Crimes and Misdemeanours

I’m indebted to Frazer Pearce for sending me a very interesting item about Susan Crawford, a former judge who served in a legal capacity for the US Army. She recently went on record to state without equivocation that the treatment meted out to detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay was “torture”. Not “coercive interrogation”. Not “enhanced interrogation”. Not any other “nontorturous form of interrogation”. Just plain torture.

The implications of this conclusion could be very profound. I would like to think that every single member of the Bush administration who sanctioned this should now be prosecuted under international law. I would also prosecute anyone who knew about it but failed to stop it, as their behaviour means that they were still party to a conspiracy to commit torture. It would, however, take someone with extraordinary courage (and financial backing) to force such an action through the legal system.

I’m not holding my breath.

Coincidentally, another George was in the news today although this one was O’Dowd rather than Bush. `Boy George’ was today sentenced to 15 months in jail for “falsely imprisoning” a male escort at his London flat. I’ll spare my delicate readers the more salacious details of the offence, but it seems the 47-year old former Culture Club singer was buzzing with cocaine at the time and suffering from paranoid delusions that his paid guest had tampered with his computer. He therefore tied him up and assaulted him. Having been found guilty by the jury he was sentenced today.

Initially I thought 15 months sounded very harsh, but then I didn’t know the extent of what had happened until I read the account in today’s newspaper. The violent and degrading treatment he inflicted on the 29-year old escort clearly merited a stern response so, on reflection, I’m glad in many respects that the judge was severe. Whatever you may think of the morality of the escort business, workers in that trade (whether straight or gay) are still human beings and deserve to be treated with respect.

I say “in some respects” because I’m very pessimistic about the criminal justice system generally. We lock up a staggering number of people in jail, many more than any other Western European country. The police spend their time trying to catch offenders, some of them get sent to jail and they see their job done. But I’ve yet to see any evidence of anything good coming out the other end of this depressing pipeline. I’m not convinced a jail sentence is going to cure Boy George of the drug problems that clearly led to this situation.

On the other hand, I’m by no means arguing that celebrities should be treated differently from others. I’m just saying that there has to be a better way, if only someone could think of it. Until they do, I think Boy George should do his time. At least he won’t have to pay for male company.

But isn’t it ironic that the other George – the one guilty of mass murder as well as torture – will probably get away scot free?

2 Responses to “Crimes and Misdemeanours”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I always detested Guantanamo Bay, but let’s keep this in perspective: if you’re going to advocate the prosecution of senior US government officials for torture under “international law” (which I maintain is an oxymoron – there are only international treaties) then you should equally energetically seek the prosecution of all other heads of state where torture goes on. That’s a depressingly large number of countries…

    Agreed too that prison is not the right way – it is expensive to run, a school for crime, gives license for sadism, and it penalises the dependants of inmates. Yet how I wish it were true that, as you put it, “The police spend their time trying to catch offenders”. The ones not tied up with government paperwork seem to spend their time persecuting motorists and selectively denying free speech.


  2. telescoper Says:

    Anton, I agree with you on the first point. The problem is that pursuing those responsible for torture abroad while condoning it at home is sheer hypocrisy. If western democracy is to regain any legitimacy on the world stage it has to puts its own house in order first. The second point has truth in it too. The Police are at least as afflicted with the curse of managerialism as much as the rest of the public sector, so I take that point, but motorists are their own worst enemy in my opinion. Peter

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