Establishing an Acceptable Framework for the Fight against International Terrorism
12 - 13 November 2009
A conference was held on 12-13 November 2009 to examine the moral and strategic implications of using torture and other illegal methods for intelligence gathering purposes. Entitled ‘Beyond Torture: Establishing an Acceptable Framework for the fight against International Terrorism’, this initiative was chaired by Lord Guthrie and was organised by ISD in cooperation with Reprieve and hosted by Freshfields at their London offices. The meeting brought together a mix of civil libertarians, judiciary, military and intelligence representatives. Participants included prominent lawyers and judges, politicians, academics and media.
Participants all agreed that the UN Convention on the Prohibition of Torture was unequivocal, but that its application was less than universal. Most speakers argued that democracies had a duty to respect the law and that their judicial processes were entirely adequate to deal with terrorists. However, the ‘ticking bomb’ argument was raised with a number of participants asserting that extra-judicial methods were justifiable under circumstances where large loss of life could be prevented. This potential ‘grey area’ formed a major focus of discussions along with the question of collusion when democratic governments accept intelligence from countries suspected of using torture, or agree to extradite detainees to countries where they may be tortured.
On these last points, it was agreed that further work was required to clarify Western governments’ positions. It was agreed that a memo summarising the key points of agreement as well as areas requiring further work would be drafted and signed by prominent participants as a basis for advocacy around this important issue.
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