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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Not so Innocent – Index on Censorship Trustee Seeks to Silence Campaigner Against Torture

Mark Stephens Threatens Libel Action against
Dr Derek Summerfield for criticising Israel's Apologist for Torture - Yoram Blachar

Shurely some mistake as my old friend Lord Gnome might say. Whispers have reached our ears that Mark Stephens of Finer, Stephens, Innocent has threatened Derek Summerfield, the doctor who has been tirelessly campaigning against the complicity of the Israeli Medical Association and its President, Yoram Blachar, in the torture of Palestinians, with a libel suit if he doesn’t shut up.

Now the use of Britain’s antiquated libel laws to silence people who tell the truth has been well documented. From Robert Maxwell to Richard Desmond, the pornographer who owns the Daily Express, the libel laws have been a useful means of keeping inconvenient facts from the public’s gaze. As we saw last week, notorious libel lawyers Peter, Carter, Ruck had actually managed to obtain an injunction from a dozy High Court Judge preventing the Guardian printing the truth about how Trafigura, an oil firm, had deposited poisonous oil sludge in Gambia poisoning and killing thousands of this poor State's inhabitants.

Almost without exception the libel law is used by the rich and privileged to defend their power and prevent the truth about their actions coming out. Of course there are exceptions, e.g. George Galloways defamation action against the Daily Telegraph which had alleged that Galloway's campaign against Iraqi sanctions and he personally, was being paid by Saddam Hussein.

But the actions of Mark Stephens are entirely different. It is to defend a powerful man, head of both the World and Israeli Medical Associations, in his determination to provide a cover for the use of torture. Of course none of this is new in the halls of infamy but what marks out Mark’s actions are that he is also a trustee of Index on Censorship!! Presumably Mark Stephens is opposed to censorship except when it comes to torturers, Zionists or Zionist torturers. Or maybe his commitment to fighting censorship stops when it threatens his pocket.

La Rochefoucauld’s famous maxim comes to mind: "Hypocrisie est un hommage que la vice rend à la vertu.' Roughly translated, 'hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.' One can only assume Mark Stephens is going to be weighed down by the tribute he will have to pay for acting on behalf of an apologist for torture, Dr Yoram Blachar, President of the World Medical Association and Chair of the Israeli Medical Association.

As viewers will know, this blog is very hot on the use of torture and other forms of medieval practice. We have repeatedly criticised the Israeli state and its Nazi-style doctors who monitor the practice

But we have also criticised the Palestinian Authority for using torture, so we are taking a principled position when we ask a simple question:

Is Index on Censorship happy at being associated with the attempted censorship of those who expose torture?

Below is an item from the right-wing Israeli daily, Yediot Aharanot, showing that the majority of the population of Israel, uniquely among countries, supports the use of torture. Clearly Blachar is not alone in doing his best to protect the torturers.

Tony Greenstein

BBC poll: World against torture, Israel in favor
Poll of 25 countries reveals that the majority of world's population opposes torturing prisoners suspected of terror involvement. In Israel, over half of Jewish population supports using torture to get information from terrorists, while most Muslims oppose it
Ynet, Published: 10.19.06,

Nearly a third of people worldwide support the use of torture against terror suspects in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Over 27,000 people in 25 countries, including Israel, were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives. Fifty-nine percent were opposed to torture, 29 percent replied it an acceptable means to combat terrorism.

Respondents were asked which position was closer to their own views:
a) Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.
b) Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.

In Israel a majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53 percent, agreed that the governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture to obtain information from terror suspects, while 39 percent were completely opposed and wanted clear rules against it. However the Muslim population in Israel polled overwhelmingly against any use of torture.

And what do countries who have suffered terror attacks think? In the United States 58 percent oppose torture, 36 percent are in favor and 6 percent haven't made up their minds yet.
In Britain, where a large scale terror plot was recently thwarted, 72 percent are against retrieving information from terror suspects through torture while 24 percent are in favor. Similar figures were apparent in Spain, where 65 percent oppose terror and only 16 percent condone it.

The poll was also conducted in Muslim countries. In Iraq, which suffers daily terror attacks, 42 percent are in favor of torturing terror suspects, 55 percent are against it. In Egypt the figure drops to 25 percent in favor and 62 percent against. The rest are undecided.

In three other countries, besides Israel, less than half the population polled against torturing terror suspects. In China – 49 percent were against and 37 percent were in favor.

In Russia, 43 percent polled against and 37 percent were in favor. In India, which has also suffered from terror attacks the data is intriguing – 23 percent are against torture and 23 percent are in favor of the tactic. The remaining 45 percent have yet to make up their minds.

1 comment:

Brian Robinson said...

Good to see your comment again Tony.   As one of the 725 physicians from 43 countries who signed the letter I want to clarify, so that there should be no misunderstanding, that our campaign has at no time been directed against Dr Blachar personally,  and we have never alleged or suggested, nor would we,  that for instance Dr Blachar himself has personally engaged in the use of torture in Israel.  I have never heard any of us, or specifically Dr Summerfield, who acted as our convenor, ever portraying Dr Blachar as a torturer — that is not, and has never been, our allegation.
We have focused in particular on the Tokyo Declaration —
“Guidelines for Medical Doctors concerning Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in relation to Detention and Imprisonment”.   It is not enough for a doctor to say, for example, that he wasn’t in the room when the torture (etc) took place — it is very specific:  “A breach of the Geneva Conventions shall in any case be reported by the physician to relevant authorities”.
The Declaration of Tokyo intended, and this has always been clear, that in order not to be guilty of countenancing or condoning torture and similar abuses, doctors are required to take action, for instance in reports to the appropriate authorities, whenever they encounter or suspect torture.  Inaction, either for the individual doctor or for a national medical organisation is thus not an option.
We have been critical of the Israeli Medical Association and of Dr Blachar in relation to his role and responsibilities as office bearer within the IMA and more recently as president of the World Medical Association (his term comes to an end this month).  For instance, when Dr Blachar has written on this and related matters to the Lancet or the British Medical Journal, he has done so not as a private individual but as an office-bearer.
In passing I’d mention that at a lecture some months ago in London, reported by the Jewish Chronicle,  (by James Martin, June 25, 2009) 
Dr Ishai Menuchin, Executive Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (who compiled and published the “Ticking Bombs” report in 2007) criticised the supervising [Israeli] doctors “who sit back and allow torture to go unchecked”.  He called the Israeli Medical Association culpable for “standing by and allowing its doctors to go unpunished”.
I’d like to mention just one more highly relevant contribution here, namely the article by John S Yudkin, emeritus professor of medicine, University College London in the British Medical Journal, 7 Oct this year. It is entitled "Doctors and Human Rights: The Israeli Medical Association and doctors' complicity in torture.

It can be read on my website at:
which is:-
or alternatively

All best