Resistence to Torture

Objection to the use of legal torture in the interrogation of suspects and witnesses is deeply rooted in the Australian psyche, mainly on the score of cruelty. But surely its rejection extends to the basic principles of justice, not just humanity.

Evidence obtained from someone under torture is inherently liable to be false. It appears there are a few heroes or stoics who can resist it for reasons they hold strongly, but many more, one suspects, who would cower and offer anything their captors wished of them rather than endure it. Our laws assume such statements cannot be admissible and acted on.

Does not the same principle apply to those forms of imposed distress of lesser severity than induced severe physical pain, for instance? Only victims of enforced prolonged sleep deprivation can really tell how harsh it is. But sleep deprivation would not be applied by the interrogants unless they believed it a good way of getting those questioned to say something they would not otherwise say. How can such statements then be held valid?

When the Second Amendment of the ASIO Act 2003 came up for review by the ordained Senate committee in 2004, it was made clear that however draconian it might be on other fronts, interrogees were guaranteed ample rest/sleep periods between interrogation sessions.

The risk of any forms of torture may seem small for the ordinary citizen here, but the threat of its acceptance on the statute books or our international stance must in the long run affect us all. One hopes enshrined resistance to such be guarded as one of our irrefutable Australian values.

Helen B. Wiles, Kingston (Canberra Times letter)

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