Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Bloody Hands Of Democracy

Amit links to the rich American debate on how terrorists (not covered by Geneva Accords -- nor deserving such protections) ought to be interrogated. He believes (and we agree) that the only way to ensure these monsters will not be tortured -- torture being inconsistent with democratic values -- is to significantly raise the price of torture.

This, of course, is a typically great American debate. We are interested in its Indian counterpart.

Does anyone, for example, know what standards the Indian Army & RAW have to abide by in their treatment of detainees? Are they forbidden from inflicting cruel and degrading punishments? If torture is prohibited to them, how is torture defined?

Further, should we not consider extending the scope of these restrictions on the civilian police too? Afterall, our police does much worse things routinely to detainees than the degrading antics of some loony American soldiers in Abu Ghraib -- or the discomforts meted out to the monstrous Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

How about the Indian blogosphere shining a mirror on the sometimes bloody hands of our own democracy?


cynical nerd said...

Excuse me PR but where is this question of comparison with India in the present debate. AFAIK, RAW does not run detention centers nor own shiny Gulfstreams to transport detainees. Neither does India deport Canadian/German citizens to Syria or Egypt. Nor does India send cruise missiles to kill an unknown Al-Q #3 in Pakistani territory.

If there is a domestic problem, India has the NHRC, the Supreme Court and a vibrant media to take care of it.


Primary Red said...

Actually, CN, the same mechanisms exist in US too -- which is why we ar eall privy to the debate ongoing there.

As for our India, we know very little about the approved methods and practices of our forces. We do know our police is ridiculously brutal -- and very little has been done about it in decades. Why should we simply accept assertions that similar brutality does not exist elsewhere in the Government?

All we want to know is what the standard is at the moment?

Best regards.

cynical nerd said...

PR: Hopefully with the Right to Information Act, we will enable to get these things out in the public. India used to run counter-terror ops in Pakistan after major terror incidents in India before this practice was outlawed by IK Gujral. There were calls by the likes of B. Raman to resume this practice after the Delhi terror attacks. We too don't mind helping the oppressed peoples in Balochistan and Sindh.

On the US side, that the safeguards exists there is why the CIA is using ex-Communist countries in Eastern Europe for running the detention centers. EU nations too are an accomplice in this despite the "strong denials" and "explanations" expressed for public consumption.

Ultimately, it is a difficult situation for Free Nations to combat terrorism while keeping civil liberties.

always a pleasure to read this blog,

libertarian said...

PR unfortunately cannot comment on RAW. Anecdotes from some Kashmiris suggest the army is much better disciplined in this regard (and hence commands respect) than the paramilitary (BSF and CRPF).

Regarding civilian police, I suspect it will be much harder to enforce these higher standards. Take Mumbai as an example. "Maximum City" by Suketu Mehta has examples of torture. It would be nice to hold the police to Geneva Convention standards. That assumes an ability to bring on overwhelming force, as well as a legal system that is perceived to hand out justice to the guilty. That is just not true in Mumbai. So in many cases, you have persecution - not prosecution - and torture (including feeding the suspect 1kg of jalebis and no water!). From a libertarian standpoint, that's outrageous. However, I'm pretty certain that if a poll were taken, a vast majority of common (and decent) folks would back the police and their tactics. I suspect that's because the police force is relatively disciplined and will not bring on these methods unless there is "reason" to do so. Doesn't mean we don't try to raise the bar - but it's a significantly more uphill battle than doing so in the case of RAW and the Indian military.


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