Bollox Britain

 2005

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30th December

   Britain Holds the Coats of Torturers

Craig Murray's site mysteriously went down for a long while but the blogging community soon ensured that 100's of sites carried the controversial documents eg:
See also article from scoop.co.nz

It was also noted that the following Independent story does not mention the blogging sites republishing the documents nor does it quote anything from the documents.

From The Independent

Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has defied the Foreign Office by publishing on the internet documents providing evidence that the British Government knowingly received information extracted by torture in the "war on terror".

Murray, who publicly raised the issue of the usefulness of information obtained under torture before he was forced to leave his job last year, submitted his forthcoming book, Murder in Samarkand, to the Foreign Office for clearance. But the Foreign Office demanded that he remove references to two sensitive government documents, which undermine official denials, to show that Britain had been aware it was receiving information obtained by the Uzbek authorities through torture. Rather than submit to the gagging order Murray decided to publish the material on the internet.

The first document published by Murray contains the text of several telegrams that he sent to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful". The second document is the text of a Foreign Office legal opinion which argues that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture is not a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has defied the Foreign Office by publishing on the internet documents providing evidence that the British Government knowingly received information extracted by torture in the "war on terror".

Murray, who publicly raised the issue of the usefulness of information obtained under torture before he was forced to leave his job last year, submitted his forthcoming book, Murder in Samarkand , to the Foreign Office for clearance. But the Foreign Office demanded that he remove references to two sensitive government documents, which undermine official denials, to show that Britain had been aware it was receiving information obtained by the Uzbek authorities through torture. Rather than submit to the gagging order Murray decided to publish the material on the internet.

 

30th December

   Arrested in Possession of an Offensive Glare

Based on an article from From The Telegraph

Police are to be given sweeping powers to arrest people for every offence, including dropping litter, failure to wear a seat belt and other minor misdemeanours.

The measures, which come into force on Jan 1, are the biggest expansion in decades of police powers to deprive people of their liberty.

At present, officers can generally arrest people if they suspect them of committing an offence which carries at least five years in prison. They will now have the discretion to detain someone if they suspect any offence and think that an arrest is "necessary".

The civil liberties organisation Liberty said the change represented "a fundamental shift" in power from the public to the police and the state and was open to misuse.

It pointed out that powers to stop people under anti-terrorist legislation, which the public had been reassured would be applied correctly and sparingly, have been extensively misused purely for police convenience.

There are also worries that the new arrest laws will create major problems for constables, whose judgment on the "necessity" of an arrest is likely to be routinely challenged in the courts, particularly under human rights legislation.

Officers will have to satisfy themselves of "a person's involvement or suspected involvement or attempted involvement in the commission of a criminal offence" and that there are "reasonable grounds for believing that the person's arrest is necessary".

They will also have the power to take digital photographs of suspects on the street when they have been arrested, detained or given a fixed penalty notice.

The Home Office said the move would save time spent in taking suspects to a police station to be photographed and that it would "greatly reduce the ability of suspects to deny that they were the person in question".

But many people fear that the move will create a vast database of photographs of innocent citizens which could be kept even if the police decide not to take any further action against them.

The Government says that the existing legal framework on arrestable and non-arrestable offences has become "bewilderingly" complex and needs to be simplified.

A Home Office spokesman said yesterday that arrests would not soar because, in addition to the necessity test, many offences would be covered by fixed penalty notices.

Police chiefs have made clear that, although they were concerned about the current system, they did not ask for all offences to be arrestable.

Liberty said that three years ago the Home Office and the Cabinet Office had advocated "a definitive list" of arrestable offences and enhanced training, not a move towards all offences being arrestable.

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: Officers need firm guidance on how to use these new powers. Nobody wants to live in a society in which every offence results in people being dragged down to the police station.

Edward Garnier, the Tories' spokesman on home affairs, said: The effect of the new arrangements will need to be monitored closely.

Like Liberty, he referred to the ejection from the Labour conference of Walter Wolfgang, 82, a refugee from Nazi Germany and a Labour Party member since 1948, and how a policeman citing the Terrorism Act detained him when he tried to get back into the hall.

Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, said: We need to maintain the crucial balance between the powers of the police and an individual's rights. [the balance point being that the individual's rights are worth bugger all]

 

26th December

   Once in Royal Tony's City

Based on an article from the Daily Mail

More than 100 peace protesters staged a carol service outside the Houses of Parliament last week to test new repressive anti-demonstration laws.

The protesters said they were attempting to highlight that the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which bans unauthorised protest activity within 1km of Parliament, infringes civil liberties.

They had feared that police might arrest some participants. But the event passed off with no arrests and police kept a low profile, with just two uniformed officers patrolling nearby.

The service was led by Brian Haw, who has spent the last four years sleeping under a plastic sheet among his anti-war placards in Parliament Square.

The crowd sang a selection of traditional Christmas carols and held a minute's silence to remember the dead from recent conflicts.

Also present was Maya Anne Evans who was given a conditional discharge by magistrates earlier this month after being convicted under the new legislation for reading out the names of soldiers killed in Iraq at central London's Cenotaph.

She said: If I had been arrested again tonight I would have been in breach of my conditional discharge and could be re-sentenced for that offence as well as the new offence. The service shows that if you stand up and be counted, and show you are not willing to allow the Government to introduce Acts which infringe your civil liberties, then you can make a difference.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: We treated the event as a carol service and not as a demonstration so the legislation did not come into play.

 

16th December

   No Question of Justice

From The Independent

Four men deprived of their liberty for four years on suspicion of being international terrorists disclose today that they have not once been questioned by police or security services since being arrested.

The four, who were among 16 suspects detained without trial under post-11 September terror legislation, later overturned by the law lords, give harrowing accounts of the treatment they have suffered. All are now under virtual house arrest. Although three face deportation, The Independent has learnt that there is no prospect of the men ever being questioned over the offences they are alleged to have committed.

In interviews with Amnesty International, the four - three Algerians and a Palestinian - say their detentions have harmed their physical and mental health. They also complain that their treatment has had a devastating impact on their wives and families.

The men were interned in Belmarsh jail in south-east London - which has been called Britain's Guantanamo Bay - and other high security prisons in conditions consistently condemned by human rights organisations. Their detentions were ruled illegal by the law lords a year ago and they have since been released on control orders with tough restrictions on leaving home.

