British government complicity with torture

by Chris Bertram on December 29, 2005

Lenin’s Tomb has some interesting material concerning the attempts of the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, to expose the British government’s complicity with torture in that country. Worth a read.

UPDATE: There is more, and in more legible form, over at perfect.co.uk .

{ 14 comments }

1

zdenek 12.29.05 at 7:32 am

Chris- on the face of it the material is interesting but can it be taken seriously ? Is it not more likely that it is a hoax ala photographs of Britsh troops abusing prisoners etc. ? Seems you have made up your mind anyway ?

2

Hektor Bim 12.29.05 at 10:50 am

What kind of press is this getting in Britain? I’ve seen a lot of commentators dismiss Murray as a crank. Those documents certainly look like a smoking gun.

3

dave heasman 12.29.05 at 11:38 am

“I’ve seen a lot of commentators dismiss Murray as a crank”

Really? In the UK there’s been no argument that

a) Uzbekistan tortures as a matter of course and
b) Murray was initially disciplined, then fired, for publicly objecting to it.
(All this nearly a yesr ago, I’ve not seen the latest stuff.)

I suppose that makes him a crank in some circles.

4

Tim Worstall 12.29.05 at 1:06 pm

Well, it’s forming the basis of a test column for a UK paper on blogs….but it is only a test column so I don’t know whether they’ll actually run it of course.

5

Peter 12.29.05 at 1:53 pm

The more relevant question turns on whether or not voters want the era of a rubber stamp Congress to end.

6

Idiot/Savant 12.29.05 at 8:29 pm

Hektor: It’s turned up on The Independent here

7

zdenek 12.30.05 at 3:28 am

Some comments :
1) Michael Wood does not admit that torture material is in fact used . All he does is offer his view of whether it is illigal to be in posession of such material. Nothing wrong here and Wood is expresing his view in good faith.

2) Craig Murray himself offers no evidence except hearsay that Tashkent material *is * obtained under torture and the letters themselves provide no such evidence. See particularly his remarks in the third letter about a meeting he *did not even attend *.

3)The force of what Michael Wood says is that *if* the material is obtained under torture then it cant be used in court in UK. No clear admission af being complicit in torture with the Americans.

4) On the complicity claim : what exactly is the argument Murray offers ? It seems to be: everyone knows that CIA material is obtained under torture we know it they know it and to use it is to be complicit with the torturing practice. The trouble is that there is no evidence that the CIA information in fact is obtained under torture as this is normally understood and none of the info Murray establishes *that* fact.

5) Not supprised that radical self-hating left ( Lenin Tomb ) is running with the story but note the bad-faith involved in claims like “…introduction to the morally bankrupt universe of the British state ” (Lenin Tomb )Dont know what Chris was thinking but he might start by reading the stuff he recommends.

8

John Quiggin 12.30.05 at 4:27 am

“The trouble is that there is no evidence that the CIA information in fact is obtained under torture as this is normally understood “

I think this tells us all we need to know about you, zdenek.

9

zdenek 12.30.05 at 5:43 am

John Guiggin- the point is Craig Murray has nothing new , nothing interesting to say. Observe that even on the torture claims all he has to offer is hearsay. This sort of move will convince only those who are already convinced that ” British state exists in a deeply immoral universe “.
The question of course is would he be able to convince people who are undecided or people who are interested in truth ? As far as I can see only people who are convinced are west-haters( See his third letter in particular which is frankly silly.)

To establish the complicity claim in particular you need to show ( not just assume or repeat hearsay ) that people actually *know* that Tashkend info is obtained by means of torture and of course Murray does no such thing.

10

Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 5:59 am

Zdenek writes:

2) Craig Murray himself offers no evidence except hearsay that Tashkent material *is * obtained under torture and the letters themselves provide no such evidence. See particularly his remarks in the third letter about a meeting he *did not even attend *.

From the final Murray document:

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
“The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

Indeed. Murray plainly has this right. Given the known predilection of the Uzbek security services for torture, the burden of proof is plainly on those who would claim that material obtained from detainees in Uzbekistan is untainted.

Evidence for that known predilection. We need look no further than the US State Department which documents such practices as boiling peope to death:

http://tinyurl.com/dwxca

11

brendan 12.30.05 at 7:54 am

I take it this is one of these situations if (and when) we declare war on Uzbekistan at some point in the future Craig Murray’s accusations will suddenly become facts, anyone who doubts them will be a traitor, and it will suddenly become known that Uzbekistan is (and always was) as bad as Hitler’s Germany.

12

Pete 12.30.05 at 4:56 pm

Brendan, at that point you’ll have to suddenly start telling how Uzbekistan used have the best public services in central Asia and women were far better off.

13

zdenek 12.31.05 at 2:05 am

Chris Bertram writes –” The burden of proof is plainly on those who would claim that the material obtained from detainees in Uzbekistan is untainted”.

I think that as far as the question of whether the material is tainted you are correct and thanks for emphasising where the burden of proof lies. This does not however settle the question of *complicity* I am afraid.
As long as there is an argument available to the B.gov. showing that they are morally justified in using the material that is enough to establish the *presumption in favour* of their position. And there indeed is such an argument obviously.( this is the defauult position in the debate ). The argument in question is the ‘usefulness argument’ and roughly it goes :

1) Any evidence that enables us to save vast numbers of inocent civilians and that is available to us gives us power to save such people.
2)If we have such power to do good we have moral responsibility to bring it about provided that our actions do not cause more harm
3) Since the good brought about by saving many inocent civilians outweighs the harm done by using tainted material which gives us power to save inocent lives we ought to use such material.

Now this sort of argument ( doesnt have to be cast in Utilitarian form like I have done ) is clerly avilable to BG. Murray recognises that to establish his complicity claim he has to tacle this background argument and he tries to do just that ( his third letter ).

He offers three criticisms of the default position (BG position ) :

1) material is useless
2) MI6 is incompetent
3) experts side with me

On (1) all I can say that this is pathetically week : Murray is not privy to most of the stuff and note that he was excluded from key meeting precisely because of this fact. Anyway its his word agains people like Kydd
(2) this is a very week inductive argument .
(3) is a non-sequitur: nothing follows from the fact that Francois Hampson agrees with Murray.
No I am affraid Murrays complicity claim does not work.

14

Brendan 12.31.05 at 8:41 am

‘Brendan, at that point you’ll have to suddenly start telling how Uzbekistan used have the best public services in central Asia and women were far better off.’

So I take it that you admit that if and when we ‘intervene’ in Uzbekistan then you will indeed jump to attention and parrot the line of your political masters? You haven’t denied it……….

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