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Thursday, April 14, 2005

How to turn police and prosecutors into thugs 

Human Rights Watch issues a report which blows the lid off the pathetic "but they told us they wouldn't do it" excuse Still at Risk: Diplomatic Assurances No Safeguard Against Torture
Saying that 'diplomatic assurances' have been given that a prisoner would not be tortured has allowed many western governments to skirt their own laws against torture by shipping suspected terrorists and others off to Syria, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Algeria, Moroko, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey.
The report looks at the United States, of course, but also reviews cases from Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria and Turkey -- all countries where men and women, even families, have either actually been sent off to be tortured or where courts have stopped government officials from doing this.
Here are the key findings: "individual protection is consistently sacrificed to state interest, . . . even well-intentioned monitoring under diplomatic auspices is ineffectual, and . . . in the end, sending and receiving states have a common interest in pretending assurances are meaningful rather than verifying that they actually are." Their conclusion is that "the practice should stop."
I agree. But not only am I outraged on behalf of the people whose cases are listed in the report, but I also worry about how such practices will threaten the quality of the justice system for all of us.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Using torture or the threat of torture to keep 'bad guys' locked up is so much easier and quicker, and certainly a lot cheaper, than using highly skilled police and prosecutors with good investigative techniques to develop cases which can be prosecuted in court.
Why bother investigating a case when you can get a confession or an allegation against someone else just by threatening a suspect with torture -- as long as you don't really care whether you got the truth or not. And why bother assembling admissable evidence and putting together a case good enough for court, when its so much easier to just ship suspects off somewhere else -- as long as you don't really care whether the person is actually guilty or not
And if you don't care about truth or justice, then our police and prosecutors no longer need to be intelligent, principled and skilled -- they can just be a gang of thugs. Like they are in Syria and Egypt and Uzbekistan and . . .

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