Human rights and international law expert Professor Hilary Charlesworth, says that Australia's appointment to the UN Human Rights Council gives the country an opportunity to examine its own human rights record.
The decision by the US Government this week to pass on names of all detainees in its secret detention centres to the Red Cross is a step in the right direction, according to Professor Gerry Simpson. "We know that in secret sites like Bagram Air Base (Iraq) and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) that some fairly nasty things can happen, and it’s the glare of publicity that prevents torture in many cases."
"So I think identifying and giving the names of these individuals is a big step, certainly from the perspective of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and international lawyers generally."
However a recent survey by the Australian Red Cross to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Convention found that more than a third of Australians thought torture on captured soldiers was acceptable if it was to obtain military information. It's a debate that Professor Simpson finds suspect. "The example always given is the terrorist with a ticking bomb, that you have to torture this individual before the ticking bomb blows up half the city. But there’s never been a case of a ticking bomb, so I think there’s something slightly spurious about using this as a way into legitimizing torture."
A full academic profile of Professor Simpson is available at http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/index.cfm?objectid=F9D2D075-B0D0-AB80-E2BC989969E28989&username=Gerry%20Simpson.
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