Wind in their sails

Roy Ramage writes: Re. “The rich list absentee landowners behind Tassie anti-wind farm campaign” (yesterday). It is abhorrent that the out-of-towners, Bill James and Michael Crouch, can have any influence at all in a decision where so much hangs in the balance.

The wind farm has a good economic opportunity in building wind turbines that could eventually sell clean energy into Victoria — energy that might replace burning coal mines. This would mean short- and medium-term economic benefit for the islanders plus the supply of clean energy into Victoria.

This exciting project may yet be torpedoed if Tony Abbott reduces the RET. Islanders have the good sense to support a feasibility study and together with the Hydro they will decide what they wish to do. The last thing they need is underhand “lord of the manor” subversion — which all Australians detest.

Are Australians torturers?

Tim Vines (vice-president, Civil Liberties Australia) writes: Re. “Define torture” (Monday). Russell Bancroft (Monday) asked for a definition of torture. While people will have their own definitions of torture, the relevant definition is:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as:

* obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession;

* punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed; or

* intimidating or coercing him or a third person;

* or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind,

when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

 This is the definition used in the Convention against  Torture  and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and is enforceable in Australia under section 274.2 of the Criminal Code 1995. Notably the definition of torture does not “include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.

“Torture”should be distinguished from “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, which is also prohibited under international law might constitute a less serious crime.

For example, forced sterilisation of the disabled will likely constitute inhuman or degrading treatment, not torture; denying transsexual prisoners access to necessary hormone treatment may constitute degrading treatment (or possibly cruel treatment or punishment). Challenges to the death penalty per se and various methods of execution in the US rely on the Eighth Amendment prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment”.

Perhaps the CIA believed their actions, while inhumane, degrading and cruel fell short of “torture”. It was convenient they had a whole Justice Department on their side too! Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction (like piracy and genocide), meaning anystate has the legal right to prosecute any individual (citizen or not) who commits an act of torture (whether it occurred in Australia or abroad).

Competition winners

Congratulations to the winners of our iPad mini competition: Jacqueline Lublin, Frith Luton and Robert Miller.