Monday, 19 May 2014

Do we really want our security forces to use torture?

A constant source of annoyance to Liberal Democrats and others with a positive attitude to Europe is the confusion between the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights. (Incidentally, no such confusion arises over the EBU and Eurovision, probably because even UKIP realises that attempting to ban UK's participation in the annual song contest would be very unpopular!)

There are those Tories, though, who know the difference and still want us to leave both. Home Secretary Theresa May has shown that her mind is working that way. The official Conservative line of repealing UK's Human Rights Act is bad enough: it would leave our membership of ECHR intact, but mean that only those who could afford to take their case to Strasbourg would be protected by it. To go further would imply that the UK no longer respects the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention, except where already enshrined in our own legislation - and, of course, that legislation can be amended.

From the introduction to the Official Texts section of the ECHR website:
The rights and freedoms secured by the Convention include the right to life, the right to a fair hearing, the right to respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the protection of property. The Convention prohibits, in particular, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, slavery and forced labour, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms secured by the Convention.

Last year, when Theresa May made her reactionary speech, I had considered posting that she was starting us on the slippery slope that led inevitably to the torture of suspects, but rejected so doing for fear of being thought paranoid. However, it seems from a recent Amnesty International survey that over a quarter of those sampled do not consider torture in the case of suspected terrorist offences unreasonable. If this is representative of the British electorate, then there is a grave danger that a future majority government would feel empowered to use the first "emergency" to push through legislation which would put Life on Mars in the shade. It's all the more reason not to give the Conservatives a majority next year.

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