Thursday, October 19, 2006

38% of Kenyans support torture

According to a BBC survey, in answer to the question:
Most countries have agreed to rules prohibiting torturing prisoners. Which position is closer to yours?
a)Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives
b)Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights
53% of Kenyans voted for clear rules against torture to be maintained while 38% would like them to be relaxed. This compares with a global average of 59% against and 29% for "some" torture.

I, for one, am to be counted among the former. Times of utmost peril to society are the times we need to reinforce, not relax, protections against human rights violations. For it is at such times that governments are liable to use and abuse any and all powers vested in them. Just look at what's happening in the US. Now, just by decree, the government can arrest and hold you incommunicado, without access to lawyer, without the right to challenge your detention in a court of law and without the right to see the evidence against you. In the course of your detention, you will be subject to torture in order to reveal information you may or may not have. And to what end? To protect the freedom that terrorists apparently detest. You cannot protect liberty by denying it to those who are most at risk of losing it.

Also, imagine what would happen should our despotic leaders be allowed to possess such powers. Any opposition sympathiser would find himself branded a terrorist and hauled of to jail for torture or worse. Remember the infamous Nyayo House torture chambers? These would now acquire the respectability of legality. And who would be safe then?

I heard the most eloquent exposition of the need to protect fundamental freedoms, even those of terrorists, in this exchange between Sir Thomas More and young William Roper in the movie A Man For All Seasons (based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England, who refused to sign a letter asking the Pope to annul the King's marriage and resigned rather than take an oath declaring the king the supreme head of the English church):

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!


Jon said...

I think Patrick supports torture judging by the YouTube pictures of Bush and English footballers that I see on this site :-)

Anonymous said...

Am against torture. Nothing new there. Just do not wish it to be abused by those in power in case it be leagalised. God forbid!