The BBC says this incident wasn’t waterboarding. Just a friendly sticking someone’s head down the toilet, perhaps making it seem like the schoolyard bullying on which we all look with nostalgic affection. *
From the Guardian:
Torture allegations against six officers in the Metropolitan police were so serious that Scotland Yard used the word “waterboarding” to describe the claimed mistreatment of five suspects arrested in a drugs raid.
Despite attempts to play down the seriousness of the allegations against six officers in north London – with sources describing it as more Life on Mars than Guantánamo Bay – it emerged today that it was the Met itself which used the word waterboarding in a document to describe the alleged actions of its officers.
There’s something a bit cheering in the fact that the reports of this horrific and nationally shame-inducing story indicate that – in the UK at least – waterboarding is recognised as torture – even as a particularly vile form of torture. (Bear with me, I’m trying to extract something positive from this story, although it’s an uphill struggle.)
However, I confess to being confused by the implication that torture, as such, doesn’t seem inherently newsworthy enough. Oh, we’re all getting so used to plain old vanilla torture, aren’t we? We can only be shocked by its appearance in a fashionable new guise. Or maybe if it involves waterboarding, so it sounds like something we can blame on the USA
The facts of this story – apart from the extent of the waterboarding element – include the following:
6 Met police officers (allegedly) tortured suspects.
The torturees were “foreign nationals” (i.e. fair game.)
That implies that 6 employees of the British state – people employed to uphold the rule of law – felt free to torture suspects, because the suspects were apparently in no position to uphold the aforementioned rule of law against the police. No one would pay the slightest attention to any complaints the victims made.
It also seems that these officers would have been quite right in assuming that they could do whatever they felt like to the suspects, as the complaint didn’t come from the victims. It seems to have been made by a “police employee.” I.E. Someone with a sense of decency strong enough for them to overcome all the pressures to keep their mouth shut. The rare heroic person whom we all believe ourselves to be, in the face of the masses of evidence that very few of us actually are.
I really admire that person. He or she is really the only cheering element in this disgusting story. However, recent misdemeanors** involving the Metropolitan police suggest that people like that are few and far between on the Met’s payroll. See the cases that were so well discussed on Apathy Sketchpad.
*That sentence needs a heavy sarcasm alert, in case it wasn’t obvious. Lowest form of wit, yeah, I know.
** understatement for effect, in case it wasn’t obvious.