Three were re-arrested in August under immigration powers pending deportation and released by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act (Siac) in October on very strict bail conditions amounting to house arrest. One of them told Amnesty: We've been moving from one nightmare to another.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International said: Both men expressed a profound sense of injustice that their liberty had been taken from them without their ever being charged, tried or shown any evidence against them. Both expressed amazement that this could happen in a country like the UK.

But what struck me most was the impact that the detention and subsequent house arrest of these men has had on their partners and their families. Abu Rideh's house doesn't feel like the kind of bustling home you would expect of a family with five children. It is silent, sad and isolated. Friends and family are scared to visit - to do so they have to submit their name and photo to the Home Office, and in effect become a "known associate of a terrorist suspect"


The disclosure that the men have not been interviewed by the authorities will embarrass ministers, who have claimed that the men present such a terrorist threat that they have to be permanently monitored.

In a report today on the plight of the so-called Belmarsh detainees, Amnesty calls for charges to be brought against them or for the restrictions on their freedom to be lifted. A spokesman said: Is this really what we call justice in this country? These men have had their liberty taken from them for four years yet they haven't even been charged and tried, let alone found guilty of anything. What's really shocking is that these men, supposedly 'suspected international terrorists', have never once been questioned since their arrest.

 

12th December

   Justice Abuse

From The Independent

At first light yesterday, Brian Haw was dragged from his slumber by police officers and arrested. His crime was that his bed - or to be more precise his sleeping bag - is within shouting distance of the Prime Minister's bedroom.

Haw may be a dedicated peace activist and human rights award nominee to some but to the two constables standing over him, he was a criminal. I'm not breaching the peace. I'm fighting for it, he said indignantly.

So on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the man who has spent the past four-and-a-half years encamped outside Parliament to highlight the plight of Iraqi children, became the latest anti-war activist to be arrested.

Since the introduction this April of new draconian laws that forbid spontaneous free speech within a one-kilometre radius of the House of Commons, many demonstrators have fallen foul of the legislation.

Voices from across the political spectrum have condemned the Government for trying to suppress free speech and deny protesters their right to demonstrate. In making the case for the war in Iraq, Blair has often stated his ambition that Iraqis should be allowed the political freedoms enjoyed in Britain. But the evidence is that those freedoms are being steadily eroded in the United Kingdom. Speaking at the George Bush Snr presidential library three years ago, Blair celebrated the right to protest, telling his audience: I may not like what they call me, but I thank God they can . But in the bitter aftermath of the war in Iraq, the margins of domestic dissent are being squeezed.

Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, said yesterday: All governments have been sensitive to criticism, but this Government has taken the suppression of dissent to a new level - it is nervous to the point of paranoia and frightened of being told the truth.

John McDonnell MP, chairman of the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, added there was an increasing build-up of anger in Parliament: Freedom of speech has never been under such attack in the UK and it is shameful this is happening under a Labour government. We need a concerted campaign in Parliament and if necessary in the courts to counter this full-frontal attack on our centuries' old democratic rights.

Haw was driven to Charing Cross police station to answer accusations that he had breached the peace. Ironically, while his vocal vigil outside the House of Commons inspired the new Socpa law, High Court judges in July ruled that he was exempt from the ruling as his protest began before it came into force. But, he insisted, he continues to be "harrassed" by the police.

At the station, Haw protested loudly on the phone to his solicitor and within the hour the desk sergeant released him to walk back to his permanent post on Parliament Square.

Once freed from police custody yesterday, Haw solemnly read out the names of dead British soldiers as well as Iraqi victims of the conflict in the shadow of Big Ben, mimicking Maya Evans' "crime". But - unlike most people in this country - the law, or to be more precise the High Court judge who decreed he was exempt, was on his side.

Terrorised by the Police

The cases of Pennie Quinton and Kevin Gillan are due before the House of Lords next month as civil rights campaigners attempt to show that anti-terrorism laws to stop and search are being used unlawfully. Gillan, a postgraduate student from Sheffield, and Quinton, a freelance photo-journalist, were among about 140 people arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at an arms fair at the Excel Centre in east London in 2003.

Lawyers for Liberty argued that the "draconian" powers were being used in a way that was never intended by Parliament and that they had unlawfully deterred members of the public from demonstrating peacefully. The Court of Appeal gave the police the benefit of the doubt.

Convicted over anti-corporate stunt

The self-styled George Fox Six burst into a lecture theatre at Lancaster University in September last year to protest at a corporate conference. They picked a conference attended by executives from BAE Systems, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell to highlight what they believed were malign relationships between academic research and business.

In response to the protest, their own university insisted on pressing charges for aggravated trespass.

Detained for throwing a tea party

It started as a joke for Mark Barrett, a tour guide, and a few other protesters. Angered at the planned exclusion zone for unauthorised demonstrations around Parliament Square, he went to a protest in August.

He said: There were various people there with placards. I said, 'Let's go and throw tea into the Thames as they did at the Boston Tea Party.' We had a bit of a laugh. Now we have a tea party protest every Sunday.

Thus was born the People of the Commons Picknickers, angered by Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Barrett, and 20 other activists were arrested. He is due in court next month. The law is about the attempt to marginalise people's points of view. It is anti-democratic and an abuse of power."

Apprehended for 'offensive' T-shirt

John Catt, an 80-year-old peace campaigner, was stopped by police officers as a terrorist suspect in Brighton in September - for wearing a T-shirt with anti-Blair and Bush slogans.

Catt was stopped, searched by police and made to sign a form confirming he had been interviewed under the 2000 Terrorism Act. The official record of the encounter confirms that the "purpose" of the search was "terrorism" and the "grounds for intervention" were "carrying plackard and T-shirt with anti-Blair info" (sic).

Catt was offered a caution by police, but refused and plans to plead not guilty at a trial due to start in January. I said I was going to voice my opposition to the Iraq War. He [the policeman] said: 'We're going to give you a copy of this form.' People should have the right to protest non-violently. The anti-terrorism laws should not be used to stop people doing that.

 

11th December

   Government on the Rack as Law lords ban evidence gained under torture

From The Independent

The law lords heaped embarrassment on the Government over its anti-terror strategy for the second time in a year as they ruled that evidence obtained by torture should never be used in British courts.

In a landmark ruling, they demanded that the detention of eight foreign terrorist suspects should be re-examined by the secret anti-terror courts in case the crucial evidence against them had been extracted by torture.

