Mr.John Yoo, known for his work during 2001-03 in the U.S.Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, might have found himself out of favour with the new administration, after the inauguration of President Barrack Obama. Yoo had contributed to the U.S.PATRIOT Act and wrote memos in which he advocated the possible legality of torture and that enemy combatants could be denied protection under the Geneva Conventions, whereas President Obama is determined to reverse some harsh aspects of Bush’s War on Terror. Yoo was also accused of war crime for authoring such memos. But Yoo may be surprised to know that he has won new friends in far-away Indian judicial fraternity. On January 27 at a seminar organised by the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court and the Solicitor General, G.E.Vahanvati both found themselves in Mr.Yoo’s company for what they said about fighting terrorism in India. I understand that the Solicitor-General, Mr.G.E.Vahanvati, spoke impromptu at this seminar, while it is not yet clear whether Justice Pasayat too departed from his prepared speech. This editorial in Indian Express today found Justice Pasayat’s speech too jarring.
Both Justice Pasayat and the Solicitor-General may consider the ongoing debate in the U.S. following the Inauguration very relevant to what they have said about terrorism in India. While Yoo chastised President Obama in a recent article(Obama made a rash decision in Gitmo)another commentator, Charles Fried, in the course of defending officials like Yoo, made the following observation, which succinctly sums up the discomfort of those defending the indefensible while pursuing harsh counter-terrorism policies. He said:
“Our physical survival is not what is of overriding moral importance (people give up their lives all the time for some higher value) but our survival as decent human beings acting for a decent society. And we cannot authorize indecency without jeopardizing our survival as a decent society.”