With ongoing controversy surrounding the conduct of the war in Iraq and the treatment of terror suspects in the wider "War on Terror", Newsnight staged a special programme entitled: "Allies on Trial".
Allegations about the allies' conduct of war in Iraq, counter-insurgency measures and claims of torture in the "War on Terror" - plus the use of "extraordinary rendition" by the US - continue to surface.
Jeremy Paxman chaired a special programme exploring whether the allies are guilty of war crimes.
The programme took the form of a trial, with advocates arguing the case for the prosecution and defence with the help of witness and expert testimony.
Clive Stafford Smith - the Legal Director of Reprieve; a charity that defends prisoners facing the death penalty - lead the prosecution.
Barrister John Cooper argued for the defence.
A jury of specially chosen undecided members of the public gave their verdict.
"Allies on Trial" was broadcast on Wednesday, 14 December, 2005.
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This was an amazing programme, something that the US press would never touch so I commend you on your journalistic integrity and willingness to question our own government's actions. Although my country is not directly involved in the conflict, I still feel that this entire War on Terror is a sham. This programme had two very well defended positions and both argued their case diligently, I hope to see more programming of this sort by the BBC in the future and again I commend you.
Erik Halliwell, Ottawa, Canada
I would like to have heard more from the jurors at the end of the programme, particularly those who changed their mind - we heard some of them. Congratulations, as always, to Newsnight's editorial and production teams. The trial makes a real teaching tool for international law!
Finola O'Sullivan, Cambridge
"Do you believe the allies have breached the convention on the methods and means of warfare?" I wonder how many people posting comments or voting on this subject know the slightest thing about it?
J Middleton, Nottingham
It was a brilliant programme since both sides have had the chance to address their cases, because most of the time we only hear how good the allies are to fight the terrorists who are out to hurt us in this country.
Mohammed Musse, Birmingham
I applaud the BBC for generating a debate and approve whole-heartedly of the programme's approach. I think it was essential to provide a loosely-structured debate rather than an editorial piece that would inevitably be biased one way or another. Living in the US, you can only dream of such enlightened journalism! Well done, Newsnight. At the same time, I was very disappointed that some forum users have interpreted this programme as an attack on British service men and women. I sincerely believe they are missing the point; it is the policymakers and politicians that are on trial for the decisions they are making in our name.
Steve Godfrey, USA
What are these absurd claims that the programme somehow attacked British troops in a biased fashion? At no point do I remember the prosecution criticising British troops. I did hear criticism of the American commanders' decisions with regards Fallujah.
I thought the most compelling performance during the programme was from Clive Stafford Smith. Renditions and thus torture have no place in any civilised society. Nations, whatever the circumstances, must not come down to the level of the terrorists. Perceived abuse is the single most effective recruiting sergeant for these organisations and is ultimately counter productive.
Patrick Roberts, Edinburgh
People need to stop treating Iraq as a project. At the end of the day, more that 100,000 Iraqis died and are still dying. Well done, the BBC, and especially Newsnight - that was the best programme we have seen for a long time and it was journalism at its best. The truth always hurts.
Hold on, I've not heard anyone complain of the beheadings, the beatings and other killings - this is rather one sided, I believe. We are still, in effect, at war and all normal rules of warfare should still stand. Or are we to stand there and be killed without even defending ourselves?
In a democracy we are all responsible for the actions of our government. We must listen very carefully to what they say and not what we think they say. The British people have taken their eye off the ball with the results that we now see.
Mr G Fell, Prescot, Merseyside
Chris Davies should be ashamed of himself for his posting below. We, at least for the moment, live in a democracy where people are entitled to hold and express an opinion and where the media have the right and obligation to give them the opportunity to get the information they need to do so. After all, isn't that what our politicians are always banging on about in defence of their invasion of Iraq? And as far as his sympathy for our poor young soldiers cowering in holes and fearing the snipers bullet, it was not the BBC or the anti-war brigade who put them in that position. An excellent programme, well done BBC.
This was an excellent program. A discussion of activities such as "rendition" by the US is highly relevant; because if any illegal acts are being carried out, especially if our government turns out to be complicit, needs to be challenged otherwise it will inevitable impinge on our own freedom.
I agree with "Anon". This isn't a trial of the troops on the ground. This is a trial of the policy makers both here and in the US, though I suspect that there wasn't much in the way of policy making here. More a case of "follow my leader" across the pond. I firmly believe that the war was unjust and the aftermath will drag on interminably.
Chris Smith, Plaistow, West Sussex
I believe the troops are wasting their time in Iraq. Politicians like Blair and Bush keep saying that Saddam was a threat because he had WMD, but the other day Bush admitted the intelligence was wrong. Yes, we do admit that Saddam killed many civilians but that is not why we went to war.