Although Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, insisted the decision would not affect detainees already in custody, it raises the possibility that they could eventually be released.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the former Lord Chief Justice, who headed the panel of law lords, said the English law had regarded "torture and its fruits" with abhorrence for more than 500 years.

He said he was startled, even a little dismayed that this deeply rooted tradition and an international obligation solemnly and explicitly undertaken could be overriden by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which oversees the detention of terror suspects.

Lord Hoffmann, a fellow law lord, said the use of torture corrupted and degraded the state that used it and the legal system that accepted it. In a reference to Guantanamo Bay, he said that many Americans have felt their country "dishonoured" by its use of torture outside its own jurisdiction and the practice of moving suspects to countries where torture is practised.

The case was brought by eight foreign terrorist suspects - the majority Algerian - originally held in Belmarsh prison, who claimed the evidence against them was in part based on information obtained by torture. Most are still in detention pending deportation once the Government has negotiated agreements that they will not be harmed after their return.

Last year, the Court of Appeal found against the detainees by a majority of two to one, ruling that the state had no obligation to investigate how evidence was produced. But the ruling was overturned by the law lords yesterday, who stressed common law developed over centuries should take precedence over SIAC's practices.

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who represented most of the men, said: It's an appalling state of affairs we've had to argue for four years that evidence which could be the product of torture should not be used in court.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: This is an incredibly important day, with the law lords sending a signal across the democratic world that there is to be no compromise on torture. This is what distinguishes us from dictators and terrorists.

Amnesty International said: The authorities have shamefully sought to defend the indefensible.

But Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said: We accept this judgment, which will have no bearing on the Government's efforts to combat terrorism. We have always made clear we do not intend to rely on or present evidence in SIAC which we know or believe to have been obtained by torture.

 

9th December

   Britain Doesn't Care about those Care About Britain

From The Independent

In three different British courtrooms yesterday, three ordinary people stood accused of three very different crimes, but all based simply on their opposition to the war in Iraq.

In the first case of its kind, a woman received a criminal conviction for standing outside Downing Street and reading aloud the names of the 97 British soldiers who have died in the Iraq conflict. At the same time as Maya Evans appeared in court yesterday to become the first person to be found guilty under the legislation designed to create an exclusion zone around Parliament Square, Douglas Barker,  a retired businessman, was told by a magistrate that he faces jail for withholding part of his income tax on his investments, also in protest over Iraq.

In a third courtroom in Aldershot, a military judge heard that Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, an RAF medical officer based in Scotland, faced a court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq on the basis that the war was illegal.

After her hearing, Evans, a part-time vegan chef from Hastings, described her conviction as an assault on her right to freedom of expression. She said: " I just think it's a shame you can't voice your freedom of speech in this country any more and it is illegal to hold a remembrance ceremony for the dead. Earlier, she had told Bow Street magistrates: I didn't want to be arrested but, as far as I was concerned, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong standing there on a drizzly Tuesday morning with a colleague reading names of people who had died in a war. I don't think it's a criminal offence and I don't think I should have been arrested for it.

After a three-hour hearing, she was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005; she was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 costs. The law, which came into power in April, makes it illegal to hold an unauthorised protest within 1km of Parliament Square. It was introduced partly to get rid of a long-term and noisy peace protester, Brian Haw, whose one-man vigil outside the gates of the Palace of Westminster was considered a nuisance.

Evans was arrested, along with follow demonstrator, Milan Rai, in October as they stood next to the Cenotaph, close to the gated entrance to Downing Street. Rai, a writer, was reading out the names of dead Iraqi civilians. The pair had been intending to ring a bell for each of the names read out. Rai, who had spoken to the police in advance about his protest, was not charged.

In Chippenham, magistrates were told that Barker was refusing to pay £1,142.58, which amounted to 10 per cent of the income tax he was due to pay for the second half of this year. Instead, he had put the money to one side, intending to give it to a charity supporting children in Iraq, and had sent a note to the Inland Revenue to explain.

Barker told the magistrates: I estimated that 10 per cent goes on military expenditure and I came to the conclusion that by paying this I was violating my conscience because I felt it would have been used illegally to kill people in a sovereign state.

He said he would only pay if he got a promise the money would not be used for military purposes, adding he believed the Government had used illegal weapons against Iraqi civilians since the start of the war. His comments were greeted with applause from a group of about 20 anti-war protesters in the public gallery.

Magistrates imposed a liability order, which means he has to pay the outstanding amount or bailiffs will become involved. Hilary Light, the chairwoman of the bench, said: Whatever this court may feel, our jurisdiction is laid down and we can't say where money can go to. We are therefore going to make the liability order. No time limit was given.

At a hearing in Aldershot, Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith was told that he faces a two-day court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq.

Flt Lt Kendall-Smith, a unit medical officer based at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland, had already completed two tours of Iraq. However, after studying the legal position, including the advice of Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, he concluded the war was unlawful and he should not return.

David Perry, for the prosecution, said there were two questions relevant in the case. Firstly, was it lawful to ask Flt Lt Kendall-Smith to return to Iraq? Secondly, were each of the four charges he faced relevant to the order telling him to go back.

His lawyer, Philip Sapsford, did not dispute his client failed to stay for a training course, helmet-fitting, an employment briefing and initial risk training exercise. But, Sapsford argued the officer did not break English law. The crucial question is whether to go to Iraq and the war itself is in fact unlawful in international law. I ask this question because UN resolutions do not form part of English law.

Kendall-Smith faces five charges of disobeying lawful orders under the RAF Act 1955. The court martial will begin on 15 March.

 

28th November

   No Tortured Souls in Government

From The Independent

Tony Blair has been accused of undermining decades of British campaigning for international human rights by using the war on terror to give a "green light" to torture. Amnesty International is to launch an unprecedented global campaign tomorrow against the British Government after ministers admitted they would use information gained by torture to prevent attacks on the United Kingdom.

Mike Gapes, the Labour MP and chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, hit out at the Government after Ian Pearson, the Foreign Office minister responsible for human rights, said evidence obtained under torture could not be ignored if it might prevent an attack: The fact the Government now seems prepared to use evidence obtained under torture sends a worrying signal and may mean that while we say we condemn the use of torture, other countries might feel they have a green light to use torture to get evidence on terrorism."

