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Torture simply does not work and can never be justified

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Detainees kneeling in a holding area at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Photo: Reuters

Detainees kneeling in a holding area at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Photo: Reuters

Detainees kneeling in a holding area at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Photo: Reuters

Torture is back on the agenda in the USA and UK. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he agrees with torture, even though interrogation experts in the CIA and FBI have confirmed that torturing prisoners to extract information does not work.

The views expressed by a former British senior army officer, Colonel Bob Stewart, now a senior Conservative MP, that he "was a torturer" when he served in Northern Ireland are unacceptable and offensive to all those who value human rights.

The report (Irish Independent, January 27) quoted Mr Stewart as saying: "Sometimes [torture] might work, and sometimes it might be justified."

He used the very flawed argument of the ticking bomb to justify torture in spite of its total prohibition by the UN Convention Against Torture.

He outlined some of the methods he had used against prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Based on his own admissions, Mr Stewart should be charged with a variety of offences against persons in custody.

He also stated that: "Of course, it was acceptable then - it's now unacceptable and now it's defined as torture."

Torture and human rights abuses were never acceptable, whether they were committed by Roman emperors, Genghis Khan, the Spanish Inquisition, the Gestapo, the British army in Northern Ireland, or the US in Guantanamo Bay.

Suspected CIA and US special forces aircraft are still being refuelled at Shannon Airport, making the Irish Government complicit in any crimes that may be committed in the torture "black-sites" that Mr Trump threatens to reopen.

Edward Horgan

Castletroy, Co Limerick

Terrorism has no religion

Every country has the inviolable right to safeguard its security, people, economy and public safety. The US is no exception.

However, banning Muslim refugees from entering the US while giving special preferences for Christians defies common sense. Not all terrorists are Muslims. Terrorism transcends geographical boundaries, colours, races, genders, creeds and religions.

Many Muslim countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia are leading the battle to defeat radicalisation and terrorism through co-operation and partnership with the US. American President Donald Trump must also remember that 1.5 billion people are Muslims. They constitute one-quarter of humanity.

Together we can build a world of peaceful coexistence and religious and social inclusion and harmony.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London, UK

Entertainers should speak out

David Bradley (Irish Independent, January 28) complains that singer Mary Chapin Carpenter's impeccable performance in Dublin was spoiled by her less-than-approving remarks about Donald Trump.

Mr Bradley is of the opinion that Chapin Carpenter's remarks, like Meryl Streep's, are inappropriate because she is an "entertainer" and she should not use that platform to air her views.

I would remind Mr Bradley, and all others who voice their objections to well-known figures expressing opinions that do not match their own, that the most important and successful attack against the fascist McCarthyist House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s was from Hollywood actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, Sterling Hayden, John Houston, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Ryan and countless others.

These "entertainers" risked their livelihoods and their freedom to voice their views.

Harry Spillane

Mount Merrion, Co Dublin

Higgins's Latin America visit - why?

President Michael D Higgins has announced that he is to shortly visit Cuba, Columbia and Peru, bringing to nine the number of Central and South American countries that he will have visited since his inauguration as President.

The President stated in Cork last week that "Latin America has been an innovative force in the worldwide struggle against neoliberalism" and "an emerging area of scholarship in academia".

Are these observations a reflection of Government policy, or merely the personal and political opinion of the President, distilled from his curiosity in the region?

The Strategy Statement published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2015 declared that the focus of the Government's global engagement was to "safeguard a secure and prosperous future for the Irish people".

According to the latest data from the CSO, exports from Ireland to Columbia and Peru combined were of the order of €10m in November 2016, which is minuscule, while exports to Cuba were zero.

An estimated 27.5pc of the population of Columbia in 2015 lived below the poverty line. The corresponding figure for Peru is 25.8pc.

Do these countries really have the potential to fulfil stated Irish foreign policy objectives?

How could it be possible for a Cabinet minister to spare the time to participate in a presidential visit to these countries, as diplomatic protocol would demand, if the potential advantage is so negligible, the effects of Brexit and US foreign policy so volatile and the impact of the neoliberal policies of major trading partners so crucial to our national prosperity?

Perhaps President Higgins and the Government might reconsider the desirability of this proposed trip and recalibrate their priorities, beyond the delivery of a bowl of shamrock on St Patrick's Day?

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

Doomsday Clock is ticking

Your newspaper reported 'Scientists move Doomsday Clock forward by 30 seconds' (Irish Independent, January 27).

However, were minutes taken at their meeting?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

God and the Holocaust

Ivor Shorts (Irish Independent, January 28) recalls the story about a group of rabbis who were killed in the Holocaust to inform his conclusion that there is no God.

In the same vein, the American author, philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris put it thusly: "Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn't care to, or he doesn't exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely."

Ronan Quinlan

Bóthar tSlí Leathain, Baile Átha Cliath

Irish Independent