Thursday, December 08, 2005

One Step Forward

The House of Lords (the highest court in the UK) today ruled that information obtained under torture cannot be used as evidence against terrorism suspects in UK courts, including secret terror tribunals. The ruling overturned a controversial Court of Appeal judgment that had been handed down in August of last year.

The Court of Appeal had decided that evidence obtained under torture by non-UK agents and with no UK involvement was admissible in a UK court of law, and that the government of the UK was under no obligation to investigate the origin of such evidence.

The House of Lords unanimously disagreed with the Court of Appeal.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill said that English law had regarded “torture and its fruits” with abhorrence for more than 500 years.

The principles of the common law, standing alone, in my opinion compel the exclusion of third-party torture evidence as unreliable, unfair, offensive to ordinary standards of humanity and decency and incompatible with the principles which should animate a tribunal seeking to administer justice.

The Law Lords’ ruling is clearly a step in the right direction. When evidence obtained through torture can no longer be used in courts, that evidence will lose its value and a reduction in the incidence of torture should eventually follow.

I wonder what Condi might have to say about all this.

No comments: