Torture, the most evil man in Britain and Phillip K Dick

May 13, 2013 at 8:21 PM Leave a comment

I have been meaning to get down to write this particular post for a couple of weeks but life intervened. I was reminded that I needed to get this issue of my chest when I saw that they were showing minority report on telly over the weekend.

This particular post was inspired by the news story that appeared last week in the press about three British men who have been held in Dubai for seven months without trial and who are alleged to have been tortured. This story not only hit the right-wing press in the form of the Daily Telegraph, Mail and Sky News, but caused such an impact that the Prime Minister David Cameron, quite rightly, pledged to raise their case with the President of the United Arab Emirates when he visits the UK. Despite this I am not convinced that these particular news organisations and the Prime Minster had seen the light and realised that Human Rights is a good thing. Why, because I can only compare their reaction to this story to the ongoing demonisation of the radical cleric Abu Qatada who is gaining the reputation of being the most evil man in Britain.

The most evil man in Britain

The most evil man in Britain

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not in the business of defending radical Islam and I will not be inviting Abu Qatada round to tea. As far as I am concerned, forget the religion, the bloke promotes a set of politics which are fascist. What concerns me is the use of this case by politicians and the press to undermine the most basic tenants of justice and human rights. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that nobody should be tortured into confession. It is both inhumane and only produces confessions not evidence of guilt. I also fervently believe that people should be treated as innocent until proven guilt and that if there are allegations against them they should be charged and tried in a court of law and their guilt or innocence decided by a jury.

The case of Abu Qatada and the British courts insistence in upholding a semblance of these principles has however resulted in the press and politicians working themselves into a frenzy blaming Europe and the Human Rights Act and claiming that but for them we would have been able to deport Qatada a long time ago. Theresa May has even gone so far as to talk about suspending the Human rights Act. In Qatada’s case it is beyond me why given the plethora of anti terrorism law, we do not seem to have enough evidence to try and convict him in a British Court of law, unless that is, a little fast and loose politics is also going on here. What has got lost in all the frenzy is the decision of the courts which has stated consistently that you can not send somebody to a country where evidence obtained by torture (and they accept that Qatada had been tortured) may be used against them. Now I believe what is good for the goose is good for the gander and if we have a concern about British citizens being tortured in other countries  and that evidence used against them as with the three men in Dubai then the same must apply to Qatada.

So where does Phillip K Dick come into all of this. Well I’m a bit of a science fiction buff and love the stories of Philip K Dick. True he was a drug crazed lunatic, who had some pretty dodgy politics. But the man did have a gift for writing stories that cut to the heart of many of the issues that concern us today. One such story is minority report (made into an atrocious film by Hollywood) which deals with the problems of prescience justice. The idea that you have a criminal justice system based on the idea that you detain people because they might commit a crime in the future. Something that I thought until a few years ago was the stuff of science fiction

Unfortunately in modern Britain this has became a reality especially in the context of the war against terror with men like Qatada being kept under house arrest because they are regarded as dangerous and therefore might commit a crime in the future. Now I know that there is risks associated with letting people you regard as known criminals roam free. However, the risk of enacting prescience justice and discarding other fundamental Human rights only succeeds in enhancing the power of the state to enact arbitary justice against what it regards as failed citizens. Having lived through the days of the use of the SUS laws against young black men because they were profiled as being likely to commit crime, I know first hand just how this can impact on lives.

Recently we have seen growth in the use of secret evidence and the introduction of legislation widening the use of secret courts. While many may think that we are safer from dangerous fundamentalist. Ultimately we are more at risk from arbitary justice by the state. Be warned


Entry filed under: Politics.

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