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Gareth Peirce, 'Dispatches from the Dark Side: On Torture and the Death of Justice'

Verso, 2010; 112pp; £9.99

Don’t let the rather complicated title of this book put you off. Gareth Peirce, the author of this very important book, is more than well known as the solicitor who has given hope to so many lost in the networks of legal injustice.

She gives us a sombre warning: “We could never have envisaged that the history of the new century would encompass the destruction and distortion of fundamental Anglo-American legal and political principles in place since the 17th century.”

That is just what has happened. Torture, and evidence based on torture, rendition, secret trials, and official obfuscation are now the name of the game. She describes “terrorist legislation” and its victims, the framing of Al Megrahi and the suffering of Irish suspects during the IRA campaign.

Most shocking for me was the description of US SuperMax prisons. There are now some 20,000 prisoners in the US living in total isolation in windowless cells. A few times a week they are allowed out for exercise, always in isolation.

In the Middle Ages such secret places were known as oubliettes – the places for the forgotten. Now they are normal in the most powerful country in the world.

Gareth Peirce recently received a prize from the Irish community here for her work for justice. She richly deserved it.

Topics: Human rights