Here’s an open letter to Cameron, Miliband etc. on the case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who now again faces possible execution for apostasy.
The organisers are trying to move the campaign from petitioning and desperate pleas – amnesty style – to something a little more substantial. There is a translated letter being used in France and they are trying to get Charlie Hebdo survivors to sign.
We intend to send it end of Tuesday, sending to the press for Tuesday lunchtime. It would be good if we could get some signatures on it from trade unionists and socialists.
We are attaching the letter and signatures as of midday today (also below) but anyone thinking it would be useful to make contacts as well as get signatures please use it. Or obviously if you want to sign….. let us know in the comments below.
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.
In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.
The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.
But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.
The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.
As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.
We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.
If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.
In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia
Signatories as at Sunday, 8th March, 12pm: Read the rest of this entry »
Comrade Coatesy writes:
Zineb El Rhazoui, a surviving columnist at Charlie Hebdo magazine who worked on the new issue, said the cover was a call to forgive the terrorists who murdered her colleagues last week, saying she did not feel hate towards Chérif and Saïd Kouachi despite their deadly attack on the magazine, and urged Muslims to accept humour.
“We don’t feel any hate to them. We know that the struggle is not with them as people, but the struggle is with an ideology,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The whole magazine, here
We the people declare our inalienable right to take the piss.
To no person will we deny the right to cock snooks at, give the finger to, take the mickey out of.
(Crying as I post this.)
Above: Aubron Waugh
Robin Carmody writes:
As someone who greatly enjoys your occasional ‘Enemy intelligence’ feature, would it be possible to expand it to include old articles presenting enlightenment from unexpected sources? In this case, Auberon Waugh, who was undoubtedly fanatically anti-working-class and anti-socialist but when he got it right, he really got it right. These pieces are both from the Daily Telegraph in September 1995 (first piece slightly edited, second piece complete), and the sadness of both is that they could pretty much still apply today, just with a few names changed:
Saturday 16th September 1995:
(…) Villagers of St Tudy, the small Cornish village near Bodmin, were recently moved to address a petition to Mr Major asking for a referendum on further European involvement. A senior villager, Vice Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly, 80, one time head of “intelligence” at the Ministry of Defence, thought the petition would be ignored. He explained.
“I would not be so naive as to suppose that what St Tudy says today, the Government will do tomorrow. But at least, before we die, we have done the best we can for our grandchildren.”
If that is the best he can do, it is pathetic. So is the entire level of political debate in Britain (…) What these people fail to realise is that we have a much better prospect for resisting change within the protection of a selfish, inward looking Europe than we have when exposed to cultural takeover by the United States and economic takeover by the Pacific Rim.
Terrified and resentful of the tiny changes required by participation in the European Union, Britons miss nearly every opportunity to shape the union to their own advantage. Instead they mumble their platitudes about British sovereignty, and having fought two major wars to preserve it.
Let them examine the picture of [Paddy Ashdown, Tony Blair and John Major] laughing cruelly about a goldfish. They are what is left of British sovereignty.
Saturday 30th September 1995:
At the time of the Gibraltar shootings, I remember taking the rather pompous line that if we Brits were to adopt terrorist tactics and start executing people on suspicion, we had no business to pose as upholders of law and order in Northern Ireland. Those who argued, as they did in every saloon bar, that the only way to deal with outlaws was to give them a dose of their own medicine, were quite simply wrong, or so I maintained.
The three terrorists, two men and a woman, were unarmed, none carried a remote control device to a nearby bomb, nor was there any bomb nearby. At the time it seemed more likely than not that it was a planned assassination, an illegal execution of three suspects, and that a cock-and-bull story about explosives in a parked car and remote control devices was a limp afterthought for the benefit of the inquest.
Seven years later it seems probable that the SAS were indeed misinformed, and that they genuinely intended to arrest the three terrorists, although there was remarkably little planning for their removal from the scene as prisoners. What remains slightly frightening is the weight of opinion behind the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to execute suspected terrorists without trial, on the basis of unexamined and highly questionable intelligence information.
One expects this degree of moral crassness from The Sun and from at least some of its sexually confused readers. The Sun summed up its own reaction to the European Court of Human Rights’ verdict in a sentence: “Terrorists have no human rights”. That is an attitude people are free to take, but they still have to establish that the people from whom they propose to remove all human rights are terrorists. You can’t condemn people on a wink and a nudge, or on the untested gossip of an intelligence service which seems to get three quarters of its information wrong.
