Return to render

Some late news just in
And I mean late. Sorry about this. Perhaps I was working too hard on my book to notice when the BBC released this survey last month, but it was summarised in the new Amnesty magazine, which I was reading this morning, so in case you missed it:

Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances. Although 59% were opposed to torture (the crazy bunch of bleeding-heart liberal bedwetters!), 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism.

More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture would be “acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives.” Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked that such a large percentage of those polled were totally up for a bit of nail-pulling and electrode-application, but I am.

All of the countries surveyed have signed up to the Geneva Convention.

Israel has the largest percentage of those polled endorsing the use of a degree of torture on prisoners, with 43% saying they agreed that some degree of torture should be allowed. Other countries that polled higher than average levels of acceptance of the use of torture include Iraq (42%), the Philippines (40%), Indonesia (40%), Russia (37%) and China (37%). Even the United States could only rustle up 36% support and they love a bit of extaordinary rendition. I’m pleased to say that only 24% of Brits think torture is the only language they understand.

Meanwhile opposition to a bit of creative pushing and shoving in hoods is highest in Italy, where 81% of those questioned think torture is never justified. And they only drink cappuccino for breakfast. No wonder Morrissey’s so happy in Rome. What a nice bunch of people.

For the record, respondents were asked which of the two statements most closely matched their own:

1. Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.
2. 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.

It’s a bit of a loaded question, as questions in surveys often are. (If you had to choose between losing a leg or voting for Gordon Brown which would you choose?) But when it comes to something like torture my instinct would be to err on the side of caution. It’s a pretty depressing read the Amnesty magazine, but this item really made me sit up and take notice, as if perhaps someone had attached some electrodes to me, which would be fair enough wouldn’t it? Where do you draw the line, eh, torture approvers? “Some degree of torture”? What are the guidelines? And isn’t this a bit like supporting some of the death penalty?

Ouch.

34 thoughts on “Return to render

  1. I wholeheartedly go along with the first statement. Anything else undermines any kind of standard of human rights. Lots of people I know would agree with no.2 though… worryingly.

  2. I wholeheartedly go along with the first statement. Anything else undermines any kind of standard of human rights. Lots of people I know would agree with no.2 though… worryingly.

  3. This is a very diffcult question to answer in Black and White. If breaking the fingers or giving electric shocks to a total stranger would help find a bomb that may kill hundreds, which might be members of your family, well I think that my morals may be a bit lacking there. But overall I agree with Andrew, it may be best to err on the cautionI would like think to that Goverments would only use it as a very, very last resort but…..Ian

  4. This is a very diffcult question to answer in Black and White. If breaking the fingers or giving electric shocks to a total stranger would help find a bomb that may kill hundreds, which might be members of your family, well I think that my morals may be a bit lacking there. But overall I agree with Andrew, it may be best to err on the cautionI would like think to that Goverments would only use it as a very, very last resort but…..Ian

  5. It’s already in use by the American government. ‘Rendition Flights’ carry individuals from country to country. This is happening in our own backyard.Making the use of torture ‘legal’ only means they have to spend less covering it up…

  6. It’s already in use by the American government. ‘Rendition Flights’ carry individuals from country to country. This is happening in our own backyard.Making the use of torture ‘legal’ only means they have to spend less covering it up…

  7. Generally, torture seems to be a very bad way to reliably extract information. People will say anything to make it stop, often the thing that they think you want to hear, which may not be the truth.On the other hand, for exactly the same reason, it’s a very good way to extract confessions. For a government trying to spin a terrifying army out of the ragbag of farmers, fighters and tribesmen that their sweep across Afghanistan and Pakistan came up with, it’s the very thing. If anyone can come up with an example where a tortured person has ever actually revealed the location of that bomb (or whatever extreme hypothetical situation you might want to conjure up), I’d be very surprised.

  8. Generally, torture seems to be a very bad way to reliably extract information. People will say anything to make it stop, often the thing that they think you want to hear, which may not be the truth.On the other hand, for exactly the same reason, it’s a very good way to extract confessions. For a government trying to spin a terrifying army out of the ragbag of farmers, fighters and tribesmen that their sweep across Afghanistan and Pakistan came up with, it’s the very thing. If anyone can come up with an example where a tortured person has ever actually revealed the location of that bomb (or whatever extreme hypothetical situation you might want to conjure up), I’d be very surprised.

  9. I of course cannot come up with any example where information has come from person that has been tortured, mainly because I’m not a member of the secruity services. As for extreme situations, flying planes into skyscrapers and blowing up buses and tube trains is about as extreme as I’d like it to get, thanks a lot.

  10. I of course cannot come up with any example where information has come from person that has been tortured, mainly because I’m not a member of the secruity services. As for extreme situations, flying planes into skyscrapers and blowing up buses and tube trains is about as extreme as I’d like it to get, thanks a lot.