Amnesty is to turn the tactics it used against torture by dictatorships in the Seventies and Eighties on the Government as it puts the campaign against British anti-terror laws at the forefront of the organisation's global fight for human rights. It will call on its two million members worldwide to join a letter-writing campaign targeting Blair and build international pressure to oppose plans to deport suspects to countries that use torture.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty UK, said Britain's actions posed one of the greatest threats to human rights in the West. She condemned Britain for attempting to secure memorandums of understanding with other states to allow the deportation of terror suspects

The Government has signed memorandums with Jordan and Libya and is negotiating deals with Algeria and other countries to attempt to ensure that detainees are not mistreated if they are returned.

But campaigners insist the deals are "not worth the paper they are written on" and undermine the global ban on torture. Meanwhile the House of Lords is also yet to rule on whether the UK can use evidence against terror suspects that may have been obtained under torture abroad.

Amnesty's campaign, to be launched with a rally outside Downing Street, has huge symbolic resonance for Labour. Allen said: This is deeply shocking. What is happening in the UK is of such magnitude that is has created anger in Amnesty as a worldwide movement. The UK has been at the forefront of establishing international law and helping human rights. It is in danger of simply throwing that away and I don't think backbenchers and the public realise that.

A day earlier, Blair had told MPs: We do not agree with the use of torture. Pressed over whether that was an absolute rule, Blair added: I mean absolute in this sense, that you say 'Look, it is simply the civil liberties of the suspect, or simply the liberties of freedom from terrorism'. You have to balance those two things.

He went on: Of course there are absolute rules that we have about torture, or about the death penalty for example ... I do not accept that the anti-terrorist measures that we have been introducing transgress that."

 

16th November

   Tortured Past

From The Guardian

The British government operated a secret torture centre during the second world war to extract information and confessions from German prisoners, according to official papers which have been unearthed by the Guardian.
More than 3,000 prisoners passed through the centre, where many were systematically beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to stand still for more than 24 hours at a time and threatened with execution or unnecessary surgery.

Some are also alleged to have been starved and subjected to extremes of temperature in specially built showers, while others later complained that they had been threatened with electric shock torture or menaced by interrogators brandishing red-hot pokers.

The centre, which was housed in a row of mansions in one of London's most affluent neighbourhoods, was carefully concealed from the Red Cross, the papers show. It continued to operate for three years after the war, during which time a number of German civilians were also tortured.
A subsequent assessment by MI5, the Security Service, concluded that the commanding officer had been guilty of "clear breaches" of the Geneva convention and that some interrogation methods "completely contradicted" international law.

On at least one occasion, an MI5 officer noted in a newly declassified report, a German prisoner was convicted of war crimes and hanged on the basis of a confession which he had signed after he was, at the very least, "worked on psychologically". A number of people who appeared as prosecution witnesses at war crimes trials are also alleged to have been tortured.

The official papers, discovered in the National Archives, depict the centre as a dark, brutal place which caused great unease among senior British officers. They appear to have turned a blind eye partly because of the usefulness of the information extracted, and partly because the detainees were thought to deserve ill treatment.

Not all the torture centre's secrets have yet emerged, however: the Ministry of Defence is continuing to withhold some of the papers almost 60 years after it was closed down.

 

17th Aug

   Watching Thugs Govern What We Say

From The Independent

The Labour Party was forced to make a humiliating apology to an 82-year-old party member last night after he was thrown out of the conference for heckling Jack Straw.

Melon Farmer's IconWalter Wolfgang, a party member for 57 years, was bundled out of the conference hall by stewards after shouting "nonsense" as Straw, the Foreign Secretary, defended Britain's role in Iraq.

He was later stopped under anti-terrorist powers as he tried to re-enter the hall. At first Sussex police denied that Wolfgang had been detained or searched but a spokesman later admitted that he had been issued with a section 44 stop and search form under the Terrorism Act.

The heavy-handed treatment of Wolfgang revived criticism of the "control freakery" associated with New Labour and even drew comparisons with the way the Communist leaders in Russia and China stifled dissent.

Wolfgang fled Nazi Germany as a teenager for the freedom of Britain. He said: I shouted out 'nonsense'. That's all I said. Then these two toughies came round and wanted to manhandle me out. 'I said: 'Do you want me to leave? I will leave, you don't need to manhandle me.'  Physically, I am not too well, so I said I would follow them.

In what Tony Blair's anti-war critics have called the "don't mention the war" conference, the party avoided a separate debate and vote on Iraq and the Prime Minister made only a short reference to the issue in his keynote speech. Yesterday's protest was muted by Labour's standards, but the over-reaction by conference stewards backfired and turned into a public relations disaster for the party.

Steve Forrest, the chairman of the Erith and Thamesmead Labour Party, was also ejected for protesting at Wolfgang's treatment. Angry delegates demonstrated at the removal of the two men.

Forrest said: I literally said 'hear, hear' twice. Later, this gentleman shouted 'nonsense'. It was just the voicing of an opinion and they grabbed hold of him. I said: 'You leave him alone, he is an old man' and five stewards pulled me out of the centre. They've taken my pass away and they won't let me back into the conference centre.

Delegates forced an investigation by the party's conference arrangements committee into the incident. A Mole Valley delegate, Carol Hayton, said: We are very concerned about the way in which a gentleman of more than 80 was manhandled from the balcony. Perhaps more appropriate action could have been taken but this was an 80-year-old gentleman and I am sure that Jack Straw, a politician of great experience, is able to deal with events of this kind without that kind of response from our stewards.

Linda Riordan, the MP for Halifax, added: You can't stop ordinary members of the Labour Party having a debate about Iraq. It's not taking place in the conference hall, but it is going on in the bars and the corridors.

After initially defending its actions, Labour admitted Wolfgang had been wrongly treated. Ian McCartney, the party chairman, said: We apologise for the inappropriate way he was removed. A Labour spokesman said: The Labour Party reserves its rights to remove from the conference site people who cause a persistent disturbance. However, it is clear from TV footage that the way in which Mr Wolfgang was removed was inappropriate.

When the Prime Minister was asked by a journalist whether he would apologise to Wolfgang, he did not comment.

Wolfgang was later greeted as a hero when he appeared at a rally of left-wingers in Brighton. His security pass has been taken away, but he intends to attend the conference's final day today.

 

17th Aug

   Police Licensed to Murder

From The Telegraph

The Brazilian electrician shot dead by police on the London Underground last month was being restrained when he was killed by officers from Scotland Yard's firearms unit, according to documents leaked last night.

