other matters and are currently on police bail pending the outcome of those investigations. One of the remaining men has been removed under immigration legislation.

I hope that in the future the media will take the advice of the police and others and not produce alarmist stories every time the police take the action they deem necessary to protect the public.

Minister of State, Home Office
London SW1

Probation merger

Sir: As a psychiatrist I welcome demonstrations by probation officers against the shake-up of the penal system, which merges them with the prison service (report, 11 May) This is the latest step in downgrading probation officers.

They were formerly mature individuals who had had special training in mental illness and psychological problems, alongside social workers. Probation officers offered the first possibility of a supportive relationship to many offenders who from childhood lacked any parental understanding and guidance.

To such people, over-represented in our prisons, probation officers acted as a role-model of great value who offered their clients respect, long-term understanding and concern. For many ex-prisoners the probation officer was the first caring adult they had met. Now the possibility of this valuable relationship is to be sacrificed as the probation officer's role is downgraded to checking that his client attends court.


Losing height

Sir: Although many airlines have announced fare increases due to the current fuel price increases, I'm sure we all expect those airlines to reduce their prices similarly once fuel prices drop to more normal levels don't we? Not.

Sleaford, Lincolnshire

Verbal gymnastics

Sir: The point about Will Self's archaeologist was that he was long-winded (letter, 10 May). How can anyone compare this to Will Self's own exhilarating verbal gymnastics! "Psychogeography" alone is worth the price of the paper, and more.


Take no notice

Sir: I recall a notice on the wall of the men's toilet in HM Treasury building, Riverwalk House, headed "Evacuation Procedure". Bureaucracy gone mad!

London SW13

Sir: The restaurant in the new university where I work displays the sign "Please do not eat your own food." Lawyers and philosophers find somewhere less demanding to eat.

Last year I bought a plastic bottle of vitamin D capsules. I later found it to be marked "Do not use if seal is broken." After a while I cut a hole in the bottom.


Political records

Sir: With reference to the recent Labour Party election broadcast, never mind what Michael Howard did, as a traditional Labour voter I am much more concerned by what Tony Blair is doing.

Sandgate, Kent