If Britain is to be regarded as a civilised country, torture has no place in measures to protect itself


Barbed Wire Prisonsource: The Independent 
published: 20 May 2014

The fallout from the “war on terror” is a process seemingly without end, and not the least of its consequences is what it appears to have done for civilised standards on the part of the UK authorities.

Torture, extra-judicial killing, the maltreatment of prisoners of war: all are casting their shadow once more.

Never mind that British soldiers are routinely described as the “best in the world”, or that, almost without exception, they have performed a near-impossible task in Iraq and Afghanistan with great bravery, professionalism and integrity. Those exceptions matter. It only takes one departure from the norms that any humane society would expect, and that society both damages itself and puts itself at greater risk from those who oppose it.

In this context, the name Baha Mousa will always resonate. Mousa was the 26-year-old Iraqi hotel receptionist who died while in British military custody in Basra in 2003, tortured to death in a case which, as a public inquiry finally reported in 2011, showed elements of the Army in an appalling light. It is the Mousa case which gave rise to what is – so far – the only instance of a British soldier being jailed for war crimes.

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