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot seven times in the head by two plainclothes policemen who had followed him on to the train at Stockwell station in the mistaken belief that he was a potential suicide bomber. Documents and photographs leaked to ITV News also confirmed that Mr de Menezes did not run from the police, as had been reported, had used his Tube pass to enter the station, rather than vault the barrier, and had taken a seat on the train before being grabbed by an officer.

He was wearing a light denim jacket and not as previously reported a padded coat which could have concealed explosives.

The documents, which contain witness statements made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, also suggest that the intelligence operation may have been botched because an officer watching a flat believed to be the hideout of one of the suspects in the abortive July 21 attack was "relieving himself".

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has apologised for the death of Mr de Menezes and a senior officer has visited Brazil to talk to his family. However, the latest disclosures will cast fresh light on Sir Ian's insistence that the death was the tragic consequence of a legitimate operation.

Shortly after the shooting, Sir Ian said: Whatever else they were doing, they clearly thought they were faced with a suicide bomber and they were running towards him. Had that person been a suicide bomber and had the officers not fired and 25 yards up the track the bomb had exploded, the officers would be in a worse situation than they are now.

He insisted that lethal force was the only option available to his officers once they had satisfied themselves Mr de Menezes was a suicide bomber. Yet a few days later, West Midlands police used a Taser stun weapon to arrest Yasin Hassan Omar, one of the July 21 suspects. Mr de Menezes was killed the day after the failed attacks on Tube trains and a bus.

Guidelines issued since the September 11 attacks emphasise that police must not challenge suicide bombers or identify themselves for fear of prompting the bomber to detonate his device. Instead, they may fire a "critical head shot … prior to challenge".

The complaints commission has taken statements from officers in the operation. Among the questions being asked is why the intelligence on the occupants of the flats suspected of harbouring the terror suspects failed to identify Mr de Menezes as an innocent party.

It will also seek to establish why he was allowed to board a bus when buses had been targets in the two previous attacks. His family cannot reconcile the police assertion that he had to be stopped once he had boarded a Tube train with the fact that he got on to a bus.

Questions will also be asked over why the impression that he was wearing a padded fleece was given continued credence when the photographs broadcast last night show him dressed differently. Wearing bulky clothing not in keeping with the weather is considered a sign of a potential suicide bomber.

Scotland Yard said last night that it was unable to comment on any reports about the incident while it was being investigated.

 

14th August

   Vandalising Justice

Surely this is a corruption of justice. Do we really want the police to start dealing out trumped up charges. Shameful

From The Independent

Hundreds of football fans who commit minor offences will be barred from travelling to next year's World Cup in Germany.

Instead of being issued with cautions or fixed penalty notices for crimes such as breaking windows or using threatening behaviour, the zero tolerance approach announced yesterday will mean that misbehaving fans will be taken to court and given football banning orders. The orders mean they have to surrender their passports when England are playing abroad, and cannot travel.

Police issue around 500 cautions and more than 50 fixed penalty notices for low-level thuggery each season but most of those offenders will now get banning orders.

The current number of fans subject to orders is 3,067. However, orders against around 600 hooligans are set to lapse before the World Cup finals and nothing can prevent them travelling to Germany. In addition, 900 suspected troublemakers who are not subject to orders are being looked at by 29 special police teams to see if they can be prosecuted for minor offences.

 

26th July

  Bollox Curfew Law Has No Foundation

From the BBC

A 15-year-old boy has won a landmark High Court challenge to the legality of child curfew zones used to tackle anti-social behaviour. The teenager said the use of dispersal zones in Richmond, south-west London, breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unaccompanied under-16s found in zones after 9pm can be held and escorted home, whether badly behaved or not. The Home Office said it would be appealing against the ruling. The police and Richmond Council had argued that curfew zones reduced anti-social behaviour.

The High Court ruled that the law did not give the police a power of arrest, and officers could not force someone to come with them.

Lord Justice Brooke said: ... All of us have the right to walk the streets without interference from police constables or CSOs unless they possess common law or statutory powers to stop us. If Parliament considered that such a power was needed, it should have said so, and identified the circumstances in which it intended the power to be exercised.

In a statement after the ruling the boy, known in the case as "W" and described as a "model student", said: Of course I have no problem with being stopped by the police if I've done something wrong. But they shouldn't be allowed to treat me like a criminal just because I'm under 16. I am very happy with the outcome it is a good victory. I'm glad that the police can't just use force against us anymore. I am happy that I won't get into trouble with the police just for being young.

BBC Home Affairs correspondent Rory McLean said the test case ruling had major implications for the government's anti-social behaviour policy and may require legislation in order to deal with the issue.

A Home Office spokeswoman said dispersal zones already in place and future applications were unaffected by the judgment. These powers provide the police with a powerful tool to tackle intimidation and anti-social behaviour by groups of people.

During the case heard in May, Javan Herberg, appearing for the teenager, said the curfew zones violated the human rights of "wholly innocent" young people. He told the court that more than 400 zones had been introduced under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act. While this case involved Richmond, its implications could be much wider, he said.

The boy was backed by civil rights group Liberty. Alex Gask, Liberty's legal Officer acting for "W", said: This is a victory for the presumption of innocence, and the right of everyone, no matter what their age, not to be subjected to coercive powers without good cause.

 

7th July

   Clarke Tortured by Guilt...Not

From The Times

Charles Clarke is under growing pressure to explain why he assured the Commons that deported Zimbabwean asylum-seekers would come to no harm, when there is mounting evidence that some have been tortured.
After revelations in The Times about the violence suffered by some deportees, MPs from all sides demanded yesterday that the Home Secretary face them before the start of the G8 summit and spell out whether Britain can provide any help to these victims.

Liam Fox, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, called on Clarke to halt deportations. All deportations should be stopped to Zimbabwe until we have in place a mechanism that can assure the safety [of those returned] . The Government says that there is no evidence of maltreatment. That is because the asylum-seekers disappear on their return. The wilful naivety with which the whole approach to Zimbabwe is being conducted I find offensive.

The Home Secretary also faced demands from a growing chorus of MPs to report on the deteriorating health of 90 Zimbabwean hunger strikers held at British detention centres.

Among them is Absolom Mashamba, 34, a former prosecutor, who is due to be flown back to Harare today.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford and Abingdon, whose constituency includes the Campsfield House detention centre where Mashamba is on the fifteenth day of his fast, is trying to block his removal. I will be furious if he is removed: I told Charles Clarke it is hypocritical to claim that Mugabe is an evil tyrant with an appalling human rights record and then claim it’s safe to return for anyone who has gone against the regime by making an asylum claim, let alone one who may have as strong a case as Mr Mashamba does.

