A rotten debate in the state of Denmark

Both former Prime Minister (and current Secretary-General of NATO) Anders Fogh Rasmussen and current Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt have publicly stated their support for the use of information obtained through torture, despite its prohibition in the UN Convention against Torture, to which Denmark has ratified. Left photo by Jose Sena Goulao, and right photo by Arbeiderpartiet; both available via Flickr through Creative Commons License.

The Danish debate on torture has continued this week since our first post on the matter. And it has revealed a disturbing level of acceptance of torture at all levels of society – from the general public to heads of state – within this Scandinavian nation.

While many are retracting and doubling-back on public statements, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has agreed* that Denmark may use information obtained through the use of torture.

Earlier this week, journalists asked Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister and current Secretary-General of NATO, about his opinion on the debate – should Denmark use information obtained through torture by third-parties? Despite all NATO states having ratified the UN Convention against Torture, which clearly prohibits this practice, Rasmussen invoked the faulty “ticking bomb” argument and stated that it may be a necessary practice to fight terrorism.

IRCT Secretary-General Brita Sydhoff found that abhorrent.

“This is nonsense. In your position, you really should know better than this, Mr Rasmussen. Courts around the world know it. Intelligence services know it. The armies in many countries deplore its use. Torture is counterproductive, harmful and it creates victims who often suffer for a lifetime. Torture solves nothing.

“While the “ticking bomb” scenario continues to be invoked in such arguments, it has, countless times been discredited [PDF].

“Moreover, torture is illegal. At all times. In all places. The use of information obtained through torture is also illegal under the terms of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which Denmark along with all other NATO countries, has ratified.

“If you don’t understand the Convention, or the rationale behind it, I, and my colleagues throughout our worldwide movement of 150 rehabilitation centres in over 70 countries, can help you. Our doors are always open to you for dialogue. They can also show your our work with survivors of this deplorable act.”

Everyone has begun weighing in. Danish Conservative Party spokesman Tom Benke stated that Denmark’s police force should be ready to use torture if necessary. He later amended this statement.

Shockingly – and most disappointingly –  these state officials are not alone in this opinion. A Gallup poll this week found only 57% of Danes say torture should never be used to obtain information. In 2004, 68% of Danes agreed with that statement; this is a disturbing trend, but not so surprising given the mixed messages coming from those in positions of power.

*Note: Almost all links are in Danish.


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  1. #1 by Karl Thomsen on 15/03/2012 - 15:42

    One should be very careful reading Danish news on this. Some of it may be a fight on words – bad or good.
    Fx what the Conservative Tom Behnke has renounced is just his use of the word: torture. His talks about “interrogation” practices, such as beating people in the head, he has not commented on since yesterday.
    It is never the word that makes something torture – it’s what is done. And when leading politicians aren’t clear about what is actually torture or not, when they don’t understand what is torture or not, then what message will be sent?

  2. #2 by boss on 09/04/2012 - 09:55

    i personally , sufferd from those dirty persons they abused and beat us then handed us over to the criminal police gang to enjoy torture , now they say we did nothing , shame on denmark to have a dirty dishonest persons like them.

    iraqi vicitm

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