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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What they didn’t want you to know: read the secret torture evidence here

12/02/2010

I got this from the Guardian:the previously covered-up excerpt from an official document that reveals how much the UK government knew about Binyam Mohamed’s illtreatment at the hands of the CIA.

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

This, in addition to the revelations in a US court that Mohamed suffered physical and psychological torture including mutilation of the genitals, is a damning indictment of the way the CIA and its allies conduct their so-called “coercive interrogations”. And the UK is just as bad: an MI5 officer known only as “Witness B” knew exactly how Mohamed was being treated when he visited a Pakistani prison to question the man. The Pakistani torturers asked Mohamed questions on behalf of Witness B during interrogations – so while we can’t say that Witness B personally tortured him, it’s certainly true that Mohamed was tortured for the MI5 officer.

Unfortunately, the high court judges who ordered the release of this secret evidence don’t come out of this smelling like roses either. Lord Neuberger, master of the rolls and one of the three judges involved, had originally meant to include in his ruling a scathing criticism of MI5: his draft ruling said that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a “culture of suppression” that undermined government assurances about its conduct.” But Jonathan Sumption QC, the government’s head lawyer on the case, privately wrote to the judge asking him to tone down his criticisms (you can read Sumption’s letter here); and shockingly, Neuberger complied!

n his letter, Sumption warned the judges that the criticism of MI5 would be seen by the public as statements by the court that the agency:

• Did not respect human rights.

• Had not renounced participation in “coercive interrogation” techniques.

• Deliberately misled MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee, who are supposed to scrutinise its work.

• Had a “culture of suppression” in its dealings with Miliband and the court.

That’s as maybe. But so what? Those statements are true, aren’t they? It seems apparent from this case that MI5 don’t respect human rights, they do approve of “coercive interrogation, they did deliberately mislead parliament and the courts… and they’ll do the same again if they’re sure they can get away with it.

But Neuberger and his “learned colleagues” bottled it and gave into Sumption’s request. After all, they’re probably all great mates outside of court and hunt foxes together on the weekends. Probably.

Luckily, some news organisations heard about the last-minute revisions to the judgement and protested to the court. They complained that Neuberger had granted Sumption’s request without giving the other parties a chance to have their say. The judges conceded that it was a little irregular, and so Sumption’s letter was made public: that’s why the Guardian have put it up for everyone to read here (with annotations by Guardian journo Ian Cobain).

It’s a real pity that the high court judges act like trained attack dogs one minute and then like toothless poodles the next. Then again, we should remember these judges are government-appointed and government-paid, and that they are all members of the same back-scratching, trouser leg-rolling gentlemen’s clubs. So we ought to be grateful that the high court occasionally does the right thing.

Thanks, judges! I really appreciate it (you old sods)! :p

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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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“Stop and search” powers are illegal, rules European Court of Human Rights

12/01/2010

It’s a victory for freedom! The European Court of human Rights ruled today that the British police’s powers to stop and search people whenever they feel like it are illegal.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police the power to stop and search people in “designated areas” without needing any grounds for suspicion. Police officers have been using these powers routinely to harrass photographers all over Britain, often citing the possibility that the photographer might be a terrorist on a reconnaisance mission. You might think that’s quite reasonable – until you realise that officers have repeatedly stopped and searched professional photographers covering demonstrations and tourists caught taking pictures of tourist attractions like Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. And countless amateur photographers have been detained and harrassed thanks to the far-reaching powers.

So, now these powers have been ruled unlawful, I suppose the government will immediately order the police to stop using them, and will redraft the Terrorism Act as a matter of urgency. Right? Well, actually no. The government intends to appeal against the ruling. And you can be damn sure that in the meantime the police will continue to use and abuse their illegal powers. This despite the fact that the Court said the stop and search powers amounted to a violation of article eight of the European Convention on human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life. The Court recognised that the power to search a person’s clothing and belongings in public included an element of humiliation and embarrassment which was a clear interference with the right to privacy. And they expressed concern over the arbitrary nature of the powers, under which a police officer needs to offer no justification for his decision to detain and search anyone he feels like harassing. So the UK government is basically saying: “We don’t care that our agents are detaining and humiliating innocent people as a matter of routine. We will continue to encourage our agents to abuse members of the public for as long as we can get away with it.”

I think that the judges were especially concerned that the powers are being used against demonstrators who are clearly not terrorists, and to block the work of journalists trying to cover demonstrations. The case was brought by Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton, who were stopped by police while their way to a demonstration outside the annual arms fair at the Excel centre, in London’s Docklands, in September 2003. Gillan was stopped and detained for 20 minutes without good cause; Quinton, a journalist, was ordered to stop filming the protest even though she had shown her press card to officers. How can these police actions be justified? Remember, the police were using powers granted to them by the Terrorism Act, but there was no suggestion that Gillan or Quinton were in any way involved in terrorism. This is a clear example of the police abusing their powers. And there is also clear evidence that the police are going to continue abusing their powers, under government orders, for as long as they can get away with it.

The police are breaking the law. The police are the criminals. Let’s fight crime!

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Photography != Terrorism… no matter *what* they say!!

11/01/2010


I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before: but I’m a keen amateur photographer. In the olden days, when photographers still used film, I had a succession of Pentax cameras: an ME Super, a Program A, and I still have a SF7. But film is old hat nowadays, we all use digital; and I couldn’t afford a digital SLR, so for now I’m using a Fujifilm S5700 “bridge” camera. Still, it’s okay for my favourite types of photography: landscape, architectural, and its small size maks it grrreat for street photography.

Unfortunately, photography in general and street photography in particular are in real trouble here in the UK. Why? Because the police have got it into their heads that photographers are all potential terrorists!

