Thursday, February 16, 2006

UN calls for Guantanamo closure

As it should be, for the very institution breaches all known conventions of human rights and the treatment of prisoners. A brutal utilitarian reasoning combined with convoluted legal arguments has surely at the very least created an atmosphere where those responsible for the inhuman treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib felt they were acting in accordance with the wishes of their superiors.

The utilitarian argument for torture should never have been accepted in the first place. The 'ticking-bomb' senario is just an up-dated version of the perennial justification used by torturers through the ages: that it serves some greater good, that it is necessary in order to fulfill a higher purpose. An argument that should have been rejected on the basis of the inviolability of human rights, not on the basis of attempts to disprove the utilitarian calculation - but it has to be stressed that this case repeats the lesson of history: torture invariably fails the utilitarian test too. Disclosures of 'ticking-bombs' have been conspicuous by their absence; we only have images that sicken the soul of anyone who has kept in touch with their humanity.

Those responsible for this policy should have been afraid to believe they knew better than the wisdom of ages and of nations, especially when they themselves belong to a nation that once had the wisdom to enshrine the prohibition of torture in its constitution. Closing Guantanamo always was a moral imperative - and surely no-one can now doubt that it is also a political, utilitarian imperative?

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