To the Editor,
On Aug. 23, 1985 the federal government of Canada signed the U.N. Convention against Torture. Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction.
This prohibition is absolute. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict.
Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials.
Since the convention’s entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.
Yet, it was revealed in the Canadian Press on Aug. 24, that the Harper government has quietly given Canada’s national police force and the federal border agency the authority to use and share information that was likely extracted through torture.
Newly disclosed records show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued the directives to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency shortly after giving similar orders to Canada’s spy service.
In using, or showing the willingness to use, information obtained through torture, Mr. Harper and Mr. Toews are condoning the use of torture contrary to international law. This is just plain wrong.
But if integrity has no meaning to the Harper government, they should at least be aware that information obtained through torture is usually inaccurate.