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21 September 2009

Demanding the Truth on Torture

Hardly a week goes by without another news story including allegations of torture.

Whether it is the case of Binyam Mohamed, who was detained in Guantanimo Bay for 5 years or the now infamous shoe-thrower who spoke of beatings, whippings and electric shocks after his arrest.

In a number of countries there are now countless well documented examples of practices that could only be detailed after the watershed.

When I was in the Sudan, I saw graphic evidence of those who had had their eyes gouged out and much more….all in the name of state sponsored torture to find out whatever information that state wanted.

Torture is not only cruel – it is stupid. How many of you would sign a confession if the alternative was to have your eyes gouged out?

Torture does not deliver the truth – it delivers nothing of value. It delivers anything that the victim thinks might stop the pain.

Our government was involved with the USA over rendition and it left me wondering whether torture was used to strengthen the case, or the “dodgy dossier”, when we were being told that Iraq had WMD. 

A signed confession that these weapons existed would not make it true. But if evidence gained from torture had been used, many innocent civilians will have died as a result.

I have met politicians and members of the public from different countries who had been subjected to torture. Hearing their experiences first hand hammered home to me again and again why torture is as indefensible as it is reprehensible.

Conference, if we have evidence that the UK may have been complicit in torture then we must investigate and hold those guilty to account. 

We all know that in debates on issues such as this we risk being painted as naive ideological liberals who fail to recognise the harsh realities of the real world. 

They said the same thing when we opposed the Iraq War. 

But we know that in the struggle for a world based on human rights, the rule of law and on self determination that it is vital that we hold ourselves to the highest moral code

It is no good to shrug our shoulders and say that these are the laws of the global playground. 

Conference, it is right that we hold ourselves to these values even if others do not.

In the long term, the struggle against global terrorism and militant  extremists will not be won in Kabul or in the mountains of Pakistan. This will be a battle of ideas and ideologies. If we are to emerge on the right side of the argument then we must be prepared to live by the values abroad that we seek to defend at home.

It is for these reasons that this motion is so timely, why we need this inquiry, and why I urge you to give it your support today.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.