Mashamba was a senior figure in the Zimbabwe judiciary when he was arrested in 2001 by police hunting his sister, a noted opposition figure. She fled to Britain where she was granted asylum status. Mashamba’s face and head still bear the scars from being beaten and given electric shocks. My head was forced into a bucket of dirty water until I nearly drowned,” he told The Times last night. Some weeks later he was detained and tortured again. He fled to Britain on April 17, 2001.

His claims for asylum were refused and he was held in Walton prison in Liverpool for a time until fellow Zimbabwean refugees helped him to get bail. Mashamba went underground, living with his English-born partner to avoid deportation in September 2001, but was arrested last month as the Home Office stepped up its deportation of Zimbabweans.

The Home Office insisted again last night that there is no change of heart on forced removals, but immigration officials have called off a string of deportations since the hunger strike started. Those given a reprieve last week told The Times yesterday that they are fearful that they will be sent back once the G8 summit is over.

Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, and Alastair Burt, the Tory MP for Bedfordshire North East, were among those demanding a new statement from the Home Secretary. It is unprecedented to have so many asylum-seekers on a hunger strike in detention. Does Charles Clarke want someone to die before he comes to his senses?” She is also urging the Government to persuade the South African authorities not to return a 26-year-old man deported from Britain last month who escaped custody after being beaten by Zimbabwean police.

The victim, who gave his name as Vincent, had worked for a Christian charity in Bulawayo, which brought him up after his parents were murdered by a militia belonging to Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party in the early 1980s. He also worked for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. He was beaten after being questioned about that work and in November 2002 the charity gave him the money to flee to Manchester.

When he arrived back at Harare airport last month he was immediately arrested and beaten during three days of interrogation.

After his release Vincent went to Bulawayo, where police were again waiting for him. Two more periods of brutal detention followed and his relatives were threatened so he escaped to South Africa.

A spokesman for the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans said: How much more proof does Charles Clarke need that deportees suffer violence when they are forcibly returned?

 

16th June

   Contempt of democracy

Based on an article from the BBC

A ban on protests outside Parliament will cover a half-mile zone as far out as the London Eye, the Home Office has confirmed. The new law is supposedly designed to control protests around Westminster, such as Brian Haw's 4-year anti-war vigil which MPs have complained is an eyesore. But it will also cover St James's Park, much of the South Bank and Charing Cross to Lambeth Bridge from 1 August.

Critics say the zone goes much further than was originally intended. Trafalgar Square, the traditional venue for protests, is not included in the "exclusion zone".

Within the zone, police have powers to set time limits on protests and ban loudspeakers and placards. olice will have to authorise demonstrations and anyone holding a spontaneous protest can be arrested. Unauthorised protests by one person are outlawed under powers granted to Home Secretary Charles Clarke in the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act, passed this year.

But Clarke's political rivals say the zone goes too far. Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: What possible justification can there be for banning spontaneous demonstrations across such a wide area?
And Shadow Home Secretary David Davis described it as a contempt of democracy and a contempt of people's right to protest.

 

11th June

   Police State

Based on an article from The Telegraph

Police are to be given unprecedented powers to ban individuals from town centres and other locations for up to 48 hours in the latest Government attempt to supposedly get to grips with alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour.

Legislation published yesterday will allow constables to issue a written exclusion notice to anyone considered to represent a "risk of disorder", even if they are not drunk or have committed no offence. The aim is to enable the police to stop violence escalating by immediately removing potential troublemakers from the scene.

Notices will be issued to those whose presence: is likely, in all the circumstances, to cause or contribute to the occurrence or continuance in that locality of alcohol-related crime or disorder .

The power is far wider than any predicted for inclusion in the new Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which also contains restrictions on the sale and possession of knives and replica guns. Under the legislation, it will be illegal for anyone under 18 to buy a knife. This will apply to a butter knife as much as to a combat knife.

Magistrates' courts will be able to issue civil orders banning persistent drunks and binge drinkers from all pubs and clubs in designated areas for up to two years. The bans will operate on a similar basis to Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), which were condemned yesterday by a European human rights group.

Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said: It is difficult to avoid the impression that the Asbo is being touted as a miracle cure for urban nuisance.

But Labour's appetite for bans and orders appeared undiminished judging by yesterday's Bill, which reflects the concerns of ministers that binge-drinking and alcohol-related disorder is out of control in many town centres at weekends.

Areas suffering exceptional problems will be declared alcohol disorder zones and subject to special measures, with pubs, clubs and other licensed premises within a zone required to contribute to police, hospital and clean-up costs if trouble continues. Police will be able to close premises immediately for 24 to 48 hours if they persistently sell to under-18s or continue to attract troublemakers.

Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, conceded that disorder zones and banning orders were a last resort for dealing with a problem that police fear will worsen when flexible drinking hours - including the potential for 24-hour opening - are introduced in England and Wales in November.

She said the prohibition notices, which will carry a £2,500 fine. The notice - which will have to specify the precise location from which an individual is excluded but cannot stop them going home or to a place of work or school - would restore order to an area "immediately" and save on police paperwork. This is very much more targeted at the people who may be in their ordinary life are pretty well behaved but when they go out and binge drink, then they turn into fairly unpleasant characters . [like Government ministers then!]

 

10th June

   UK Human Rights Abuse

From the BBC
See The Commissioner's report in full (507KB) [pdf] from news.bbc.co.uk

Europe's human rights watchdog has criticised the way in which the UK treats terror suspects. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, says control orders violate basic rights. The measure effectively places a person under house arrest if the home secretary believes it is necessary. But Gil-Robles says proceedings are "inherently one-sided" and says only judges should authorise the orders.

His wide-ranging report also expressed concern about anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). He said there should be some form of responsible screening of ASBO applications by a responsible authority to "guarantee against excessive use". He cited the cases of an 87-year-old receiving an ASBO for being repeatedly sarcastic and a 17-year-old deaf girl for spitting.

But it was the recent introduction of control orders that particularly attracted his criticism. The orders were brought in after law lords ruled that the previous system of indefinite detention for suspects without trial breached human rights laws. The new powers means the home secretary can force a person to stay inside their home under curfew if he suspects them of supporting terrorism. Other restrictions can include electronic tagging of suspects and bans on telephone or internet use.

