Friday, February 12, 2010

Morality vs Security: a long time dilemma

and Abu Ghraib, both brainchildren of the military adventure of a Western democracy into a far away land are the events which have brought to the forefront of the news the ethics of prisoner treatment and professional interrogation techniques.

That Britain and the US can discuss these topics 'democratically', disclosing and admitting at times that a terrible injustice may have been dealt to inmates and undertaking a few reforms here and there is admirable and is perhaps the reason why they feel they are able to lecture and train other 'less advanced' countries on international prison management standards in penitentiary institutions.

However, I find it hard to believe that anyone in the world is naive enough to think that there is something called 'good condition of imprisonment', or that there is no abuse in a prison environment. Even in an experimental environment there is large scope for mismanagement of inmates. I may have probably mentioned the Stanford experiment before but I find it fascinating, as this is human nature and the human nature given the right set of circumstances can transform an individual or individuals en masse into 'willing perpetrators or victims of evil'.

Knowing all this why would anyone be shocked at the latest emerging news about the post 9/11 world in which MI5 is accused of covering up the 'alleged' torture of " Ethiopian-born Mr Mohamed, 31[..] at the behest of US authorities after his detention in Pakistan in 2002. [...]The MPs said allegations that MI5 officers were "careless in their observance of their obligations towards the human rights of detainees"".

If people are wiling to hurt their own kind in ordinary/civilian prison environments, what do you think happens if they are given the authority over people from a different colour, religion and country than their own and especially in the context of war on terror ?

Come on let's be real ...what lies beneath in any prison system or non system on any spot on earth is worse than even our wildest dreams. Any one doing time is not rehabilitated but probably would not want to go back there simply from fear. Fear is what conditions one to keep remaining a willing victim or take the alternative path and seek vengeance.

So people stop thinking that morals in the west are higher and then feel outraged about rendition or anything else. This is all standard and 'normal' procedure in matters of national security..... and abuse is and will always be normal in any system where individuals will have any authority over anyone.


programmer craig said...

I generally agree with what you are saying, for the most part. However, I think it's fair to say that in some countries there are safeguards in place which are intended to protect prisoners from abuse, and in other countries there are no safeguards and in fact abuse of prisoners is encouraged and sometimes even institutionalized. Not all guards in the former treat prisoners ethically, and not all guards in the latter treat prisoners badly but I think broadly speaking that the difference in the way prisoners are treated in one vs the other is substantial.

By the way, I don't think a country being "advanced" or "less advanced" has anything to do with it. Japan is notorious for poor treatment of prisoners, and there aren't many cultures more advanced that the Japanese :)

Anonymous said...

It is certainly true that some countries have established good safeguards in order to protect their prisoners. But let us not forget that some countries in this category have gone to great lengths in order to circumvent such those very safeguards [by torturing their captives on foreign soil].

programmer craig said...

Oceankid, that's a valid point but it's not really relevant to the topic at hand in my opinion. The treatment of prisoners of war is under the jurisdiction of the UN and the Geneva Conventions, not national governments. Also, prisoners of war are a totally different category than people who have been convected of criminal offenses domestically.