Torture and Cognitive Dissonance

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir? —JM Keynes A couple of recent, unrelated articles caught my eye. The New Scientist carried a review of ‘Why Torture doesn’t work’, a forthcoming book by Shane O’Mara, an academic at Trinity, Dublin. The scientific answer is that torture doesn’t work, in the sense of getting at ‘truth’, for people will say anything in an attempt to end their torment. People will falsely confess, something that’s “alarmingly … Read more

Game of Thrones vs real life: 5 ways fact is worse than fiction

Guest blog by Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research, Amnesty International The long-awaited fifth season of Game of Thrones begins on Sunday 12 April. Filmed in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) and broadcast in 170 countries, the show shocks viewers and generates controversy with graphic violence, especially against women. Yet many aspects of real life around the world today are worse than the mythical Game of Thrones world of Westeros. [spoiler alert: reveals plot lines up to the end of season 2!] … Read more

Paper trail: from Northern Ireland’s hooded men to CIA’s global torture

In August 1971 the UK authorities arrested and interned hundreds of men in Northern Ireland. Fourteen of them were selected for “special treatment” – torture in a specially-built interrogation centre at a British Army camp. The men were subjected to the soon-to-be infamous “five techniques” of hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water – combined with brutal beatings & death threats. Allegations soon emerged of abuse. Amnesty International sent its first ever research mission … Read more

The sad tale of tolerating torture that hangs over us today

Ian Cobain a  senior reporter on the Guardian is on Radio 4’s Start the Week ( listen on  BBCiPlayer or RadioPlayer after 10 a.m. or the repeat at 2100 live tonight).  I strongly recommend a listen. The author of Cruel Britannia: a secret history of British torture, he gives a calm and convincing account of how torture techniques were introduced in the colonies after WW2 and applied at the beginning of internment in Northern Ireland in 1971. . Cobain is … Read more

Mauritius must get to grips with torture if it wishes to restore confidence

The failure to find and convict the killers of Michaela McAreavey has exposed glaring holes in the Mauritius criminal justice system and a worrying reliance on confessions allegedly extracted under torture. The Mauritian jury’s ‘not guilty’ verdict seems to show that they believed Avinash Treebhoowoon’s allegation that a confession statement produced three days after Michaela McAreavey’s murder was a police concoction, only signed by him after days of torture. Treebhoowoon made his first official complaint of ill-treatment at a court appearance … Read more

Haiti: ‘Baby Doc’ escapes justice for past abuses

Given the Slugger community’s interest in Haiti, I thought it worthwhile to note the regrettable decision by a Haitian court not to charge the country’s former dictator,  Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, over allegations of torture and murder. Duvalier returned to Haiti this time last year after 25 years in exile in France. Since then, he has been under investigation for serious human rights violations – including torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions – that took place during his rule from 1971 to … Read more

Happy travels! Guantánamo Bay: a decade of failure

Ten years ago today, the first detainees were transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Since then 779 people have been held, yet only one has been given a trial in an ordinary US federal court. Yesterday I met with the impressive acting US Consul General, Kevin Roland, at the Consulate in Belfast to record our demand that the Guantánamo Bay detention camp be closed down, and our call that the 171 remaining prisoners be charged with … Read more

Christopher Hitchens, 1949 – 2011

Writer Christopher Hitchens has died aged 62. He was as contrary as he was brilliant. Here is a brief In Memoriam from Vanity Fair (his outlet of choice since 1992) and, here, a longer tribute from his friend Christopher Buckley Stanley in The New Yorker. Better, perhaps, though to post one of Hitchens’ own writings in tribute.  I’ll make no apology for choosing one of his most remarked upon pieces of recent years — his 2008 Vanity Fair article on waterboarding, Believe … Read more

So Dubya that’s all right then

“Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States,” George W Bush has told the Times in a media blitz  to publish his ghosted memoirs  “Decision Points“. What is the British reply? Nothing from the government yet – or from Tony Blair for that matter.   David Davis libertarian former shadow Home Secretary has just said on Radio 4: If you come by information you have to … Read more

Torture. It hasn’t gone away you know.

Charlie McManamin was a 16-year-old boy, when – according to his shocking testimony – he was interrogated and beaten until he confessed to terrorist offences. He’s just one of the people – including a former police officer – making detailed allegations of torture in a new film and report on the Guardian site today. Hundreds of men and women convicted of terrorism offences in Northern Ireland are now planning to appeal against convictions based on confessions that were, they allege, … Read more