The courts do have a role in authorising control orders, but the grounds for a judge refusing an order are restricted.
In his report, Mr Gil-Robles said it did not seem to him that the "weak control" offered by judicial review proceedings satisfied the usual powers for what would be considered criminal charges. Quite apart from the obvious flouting of the presumption of innocence, the review proceedings described can only be considered fair, independent and impartial with some difficulty

Gil-Robles said it was difficult to disguise the fact that control orders are intended to substitute the ordinary criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive (i.e. politicians rather than judges) . Under normal circumstances such a step would not even be contemplated , he said.

The measures could only be made compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights if necessary judicial guarantees were applied to proceedings and there were regular parliamentary reviews of the legislation, he said.

BBC Home Affairs correspondent Rory MacLean said: Although the report is advisory rather than anything else it is likely to feed into a debate about anti- terrorism powers that is likely to be held in Parliament towards the end of the year.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the report was a s erious wake up call to politicians who have rubbished notions of fairness and basic human dignity. There should be a full parliamentary debate into all the key recommendations, she said.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said he wanted to see control orders reviewed and replaced by something that involved a proper judicial process. Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman, said he believed the report would spell "the beginning of the end" for control orders.

 

27th May

   Blair Challenged for Bullying Innocent Youngsters

From The Independent

Lawyers for a 15-year-old boy have made a challenge in court to the Prime Minister's  untargetted and broad brush policy tackling Britain's youngsters.

If the government loses, ministers may have to rethink child curfew zones, which have been criticised for the arbitrary targeting of innocent young people.

The boy, "W", attends church in Richmond, south-west London, and has never been in trouble. He claims he is being criminalised for being under 16 and unfortunate enough to live in an area designated as a no-go zone for youths. Any unaccompanied child under 16 in such an area after 9pm is liable to arrest and being forcibly escorted home. The police do not have to suspect them of antisocial behaviour.

Javan Herberg, appearing for "W", told the High Court yesterday that the effect was to create curfew zones that violate the human rights of "wholly innocent" young people and was an abuse of the common law. The judges heard that W was a "model student" and wanted the right to go to the cinema or football matches without the fear of losing his freedom and being detained.

W, who was not in court, said in a statement before the hearing: Of course I have no problem with being stopped by the police if I've done something wrong. But they shouldn't be allowed to treat me like a criminal just because I'm under 16.

The boy is seeking a ruling that the curfew violates his right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 8 (respect for private life), Article 11 (right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association with others), and Article 14 (right not to be discriminated against because of his child status).

 

5th April

   Anti Social Injustice Order

From The Independent

The Government's flagship criminal justice measure, the anti-social behaviour order (Asbo), is being widely misused by police and local authorities, MPs have been warned.

Civil liberties groups have raised concerns that authorities are increasingly relying on the powers of the orders as a short-cut to imposing criminal punishments. The warning forms part of a report by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee's investigation into anti-social behaviour in Britain, which will be published on Tuesday.

Since they were launched in April 1999, the number of Asbos granted by magistrates' courts has risen dramatically and now totals 4,000, many of them against children. An Asbo is granted as a civil power but a breach of the order is treated as an offence punishable by up to five years in prison. Of nearly 1,300 Asbo applications from local authorities in England and Wales between 2000 and 2004, only 13 were refused by the courts.

The wide terms of the legislation mean that a magistrate can grant an Asbo by being satisfied only on a balance of probabilities that the accused's behaviour is likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress . As a result, children risk being sent to detention centres for swearing or spitting in the street. In one case a child suffering from Tourette syndrome was banned from swearing in public.

The human rights group Liberty warns that this not only targets the individual but also their brothers and sisters. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, says that such a measure can destroy the lives of innocent and often vulnerable children. The Children's Society, said yesterday that it was " \very concerned about the government policy to 'name and shame' children who receive Asbos.

The Home Affairs Committee report will also consider the impact of police powers to impose curfews on children under the age of 16 and dispersal orders for groups of teenagers congregating in the street.

In its evidence to the committee, Liberty says: While people might find the presence of a group of young men with hoods covering their faces intimidating, it does not always justify the police taking action. These powers are the consequence of the Government's blank-cheque policy on policing.

 

11th March

   Blair Goes to War Without Full Legal Advice

From The Independent

Iraq war revelation: There was no full legal advice. Cabinet Secretary admits invasion based on single page of A4.

The Government's case for war appeared to be in tatters last night after the Cabinet Secretary admitted that a parliamentary answer from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, was the final legal opinion on the case for war. In an astonishing admission, Sir Andrew Turnbull disclosed that no "full" legal advice on an invasion of Iraq has ever existed. He confirmed that a short parliamentary answer by the Attorney General was the "definitive advice" on the war sent to the Prime Minister and that "there is no other version".

MPs had assumed that the parliamentary answer was a précis of a longer, more detailed legal opinion and ministers had come under intense pressure from the media to publish the "full" advice under the Freedom of Information Act.

The revelation astonished MPs. Sir Andrew was cross examined about the existence of full legal advice in a Commons committee after The Independent revealed Blair may have breached the prime ministerial code by failing to provide the full legal advice to the Cabinet.

Charles Kennedy seized on the news and said it showed that the Government's case for war was shambolic. This is an astonishing revelation which suggests utter confusion at the heart of government. The Prime Minister must now clarify the situation which is undermining public trust. He must provide a clear statement about what took place regarding the legal advice. Can it really be true that the legal basis on which we went to war consisted of a parliamentary answer and not a full legal opinion?

Sir Andrew indicated there was not enough time for Lord Goldsmith to prepare a fuller statement because it was required quickly, when it became clear there would be no second resolution in the UN. He said it summarised his views and was not a summary of a larger document. What he has put forward is the conclusion that he reached as a result of all the thinking he had been doing.

But Sir Andrew added there were "other papers" which the Government would not disclose.

 

28th February

  The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Guantánamo Bay


Beyond All reasonable doubt, Clarke is making Britain less worthwhile defending against terrorists and the like. Couldn't we make Clarke the first internee under his own law for damaging British life way beyond that achieved by any mere terrorist?

From The Guardian

Today MPs will be asked to abolish the presumption of innocence for British citizens. They will be asked to approve provisions in the prevention of terrorism bill allowing Britons, for the first time in peacetime, to be detained in their own homes or in government accommodation on the say-so of the home secretary.
If Charles Clarke's bill is passed, British citizens will be branded terrorists without charge or trial and without any right to know the evidence against them, or to contest that evidence.

During the past few days, attempts have been made to buy off opposition to this unprecedented executive power-grab by conceding that a high court judge should be involved early in the process, perhaps 24 hours after the home secretary issues a "control order". Later there would be a full hearing before a judge. But even requiring the home secretary to apply to a judge in advance would not begin to cure this assault on our liberties. It would be no more than a fig leaf to cover a naked abuse of power.

The bill has been brought in to replace emergency legislation rushed through after 9/11 allowing only foreigners suspected of involvement in terror-related activities to be detained without trial. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was damned by the law lords as a breach of human rights. The new law will apply to British citizens and foreign nationals alike, but it would violate virtually all the elements of a fair trial - the right to know the charges against you, to see and rebut the evidence against you, to have a legal representative of your choice, and to have equality of arms between you and the might of the state.

The state will not be required to prove involvement in terrorism beyond reasonable doubt, the criminal standard of proof. For house arrest, the civil standard of proof - "on the balance of probabilities" - will be enough. The home secretary will have to prove only that it is "more likely than not" that you were involved. For lesser types of control order - electronic tagging, bans on the use of telephones or computers, confiscation of passports, restrictions on the people you can associate with - mere reasonable suspicion will be sufficient to brand you a terrorist.

The "evidence" produced will not be like that put forward in a criminal trial, but a mass of intelligence information and assessments - which neither you nor your lawyers will be allowed to see. A special advocate - an independent barrister appointed by the attorney general - will be able to see it and try to put forward your case, but won't be able to tell you or your own lawyers what's in it or find out if you have an answer to it.

Take the Tipton Three, held at Guantánamo Bay for two years and later released without charge. They were accused by the Americans of being in a video shot with Osama bin Laden in 2000. At the time, one was working in an electrical store in the Midlands, and the other two were in trouble with the British police. Under the special advocate procedure they would not be told about the video and would not be able to produce genuine alibis.

As Ian Macdonald QC, a former special advocate who resigned in disgust at the "odious" regime, told MPs on the constitutional affairs committee, the system carries "an inherent risk that you end up with quite shoddy and misleading intelligence. There is no way you can ever be sure that that is accurate information on which you are acting." Even more disturbingly, it allows the use of information extracted by torture - notoriously unreliable - as long as the torture happened outside Britain.

The involvement of a judge, whether before or after the order is made, will do little to mitigate the unfairness - unless the judge rules the whole system a breach of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by article six of the European convention on human rights. There is a strong chance that is exactly what will happen, as MPs and peers on the joint committee on human rights warned last week. That would leave the new law, like its predecessor, in tatters.

Ben Emmerson QC, the leading human rights lawyer who acts for the men still detained in Belmarsh prison and Broadmoor hospital under the old legislation, wrote in a legal opinion: "It is my view that the entire scheme established under the bill as it stands is incompatible with the United Kingdom's international obligations, and would be vulnerable to challenge in the courts." Even if a judge were asked to impose the order, rather than having it imposed by the home secretary with an appeal to a judge, the regime would still breach the right to a fair trial, he wrote.

Coming from the barrister who played the biggest part in training the judges for the implementation of the Human Rights Act, that should give the government pause for thought. Why not, with the cooperation of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, renew the 2001 act for a few months, while trying to find a solution that doesn't threaten all our liberties?

 

14th February

   Assisting the United States of Torturers

From The Herald

A CIA jet which takes terror suspects to countries where torture is routinely used during interrogation has again landed at Glasgow airport en route to Baghdad. The Boeing 737, which has changed its identity several times, landed in Glasgow at 6am on Monday and took off for Iraq at 8.39am. As it was a "private" flight, no details of the purpose of the journey or the passengers and crew are available.

The Boeing 737 is understood to be owned by a CIA front company. It has visited Glasgow on several occasions, sometimes staying overnight. The jet has also used RAF Northolt, where the Royal Flight is stationed. The aircraft are understood to carry out rendition flights: transporting prisoners to countries where they may be tortured, against international law, for information to assist the battle against terrorism. Two CIA aircraft depart from Washington and have flown to 50 destinations outside the US including the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan and Libya. They have been nicknamed the Guantanamo Bay Express.


Rosemarie McIlwhan, director of the Scottish Human Rights Centre said the rendition flights issue was raised by the organisation at a meeting with the UN in November. Its concerns were also expressed in discussions with the Scottish Executive. She said: Scotland has an duty to uphold international human rights obligations which would include not torturing anyone and not sending anyone to where they could be tortured.

 

3rd February

   Britain to Persecute Innocent People

From The Telegraph

Ministers have been criticised for backing European Union plans to allow police to raid the homes of people not suspected of breaking British law.

A Labour-dominated committee of MPs has described the proposal for a European evidence warrant as "deeply disturbing". It says the warrant could be used against a person accused of committing an offence in another EU country even if no British law was broken.

The Home Office has angered the Commons European scrutiny committee by disclosing that it is not opposed to the principle of the police executing a search warrant in connection with conduct that would be legal in Britain. The European evidence warrant follows the principle of the European arrest warrant, which came into force last January.

One of the most controversial aspects of the arrest warrant was that it generally abolished the principle of "dual criminality" - the rule that someone could be extradited only for conduct against the law in the country seeking extradition and against British law.

This raised the prospect of Britons being extradited for offences such as Holocaust denial, which is illegal in Germany and Austria. The European evidence warrant would also abolish dual criminality, although the proposal as it now stands would allow Britain a five-year exemption before that safeguard would be removed.

In a report last week, the committee said: We found it disturbing that a person's home might be entered and searched at the request of a foreign authority for the purpose of obtaining evidence to prosecute conduct which is not criminal in this country.

The MPs raised the issue with Caroline Flint, the Home Office minister dealing with European evidence warrants. In a letter sent before Christmas she conceded that she was not opposed to the abolition of dual criminality. She told the committee: The application of the principle of mutual recognition to orders to obtain evidence is fundamental to improving the existing mutual legal assistance procedures, without resorting to extensive harmonisation of procedure.

She also said dual criminality was not necessary in relation to search warrants because mutual recognition is founded on the principles of equivalence and trust in each other's judicial systems . [Just like we trusted the authorities to inform us about Saddam's weapons]

 

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