What was the point of this programme? My only guess is that it was for the chattering classes to once again drag the good name of the British soldier through the dirt - again - whilst feeling smug about it.
W Bennett, Essex
I watched the show last night. One side presented an individual who was a prisoner and had been abused. They also presented a journalist who had spoken with civilians who had been attacked by the Allies. It seems they were attempting to address the issues. The other side presented a man who had lost his daughter in the July 7 attacks, a video clip showing how evil Saddam was etc. While these are tragic, and our hearts go out to the family who lost their daughter, these were not the issues at hand. This approach is similar to the approach of the Bush Administration. When questioned about torture or abuse or Weapons of Mass destruction or links to al-Qaeda, rather than address the facts, they attempt to play on our emotions reminding us how evil Saddam Hussein was. As mentioned last night, two wrongs don't make a right, no matter how "bad" Saddam was, we need to hold our governments accountable.
Once again the main case in favour of the war is that Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein. If that was the whole story it would be fair enough. But again nobody who supports that view is prepared to admit the part the West played in helping Saddam. Western Countries encouraged Saddam by selling him weapons of repression and mass destruction. Who are they accountable to?
Andy Crane, Finchley, London
It was always my understanding that the BBC was supposed to offer an unbiased option to the other main news services. In recent years they have joined the rest of the country's so called impartial agencies to attack the troops on the ground. Once again I am repulsed by this obvious attack on squaddies and their families.
James Patience, Middlesbrough
When I first joined the Army I was taught the role of Infantry was: "To seek and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, by day or by night regardless of weather or terrain"
It didn't include that my role was to roll over and take a kicking from a self serving sensationalist media there to criticise with clinical detail every move I made on the battlefield from the comfort of a climate controlled office in order to allow them to get some middle class human rights person and continue to undermine the morale of me an my troops.
A.B., Edinburgh, Scotland
It should be an interesting programme and these issues DO need to be addressed. People need to remember, just because our soldiers are there in Iraq, it doesn't make it right. It's not the armed forces fault at all, it's the politicians who sent them there.
Sam B, Tubridge Wells
I am sick and tired of people suggesting the US and UK troops pull out - they must stay until the end.
Anthony Christian, Glasgow
I don't ever remember the BBC putting on a mock trial when Saddam Hussein was in power. Why is that? Also, far too many people are being far too short sighted in claiming that Iraq is a disaster. This is a long-term project that needs full commitment to get it right. We should be prepared for the long-haul in making Iraq a secure and stable country for the Iraqi people.
M Jones, St Andrews, Scotland
Must we use George Bush's ill-chosen "War on Terror" phrase? It is inflammatory and inappropriate, since it is never a war that we will be able to declare we've won in some finite military fashion? I worry that this "trial" will simply confuse the issue, since the war in Iraq and all that has followed runs contrary to the much more subtle and longer term objective of "defeating" or at least combating terrorism. Are we looking at foreign policy, military strategy, the intelligence services or tactics on the ground?
Bruce Acton, Winchester
I am so absolutely incensed at the BBC for airing this programme that I can barely type this message. I speak as a former Royal Marine who has served in various hostile places to protect innocent people who are the subject of regimes like this. I only hope that one day the ignorant, sniping, treacherous cowards at the BBC can respect the brave men and women of our armed forces and may one day be able to understand what it feels like to lie in a shallow hole thousands of miles away from one's wife and children and weep at the thought you may never see them again. BBC, I am utterly disgusted.
Chris Davies, London
Looking forward to the programme and the surrounding controversy. Sadly, the comments on this page show just how entrenched many people's opinions are on this subject - from the 9/11 conspiracy theorists to the "my country, right or wrong" brigade. Many people leaving comments here seem to be confused - this isn't a trial of soldiers serving in Iraq, but of the policy-makers.
Oh for Gawd's sake, can't you find something new to talk about?
Alan Taylor, Newport, South Wales
I'm disillusioned to see people here saying that we should be supporting troops and be happy for allowing democracy in Iraq. This is not about bashing or supporting troops, this is looking at the legality of the war. If rendition and resulting torture has occurred because of our actions, then we are further creating an unjust and unstable world. There is no question about this having to be brought to light.
This is disgusting, by even producing this programme it's clear the BBC thinks that the allies are guilty. It's not up to the BBC, or a "selected jury" to decide, but the people by democratic process. Which is what they did at the last election, with not much effect. If this isn't clear unbalanced, bad journalism, then I don't know what is.
Andy Dicker, Wells, Somerset
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