However we look at the matter, the SAS goofed. When someone described as a “senior Cabinet minister” talks of the “prompt and courageous action of the SAS” and announces that in response to the European Court’s unfavourable verdict many Cabinet ministers want Britain to leave the Court of Human Rights, I think we should start to tremble. It is unpleasant enough to have to live surrounded by people of The Sun‘s intellectual and moral calibre. One does not want to be governed by them.
Let us be thankful for every bit of self-determination we sacrifice under these circumstances. For my own part, I shall even welcome tomorrow’s arrival of the litre and the kilo. Those most vehemently opposed to them are just the sort of people who ought to be in prison.
Home Secretary Theresa May (and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling -JD), with support of Prime Minister David Cameron, wants the UK to scrap the Human Rights Act and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
Instead, they want a new UK-only ‘Bill of Rights’ giving less human rights to certain humans (mostly foreign ones).
Many (but not all) Conservatives, currently in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, don’t much like the Human Rights Act, and many (but not all) don’t like the European Union either. The two are connected, as a commitment to Human Rights is a condition of EU membership.
The Conservative party, if it wins the next General Election in May 2015, has pledged to scrap the Human Rights Act and the UK’s binding obligation to the European Convention on Human Rights.
It was British war leader Winston Churchill who in 1948 advocated a European ‘Charter of Human Rights’ in direct response to the abject horrors of the Nazi and Soviet regimes and the Second World War. British lawyers drafted what was later to become the European Convention. The UK was one of the first countries to sign up to the Convention, and leaving it would end 60 years of being legally bound by this first international treaty on Human Rights.
Read the rest here.
Above: Moazzam Begg
Reactions to the sudden and surprising release of Moazzam Begg, who has been awaiting trial on charges of terrorism since March, have been predictably polarised.
5Pillarz is rejoicing at the news, and wheels out a spokesman from the extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir to tell us all how shocking it is that some people associate Muslims with extremism. Puleeze:
“Meanwhile, Taji Mustafa, media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain said he was pleased to hear about the release of Moazzam Beg, after months of incarceration and separation from his family. He said: ‘Moazzam’s case, along with others arrested for traveling to Syria, has been used to manufacture a climate of opinion that the government will use to further its policies regarding Muslims in the UK, in particular for their support of causes dissenting from British foreign policy.'”
By contrast, The Henry Jackson website rather sulkily reminds its readers that Moazzam Begg still isn’t very nice even if he is innocent of these particular charges.
But some have been asking whether he really is innocent after all. A report in the Times hinted at some shady dealings behind the scenes:
“Neither police, prosecutors nor intelligence sources would comment on whether the sudden abandonment was linked to behind-the-scenes efforts to free British hostages held by Islamic State in Syria.”
This invitation to speculate in a way unflattering to Begg has been picked up very readily by those of an Islamosceptic bent, as a skim read below the line (of the Times article) will demonstrate.
However, although my own views on Begg are much closer to the Henry Jackson Society than to 5Pillarz, there doesn’t seem any evidence that Begg has been let off as part of a deal with ISIS, nor does it seem a particularly plausible theory.
It certainly doesn’t fit with the CPS response:
“The Crown Prosecution Service said that it had reviewed the case after being made aware of material previously not known to the police investigation. A spokesman added: “If we had been made aware of all of this information at the time of charging, we would not have charged.”
He was charged back in March, well before any negotiations with ISIS over hostage release might have taken place.
It’s frustrating that there is so much mystery over Begg’s release – and to note that, in line with the stopped clock rule, 5Pillarz may have a point on this occasion. Here’s part of the Muslim Council of Britain’s statement:
” … we have said time and time again, that the best way to tackle extremism is to work with Muslim communities and have faith in our very British values of freedom, liberty and democracy.
“This means robust, intelligence-led policing that works with communities every step of the way and ensures full judicial oversight of the entire process. We should be proud of our commitment to due process, our tradition of free speech and anything that undermines them will only play into the hands of violent extremists.
“Today is a good day for British justice and the upholding of the rule of law in this case. What remains deplorable is the inclination of some of our political leaders to lapse into populist rhetoric when there are terrorism-related arrests, without waiting for due process.”
In the circumstances, unless some further evidence comes to light, that’s a fair comment. And, as Mary Dejevsky points out:
“At the very least this has been an egregious waste of public money.”