  11. I’d rather live in a country where I might get blown up on a bus than one that thinks torture is acceptable in “extreme” situations. You either believe in the principle of human rights or you don’t. Just like you either believe in a free society or you don’t. This government doesn’t understand that the only way to defend freedom is to practice it.Re the Gordon Brown thing: do I get to nominate which leg?

  12. I’d rather live in a country where I might get blown up on a bus than one that thinks torture is acceptable in “extreme” situations. You either believe in the principle of human rights or you don’t. Just like you either believe in a free society or you don’t. This government doesn’t understand that the only way to defend freedom is to practice it.Re the Gordon Brown thing: do I get to nominate which leg?

  13. Exactly Dave, it’s all about us refusing to lower our standards in the face of a threat. We’re not as low as the July 7th bombers, neither should we sink to that level.Maybe it would be more humane to torture the family pets of the accused? We could eat them when we’re finished to make it less wasteful?

  14. Exactly Dave, it’s all about us refusing to lower our standards in the face of a threat. We’re not as low as the July 7th bombers, neither should we sink to that level.Maybe it would be more humane to torture the family pets of the accused? We could eat them when we’re finished to make it less wasteful?

  15. Given the way the question is written it is pretty hard to draw any valid conclusions from this survey. They are too leading, throw in several assumptions about what may happen if torture was or wasn’t used… What if you disagree with torture, but not for the reasons they have given, or vice versa? How would you answer then…But similarly it’s too complex a question for a simple yes/maybe/no/don’t know set of answers.In conclusion, this survey is meaningless.

  16. Given the way the question is written it is pretty hard to draw any valid conclusions from this survey. They are too leading, throw in several assumptions about what may happen if torture was or wasn’t used… What if you disagree with torture, but not for the reasons they have given, or vice versa? How would you answer then…But similarly it’s too complex a question for a simple yes/maybe/no/don’t know set of answers.In conclusion, this survey is meaningless.

  17. I wouldn’t say meaningless. It shows that given the choice of those two statements, what I consider to be an alarmingly high percentage agreed with “some torture”. Still, I also read that after the quite rubbish Secret Policeman’s Ball was on Channel 4 the other week 1,415 people texted to join Amnesty, most of them after Jeremy Irons’ powerful non-comedic performance, so at least there are a few more people who are actively against torture in all its forms as a result.

  18. I wouldn’t say meaningless. It shows that given the choice of those two statements, what I consider to be an alarmingly high percentage agreed with “some torture”. Still, I also read that after the quite rubbish Secret Policeman’s Ball was on Channel 4 the other week 1,415 people texted to join Amnesty, most of them after Jeremy Irons’ powerful non-comedic performance, so at least there are a few more people who are actively against torture in all its forms as a result.

  19. Sadly this doesn’t surprise me in the least. What does surprise me, though, is people’s naivety, i.e. they actually believe torture works. I heard an interview on Radio 4 last week with a man who was tortured in Saudi Arabia to try and extract a confession for two bombings he didn’t commit – he confessed, to stop the pain. I’m certain I would end up doing the same thing. I can already envisage it happening here: innocent Muslims (remember Forest Gate?) suspected of being involved with terrorism, confessing to all sorts of things. Then, on the other hand, you have the people who you torture to death who hold out til the end. Torture, particularly were it to end in death, can only create martys.It’s a scary world.PxPS the Secret Policeman’s Ball was rubbish – and do you think the performers were having a competition to see who could say “fuck” the most number of times in their act?

  20. Sadly this doesn’t surprise me in the least. What does surprise me, though, is people’s naivety, i.e. they actually believe torture works. I heard an interview on Radio 4 last week with a man who was tortured in Saudi Arabia to try and extract a confession for two bombings he didn’t commit – he confessed, to stop the pain. I’m certain I would end up doing the same thing. I can already envisage it happening here: innocent Muslims (remember Forest Gate?) suspected of being involved with terrorism, confessing to all sorts of things. Then, on the other hand, you have the people who you torture to death who hold out til the end. Torture, particularly were it to end in death, can only create martys.It’s a scary world.PxPS the Secret Policeman’s Ball was rubbish – and do you think the performers were having a competition to see who could say “fuck” the most number of times in their act?

  21. Andrew,I just read the news on Media Guardian that your show is to be shrunk to an hour on a Sunday to make way for Stephen Merchant’s new show!Say it aint so! Joe!

  22. Andrew,I just read the news on Media Guardian that your show is to be shrunk to an hour on a Sunday to make way for Stephen Merchant’s new show!Say it aint so! Joe!

  23. I hope the reshuffle’s a good one. The number of the weekend shows I can bear to listen to seems to be shrinking every couple of months. And I hope Stephen Merchant has some funny mates in the studio: they really make a show. Christ knows how Marc Riley manages to be funny and remember to play some records on his own.

  24. I hope the reshuffle’s a good one. The number of the weekend shows I can bear to listen to seems to be shrinking every couple of months. And I hope Stephen Merchant has some funny mates in the studio: they really make a show. Christ knows how Marc Riley manages to be funny and remember to play some records on his own.

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