Friday, December 19, 2014

More On Torture

In his opinion piece to the Straits Times on 17 December 2014 ("Lessons on the use of torture") Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, wrote:
"... if I were genuinely convinced that the threat was real, that the perpetrator was guilty, and that the method was the only one that would work, then I might well resort to torture.
And then - regardless of whether I was correct in my assumptions - I should go to prison."

A purely hypothetical scenario, but of course. In our real world, the son-in-law of a president who is uncle to the reigning prime minister will never get to see the four walls of a Changi lock-up. Maybe in North Korea, where a blood relative was reported to be fed to the dogs, literally. No prizes for guessing which country boasts about First World Governance.

But there's one important point not to be missed. Men (or women) under torture will confess to anything. Tragically, as the CIA-Inspector General admitted, false information gained from the torture of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam Hussein, contributed to the war in Iraq. And consequent loss of many young lives.

Professor Jerome A Cohen, who visited Singapore on behalf of Asia Watch, the American human rights organisation, was quoted in the New York Times:
"Given the ISD techniques, any statements from anyone detained used to substantiate the government's charges would be suspect. You can make your witnesses to order if you give them four or five days. They figure with soft people, the intellectuals, it's quicker."

Francis Seow held out as long as he could ("To Catch A Tartar, A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison", Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-060647), but after crafting the self-incriminating statement to script as ordained, had this to add:
"Given the above circumstances, what, then, is the probative value of such a testament, albeit purportedly sanctified by an oath? None. It offends the fundamental canons of the law of every civilised country against the receipt in evidence of statements by any one, let alone detainees, made or given under any inducement, threat, or promise having reference to the charge against him."


  1. Youtube video of the execution of Nazi war criminals in Germany, '1944 - '1946.
    - for crimes against humanity


  2. "Men (or women) under torture will confess to anything." It would depend on whether that person has a thick or thin skin. Hypothetically, if a person has a thick skin and is flame-proof, would he withstand torture better than a thin-skinned person? Is being criticised a form of torture? The dafts have thick hides, and presumably are able to withstand all sorts of tortures thrown at them.

    To some men (or women), giving a public address, or running for election, are torturous experiences, because they will confess to anything, give any kind of promises, tell lies or half-truths, or even cry. Can you trust the information gained? What do you think?

  3. "Orders are orders" excuse did not save the Nazi generals from execution during the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals after World War Two.

    Superior orders, often known as the Nuremberg defense, lawful orders or by the German phrase "Befehl ist Befehl" ("orders are orders"), is a plea in a court of law that a person, whether a member of the armed forces or a civilian, not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior officer or a public official.

    The superior orders plea is often regarded as the complement to command responsibility.

    One of the most noted uses of this plea, or "defense", was by the accused in the 1945–46 Nuremberg Trials, such that it is also called the "Nuremberg defense".
    The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the main victorious Allied forces after World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany.
    It was during these trials, under the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal which set them up, that the defense of superior orders was no longer considered enough to escape punishment; but merely enough to lessen punishment.


  4. Fact-checkers tear apart Dick Cheney’s pro-torture interviews