On Friday the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom stood beside a man who was calmly supporting torture as an appropriate and effective tool to fight terrorism and she said nothing. She certainly did not agree with the suggestion that torture was acceptable – but she did not openly disagree either.
The UK been to some degree complicit in torture in the recent past. There have been times when the UK has done deals with regimes that used torture. There have undoubtedly been press conferences where UK prime ministers have made friendly noises to leaders who had personally ordered that people were tortured. However, Donald Trump openly supporting torture at a joint press conference with Theresa May marked a disturbing change.
Before Friday it was a given that it was utterly unacceptable for a nation’s leader openly to support the torture of another human being. It could have been expected that such an admission would lead to instant condemnation, diplomatic embarrassment and would shift their nation one step closer to international pariah status. It had been accepted that the mark of a civilized nation – the sort of nation that the UK would be proud to stand beside – was that it had sufficient regard for human rights that publicly entertaining the idea of coercing someone by deliberately causing severe pain and suffering was simply beyond the pale.
After Friday it appears that the open and public support of torture in the presence of the Prime Minister does not significantly affect relations with our nation. I think it should. I think some things are so abhorrent that it should be unthinkable to condone them. The idea of treating someone who has been created in the image of God with the degree of deliberate cruelty and inhumanity that torture entails should never be condoned. And when it is condoned it should never go unchallenged.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
Theresa May was President of the Oxford University Edmund Burke Society so should recognise with his most familiar quotation: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”