Alex Massie

Con Coughlin & His Critics

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David has already highlighted some of the more dubious arguments Con Coughlin deploys in response to his critics but a couple of other points may still be made. Con writes:

If I understand correctly Alex Deane’s high-minded rant about the rights of innocent people receiving a fair trial (which, just to put the record straight, I fully support), he is prepared to accept at face value former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed’s claim that he was brutally tortured during his interrogation with the full complicity of British security officials. David Davies, the former shadow Home Secretary, made a similar argument on the Today programme this morning, preferring to believe the word of Mr Mohamed rather than our own intelligence establishment.


Nothing Mr Mohamed has said since the British government did him the enormous service of securing his release from Guantanamo adds up, which is why I am deeply concerned that Conservative voices are being raised in defence of his human rights.  If this is the type of cause that modern Conservatives wish to defend, you really have to question whether the party is fit to govern this country.

Firstly, and without wanting to sound glib, I think it's also important that guilty people receive a fair trial. But that process is hindered, not enhanced, when they are subjected to the sort of treatment Mohamed describes. Just as significantly, the American government does not disputeMohamed's account of his treatment. Indeed, that's rather why both governments wanted to keep the matter secret in the first place.

More generally, one need not find Mohamed's explanation of why he was in Afghanistan persuasive or doubt that he might well be guilty of something to object to the manner in which he was treated. Again, the manner of his interrogation has made discovering the truth more, not less, difficult. if the rule of law - and the rights of man - are to mean anything then they have to be applied consistently. That means even unsavoury characters must be protected by them; otherwise what's the point of the law in the first place?

Contra Con, I'd be appalled if the Conservatives weren't appalled by this case and conclude that if this were the case then they would indeed be unfit for government.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticsafghanistantoriestorture