Secret courts, FFS – Now tell me the Tories aren’t Nazis!

11/09/2012

The government’s proposed justice and security bill, which they are trying to get through Parliament, will enable them to cover up any involvement in torture – past, present and future – as well as denying defendants any right to a fair trial.

As an example: British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was seized in Pakistan in 2002 and rendered to Guantamano Bay, went to court to get compensated for the cruel and brutal treatment he got from the CIA with the full knowledge and complicity of the UK intelligence services. The high court ruled that CIA information that revealed MI5 and MI6 knew of Mohamed’s ill-treatment should be disclosed. The ruling provoked a storm of protest, with some in the government claiming the US had threatened to withhold intelligence from the UK.

At the same time, to avoid further incriminating evidence being disclosed, the UK government paid undisclosed sums, believed to amount to millions of pounds, in an out-of-court settlement to British citizens and residents who had been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay.

So now, the government’s proposals will prevent the disclosure of any information in the hands of the security and intelligence agencies from being disclosed in civil cases. The Tory ex-justice minister Kenneth Clarke said that it was necessary to keep evidence secret from the defence – otherwise “you would have terrorists in the public gallery, lining up making notes.”

And now Prof Juan Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture,is expressing “deep concern” about the government’s plans. He says they will allow intelligence services to be party to torture without any fear of disclosure of their role. Many people who have been tortured by “third party” countries allege that MI6 officers were giving the torturers lists of questions they wanted the torture victims to be asked.

The “war on terror” is enabling governments in supposedly free democratic countries to strip their citizens of any rights. Secret courts and torture should have no place in our institutions. The treatment meted out to Binyam Mohamed should have been stopped. But things have only got worse over the past decade. All the government needs to do a bit of hand-waving and mention the word “terrorism” and bang! There goes another fundamental human right. What is the matter with us? Why do we allow our evil governments to exist? Something needs to be done about it.

Some relevant links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/29/secret-justice-bill-not-perfect
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/secret-justice-bill
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/sep/11/un-official-secret-courts-torture

Please have a look at them. This is important!

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Ecuador grants Assange political asylum – but how will he get from London to Quito?

17/08/2012

News about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden and the possibility of being sent to the USA to face spurious but all too serious espionage charges. In June he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embasshy in London, requesting political asylum. Well, the Ecuador government has made its decision: as things stand, Assange is a potential political prisoner, and if he’s extradited to Sweden there is a very definite possibility that he will be forwarded to America, where faces charges relating to “top secret” communiques that were leaked by Wikileaks and published by the New York Times and the Guardian. Hmm, that’s a thought: how come the New York Times editor hasn’t been charged with espionage? Why isn’t the USA calling for the extradition of Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian? Rhetorical questions of course. Newspapers have been around a long time, as has been the notion of a free press. But many governments say that online reporting isn’t really journalism at all – and of course Wikileaks is a pain in the ass that the US/UK would like to stomp to death pour encourager les autres.

Countries usually respect the embassies of other nations, regarding diplomatic posts as the legal territory of that foreign nation. But William Hague, British foreign secretary and effectively the prime minister as the real prime minister (David Cameron) and the deputy PM (Nick Clegg) has made some ominous threats. He’s already said in public that Assange would be arrested if he leaves the embassy in London where he has lived for nearly two months, and Ecuador claim that British authorities are threatening to storm the embassy to arrest him.

Hague responded to the asylum decision saying it was “a matter of regret” that Assange had been granted asylum, and that Assange would be arrested when he left the embassy regardless.

The British government sent a letter to Ecuadorean officials in Quito outlining the powers of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which allows revocation of a building’s diplomatic status if the foreign power occupying it “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post”. Hague said this was not a threat, simply an explanation of British law, allegedly in line with international law.

If government agents (ie. the police) invade the embassy to arrest Assange, it will be setting a precedent with possibly explosive outcomes. In recent history foreign embassies have been sacrosanct. Earlier this year, the lawyer and dissident Chen Guangcheng took refuge in the US embassy in China; and the People’s Revolutionary Army didn’t storm the building – when Chen left the embassy it was completely freely. And many other people have gained sanctuary in another countries’ embassies – check out the list here. If the British government think the Ecuadorean embassy is fair game, what will happen to the British Embassy in Ecuador… or anywhere else?