I’m not sure, but I think this paranoid delusion first took hold when the police found photos of “potential targets” in the belongings of terror suspects. Individual officers were told to keep an eye out for photographers both overt and covert as they might be performing reconnaissance for an attack. This has resulted in street and architectural photographers being harrassed, searched and detained by police and community support officers, chiefly in London but also in other towns and cities.

The UK magazine Amateur Photographer has been running a campaign to defend our rights since 2005, when police persecution of photographers first became apparent. There’s a nice article on the AP website that runs through the campaign, starting with Roy Jhuboo who was stopped and searched by overzealous officers when he was out and about taking photos in Limehouse, East London. The police told Jhuboo that he’d been searched because “he could have been on a reconnaissance mission to launch a ‘rocket’ on nearby Canary Wharf.” Two police vans full of officers were sent to intercept him because he had been seen taking a photo of a house!

Since AP began their campaign in 2005, government figures have sought to reassure us that photographers in general are not being targetted. And both the government and ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have publicly issued advice saying that photographers should not be bothered unless there are good grounds for suspicion. Yet every week there are more stories in the magazine telling how photographers have been stopped, searched, even arrested by police for no more reason than taking photos in public places. The City of London Police even told AP that anyone taking photos in central London should expect searches and demands for identification, even though this directly goes against the guidance all forces have received from the government and ACPO on this subject.

Opposition to the police stance on photographers is wide-spread and growing. MPs who are also enthusiastic photographers have raised the subject in Parliament. Professional photographers working for the media have got the issue in the news. But the harrassment continues. I would ask all photographers to support Amateur Photographer in its campaign to defend our rights. It is gradually becoming acceptable in the eyes of the police and some members of the public. We need to stop this! We need to reinforce the fact that we have the right to take photos in public places. We must not allow the police and their political masters to create a climate in which innocent photography can be banned.

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Lyrical terrorist conviction quashed

17/06/2008

lyrical terrorist

The self-dubbed “Lyrical terrorist”, the first woman to be convicted under section 58 of the Terrorism Act in November 2007 after writing poems celebrating the beheading of non-Muslims, has had the conviction quashed by the court of appeal.

Samina Malik was found guilty of “collecting personal information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” – she possessed various documents including the al-Qaida Manual, the Terrorist’s Handbook, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook and several military manuals – but it seemed at the time that the jury was more concerned about her poetry.

One of her poems, called How to Behead, said: “It’s not messy or as hard as some may think, It’s all about the flow of the wrist… You’ll feel the knife hit the wind and food pipe, But Don’t Stop, Continue with all your might.”

Malik called herself the Lyrical Terrorist because she thought it sounded “cool”.  There was no suggestion that she actually was a terrorist.  But the Daily Mail at the time made loads of fuss about the fact that she worked in an airside newsagents at Heathrow Airport… like maybe she was going to hijack a plane or something.

The Terrorism Act made the possession of “terrorist handbooks” and military manuals illegal.  But the court of appeal has since ruled that possession of such material is a crime only if it can be linked to an actual terrorist attack.  Which is just as well – a government that bans books deserves no respect.


USA sponsors terrorism

15/03/2008

So various characters in America are calling for Venezuela to be labelled “state sponsors of terrorism”. The Guardian reports:

U.S. lawmakers including Rep. Connie Mack and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Florida Republicans, have called for the State Department to add Venezuela to its list of terror sponsors, which currently includes North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba. They have expressed concerns about what they call Chavez’s close ties to Colombia’s leftist rebels.

[. . .]

Asked whether Washington was seriously considering designating Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism, Rice said the U.S. was ready to respond if necessary.

“There is after all a U.N. obligation that all states have undertaken to do everything that they can to prevent terrorists from actively using their territory, from being engaged in terrorist financing,” Rice told reporters after a meeting with Brazilian leaders Thursday.

Chavez has been characteristically upbeat about it all, telling the USA that they can “shove” their list. He hasn’t admitted to funding the FARC, but it’s clear he doesn’t consider the Colombian rebels to be terrorists. After all, one man’s freedom fighter etc. But strangely, Chavez hasn’t pointed out the obvious fact – that the USA, for all its prissy attitude, is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism there is.

Who remembers the Contras, funded and armed with drug money by the US Government? I do. But that was ages ago.

Afghanistan wasn’t that long ago though. Osama bin Laden and his merry men were funded, armed and trained by the Americans. Don’t give me any of that “But they were fighting evil Soviet invaders” crap. When Al-Quaeda and the Taliban resist US invaders in Afghanistan or Iraq, they’re called terrorists. So the same rules apply when they’re battling other invaders.

In fact, the USA’s entire foreign policy for the past 7 years has been terroristic. America imposes its will on other countries through force of arms – through the threat of violence or through actual violence. Just cos the bombers and snipers chew gum and eat burgers, doesn’t make them any less terrorist than anyone else who gets up to such evil tricks.

Maybe you’ll bleat: “But the US are up front, they’re not sneaky and underhand in their carnage-causing!” As far as I can see, someone who uses remote-controlled drone planes and missiles to kill folk is as sneaky as they come.

And don’t tell me the Americans only kill “enemy combatants”. They take out plenty of civilians too. And they kidnap – Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition – and torture.

The USA doesn’t just sponsor terrorism – the USA commits terrorism.

Oh, before I go – on Wednesday President Bush accused the Venezuelan government of destabilizing, provocative behavior, saying “it has squandered its oil wealth in an effort to promote its hostile, anti-American vision.” Thing is, Venezuela got this wealth from… you guessed it, the USA. America is funding Venezuela’s anti-American hostility. And, if Chavez really is giving money to the FARC, that means America is sponsoring terrorism in Colombia too!! LMFAO!!

chavez-montage

A mural of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in Caracas.

 

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