The death of Lauren Bacall (pictured above with husband Humphrey Bogart leading a 1947 march against McCarthy’s witch hunt of leftists and liberals) robs us of the last great star from Hollwood’s ‘golden age’ and a brave liberal – in the best sense of the word. She described herself to TV host Larry King, in 2005, as “anti-Republican and a liberal. The L-word. Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”
I can’t resist the opportunity to show you a clip of Bacall in her first film, Howard Hawks’ 1944 ‘To Have And Have Not’, in which she sings the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer number ‘How Little We Know’, accompanied by Hoagy himself at the piano. For many years it was thought that Bacall’s singing was dubbed by the young Andy Williams, but Hawks confirmed (in Joseph McBride’s book ‘Hawks on Hawks’) that although Williams’ voice was recorded, it was not used because he (Hawks) decided Bacall’s voice was good enough.
Republished from Thompsons’ Labour & European Law Review:
A new report by the TUC to mark the one year anniversary of the introduction of tribunal fees has found that they have had a devastating impact on access to justice for working people.
Since July 2013, workers who have been sexually harassed, sacked because of their race, or bullied because of a disability have been forced to pay £1,200 for their claim to be heard by an employment tribunal. Those seeking to recover unpaid wages or holiday pay have to pay up to £390.
The report – What Price Justice? – analysed government statistics for January to March 2014, which revealed a 59 per cent fall in claims, compared to the same quarter in 2013. During these three months just 10,967 claims were received by employment tribunals compared to 63,715 for the same quarter in 2013.
The TUC analysis of the statistics found that:
- Women are among the biggest losers – there has been an 80 per cent fall in the number of women pursuing sex discrimination claims. Just 1,222 women took out claims between January and March 2014, compared to 6,017 over the same period in 2013.
- The number of women pursuing pregnancy discrimination claims is also down by over a quarter (26 per cent), with just three per cent of women seeking financial compensation after losing their jobs.
- Race and disability claims have plummeted – during the first three months of 2014 the number of race discrimination and sexual orientation claims both fell by 60 per cent compared to the same period in 2013.
- Disability claims have experienced a 46 per cent year-on-year reduction.
- Workers are being cheated out of wages – there has been a 70 per cent drop in workers pursuing claims for non-payment of the national minimum wage.
- Claims for unpaid wages and holiday pay have fallen overall by 85 per cent. The report says that many people are being put off making a claim, because the cost of going to a tribunal is often more expensive than the sum of their outstanding wages.
- Low-paid workers are being priced out – only 24 per cent of workers who applied for financial assistance to take claims received any form of fee remittance.
- Even workers employed on the minimum wage face fees of up to £1,200 if a member of their household has savings of £3,000.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employment tribunal fees have been a huge victory for Britain’s worst bosses. By charging up-front fees for harassment and abuse claims the government has made it easier for bad employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour.
“Tribunal fees are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights. The consequence has been to price low-paid and vulnerable people out of justice.”
Neil Todd at Thompsons Solicitors said: “The statistics set out in the TUC report make it absolutely clear that the introduction of Tribunal fees have deterred workers from seeking legal redress as a result of unlawful conduct in the workplace. The fees are one of a number of attacks on working people which have been introduced by the Coalition Government. This has left workers in the UK more vulnerable than their counterparts across the EU”.
To read the report, go to: http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TUC_Report_At_what_price_justice.pdf
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Peter Tatchell is an admirable man who has campaigned bravely on LGBT rights and many other issues. However I cannot agree with the thrust of this post, recently published in Gay London. To summarise, he regrets the way in which the LGBT community has retreated from ‘radical idealism to cautious conformism’. He wishes instead that LGBT campaigners questioned the institution of the family and were generally less bourgeois, and complains that more timid types only jumped on the LGBT bandwagon when it was safe to do so.
But this can be turned round I think. One might conjecture that the handful of LBGT men and women who were prepared to campaign and be visible forty years ago were unusually independent and tough minded. They were perhaps thus also more inclined to be non-conformist and politically radical in ways that went beyond sexual orientation.
I should note at this point that the ‘pink’ in ‘pink prosecco’ only references my slightly sub-shirazian shade of politics. However personally I don’t see why LGBT people should be expected to be any more or less radical than anyone else. It’s a sign of progress not regression that people who are dull, or disagreeably right wing, are as happy to identify as LGBT as creative, radical, edgy types. Peter concludes:
“The unwritten social contract at the heart of the recent campaigns for LGBT law reform is that gay people should behave respectably. No more cruising, orgies or bondage. In return, the ‘good gays’ will be rewarded with equal treatment. The ‘bad gays’, who fail to conform to conventional morality will, of course, remain sexual outlaws. Is that what we want? A prescriptive moralism that penalises non-conformists within our own community?”
But why should bondage and a rejection of conventional morality be seen as LGBT specific issues?