Think, Hague, think. If Dave comes back from holiday to a diplomatic crisis, heads will roll. Even yours. :p

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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UK tortures terror suspects – it’s official!

27/01/2010

Wednesday 27 January 2010

United Nations human rights investigators have published a report that concludes the UK government has been “complicit in mistreatment and possible torture” of British citizens during the so-called “war on terror”, says the Guardian today.

This latest development follows a string of allegations about the United Kingdom’s own version of the infamous US practice of “extraordinary rendition”. Two months ago, the New York based Human Rights Watch reported that Pakistani intelligence officers admitted torturing British suspects on behalf of their UK counterparts. And there have been a number of allegations about MI5 (UK counter intelligence), MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) and Greater Manchester Police officers involvement in torture at secret prisons abroad.

No doubt some people will argue that in the climate of terror that has existed since 2001, sometimes robust measures have to be taken to safeguard public safety. I would remind those people that the victims of this torture were terror suspects, not actual terrorists. Time and time again, men who have been investigated and subsequently cleared of any involvement in terrorism have claimed they were tortured. At times it has seemed that any British Muslim visiting relatives in Pakistan is fair game for arrest, secret imprisonment and torture. And many of them have been examined by doctors who have found injuries that could only have been caused by the infliction of repeated, brutal violence.

There is, for instance, the case of Binyam Mohamed. He was arrested in Pakistan and kept in a secret prison where he was tortured. During this time he was questioned by a MI5 officer who was aware of the torture. Then he was given to the CIA, who flew him secretly to Morocco, Afghanistan and finally Guantanamo Bay. He was kept there for 4 years before finally being released without charge.

Once he was back at home, Mohamed took the UK government to the High Court for its involvement in his secret imprisonment, extraordinary rendition and torture. It is useful to note that the British government did not deny his claims – David Miliband, then foreign secretary, just tried to cover it up. Miliband actually tried to censor the high court judges’ ruling, claiming it would hurt UK-USA relations if the truth about Mohamed’s treatment was made public. He actually got the CIA to write a letter to the judges saying the CIA would no longer share intelligence with the UK if Mohamed’s rendition and torture was revealed. Luckily the judges would have none of it and they published their ruling in full, criticising the government’s conduct in the matter.

Binyam Mohamed is just one example. UK agencies have repeatedly colluded with other countries to secretly imprison and torture British citizens. And who knows how many citizens of other countries have been tortured on behalf of the UK? It is a terrifying fact that absolutely anyone could fall victim to these barbaric practices.

Binyam Mohamed, tortured in Pakistan on orders of MI5

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Brit hacker loses fight against extradition

08/08/2008

Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who broke into US Defense and NASA computer systems in search of evidence of UFOs, has lost his battle against extradition.

It was 2002 when the police came round to McKinnon’s house to nick him.  Now 6 years later,  on 30 July, the House of Lords agreed he should be sent to America to face trial and possible imprisonment.

Initially, McKinnon thought he would be tried in the UK and might get, at most, 3 or 4 years in prison. But then the US authorities decided they wanted to try him in an American court with charges that could a sentence of 70 years.

The Americans claim that McKinnom was intent on sabotage and that he did $700,000 worth of damage to US computer systems.  McKinnon refutes this – he says he had no malicious intent and was just trying to find the “truth” about America’s dealings with extraterrestrials.

The Americans have been hyping up the case, claiming that his hacking activities damaged defense systems in September 2001 – during the 9-11 crisis.  They’d have us believe that McKinnon is an online terrorist.  And they want to punish him accordingly.

Of course it’s no surprise that the UK government supports the USA’s desire to put him on trial in a US court.  But it is worrying to know that the UK authorities has no problem with sending a British citizen to another country to face a possible 70 years in jail.  McKinnon could have been tried in a UK court… so why wasn’t he?  Why is everyone so keen to ship him abroad?

I’ll tell you why: it’s because the UK government loves the USA.  A perverse love.

Remember when there was all that hullaballoo about “extraordinary rendition” (aka kidnapping)?  The UK government had absolutely no problem believing the lies told by the USA about how no rendition flights came anywhere near British territory.  It’s since been proven that these illegal flights often used to land in the UK territory of Diego Garcia to refuel.  And rendition planes frequently overflew the UK despite US assurances this never happened.

And now the UK is actively helping with a rendition.  They are to render McKinnon to the Americans, to do with as they will.


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