Thursday, 25 April 2013

Save Abu Qatada

I'd have thought this was obvious, but judging by my Twitter feed, it isn't. So here we go again, in simple words. 

The Conservatives want to export Abu Qatada to Jordan, where evidence obtained under torture will be used to imprison or execute him. 

Four objections to torture: 
1. It's immoral.
2. It's illegal.
3. If you don't like 1 or 2, try this: it doesn't work. People will say anything to make it stop. 
4. If you do it to your enemies, your enemies will do it to your people. Once Britain openly supports torture (rather than simply practicing it, as currently), nobody can object when British people are tortured elsewhere. 

The Conservatives are thinking of temporarily suspending the UK's membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (largely drafted by British lawyers) so that they can send Qatada away. Again, in simple terms, here's why that's a bad idea. 

Currently, the ECHR says this:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 
Nice and simple. Not 'No one nice'. 

1. Human rights are acquired by being human. There's nothing in the concept which adds 'unless we don't like you'. That's the point of universal human rights: everybody's got them. Someone tweeted that you have to shoulder responsibilities to gain rights. Wrong. Babies have human rights. People with mental health issues have human rights. Rapists and genocidal maniacs have human rights. 

It's like this: to be a civilisation, you have to behave in a civilised fashion. If you decide that you'll behave in the same way as a genocidal maniac, you've resigned as a nation/state/entity from civilisation. The mark of a civilised polity is how it treats the worst people, not how comfortable the lives of the conformists may be. A nation which tolerates the vilest people is a great nation. 

2. Once we decide that human rights can be switched on and off like a tap, where do we stop? Today, cartoon beardy terrorist sympathisers. Tomorrow: Basque nationalists. The day after: student protesters in need of a kicking, secondary picketers, badger cull saboteurs, the unemployed and roads protesters. Then a leftwing government might decide that if huntsmen torture foxes on video, they don't need the right to a fair trial or a lawyer. Perhaps we'll decide that the BNP, who don't believe in human rights, don't deserve to benefit from them. And so on until rights are reserved only for golfers and 'decent chaps' who don't make a fuss.

Personalised law is no law at all.

And Qatada? We're constantly being told he's Al-Qaeda's representative in Europe, that he's a dangerous terrorist mastermind. If so, he's committed multiple crimes: the UK has instituted the most draconian legislation in judicial history over the past 20 years: Orwell's 'thoughtcrime' is pretty much a reality. Put him on trial (although I suspect he's unlikely to get a fair trial in this country, given the government and media coverage thus far). Sending him to Jordan for an unfair trial because 'he must be guilty of something' isn't justice, it's blind reaction. Not coincidentally, when I did jury service, the forewoman said to us all 'He must be guilty because he doesn't look sorry'. Laugh? I almost cried. 

Unless, of course, he's nothing more than a vicious, reactionary peddler of hate. In which case, argue with him, spy on him, ridicule him: just don't subvert one of the pillars of civilised society simply for the satisfaction of having one horrible little man murdered in some torture cell by a puppet state. I can't think of an easier way of proving to his supporters that he was right all along. 

Seriously people: grow up. Being a scumbag doesn't mean you deserve to be murdered. If you think it does, you're a moral pygmy.


Historian on the Edge said...

I say don't send him to Jordan. If a few days in the company of Katie Price doesn't count as torture I don't know what does.

Sorry - really good post. You're absolutely right. The right option isn't often the easy or comfortable option.

Blossom said...

I completely agree with your post, Vole. The idea that we suspend our membership of the ECHR so that we can disregard a person's human rights is absurd. To rejoin after deporting Qatada makes even more of a mockery of the concept of human rights.

The fact is though, we are a country that abuses human rights through loop-holes in the law - loop holes, it might be argued, that are in place to make it look, to unsuspecting plebs, as though human rights are honoured, when the rest of us who don't believe in Father Christmas know that really it's just a smoke screen. If our politicians truly 'walked the talk' with human rights, they would not even be considering suspending our membership to the ECHR as an option. Human rights should be unwavering, non-negotiable, and taken for granted in any nation that values integrity

If this does happen to Qatada I will feel ashamed to be called British.

By the way, hope all is well and good in Vole territory.

Alan H said...

ummm... don't know what to add, other that I agree with you 100%

keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Bang on the money!