Monthly Archives: February 2010

  The Jewish Chronicle front page today revisits the pro-Israel lobby’s persistence in securing a change to the law on universal jurisdiction, before the end of this parliamentary term, to allow Israeli and other foreign politicians accused of war crimes to travel freely to the UK immune from arrest and prosecution.

The JC today reports:

‘Gordon Brown has personally intervened to unblock the logjam over a change in the law that allows local magistrates to issue arrest warrants for visiting foreign politicians accused of war crimes.

‘The JC understands the Prime Minister is determined to press ahead with the law change before the election.

‘The Prime Minister pledged his support for Ms Livni but did not immediately prioritise the issue.

‘However, he has now called in key ally and fixer Tom Watson to advise on the issue. The MP for West Bromwich is known for his strong views in support of Israel and challenged Mr Straw on the floor of the House of Commons earlier this month.’

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  The Department for Communities and Local Government today publishes a report, ‘Attitudes, values and perceptions – Muslims and the general population in 2007-08’, based on data taken from the Citizenship survey 2007-08.

The report analyses Muslim and general population attitudes towards engagement, cohesion, interaction and identity and prejudice and discrimination.

Some of the reports findings:

‘In 2007-08 rates of civic engagement and volunteering were lower among Muslims compared with the general population, reflecting the younger age profile of the Muslim population. However, Muslims were more likely than the general population to feel that they could influence decisions affecting Britain and their local area.

‘The Muslim population and the general population often agreed on which were the most important rights, responsibilities and values for living in Britain. For example, in 2005 both Muslims and the general population agreed that everyone should have the right to free education for children and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Similarly, Muslims and the general population agreed that obeying and respecting the law, helping and protecting your family, working to provide for yourself and voting were the responsibility of everyone.’

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  Seumas Milne (pictured) in his Guardian column today reflects on the heavy sentencing handed down to the Muslim protestors arrested following demonstrations held last year during Israel’s savage attack on the Gaza strip. Milne looks at the climate fomented by populist politicians, a willing media and far right racist groups that threatens to ratchet up anti-Muslim prejudice to the peril of us all.

He writes:

‘If young British Muslims had any doubts that they are singled out for special treatment in the land of their birth, the punishments being meted out to those who took part in last year’s London demonstrations against Israel’s war on Gaza will have dispelled them.

‘Of 119 people arrested, 78 have been charged, all but two of them young ­Muslims (most between the ages of 16 and 19)…In the past few weeks, 15 have been convicted, mostly of violent disorder, and jailed for between eight months and two-and-a-half years – ­having switched to guilty pleas to avoid heavier terms. Another nine are up to be sentenced tomorrow.

‘The severity of the charges and sentencing goes far beyond the official response to any other recent anti-war demonstration, or even the violent stop the City protests a decade ago. So do the arrests, many of them carried out months after the event in dawn raids by dozens of police officers, who smashed down doors and handcuffed family members as if they were suspected terrorists. Naturally, none of the more than 30 complaints about police ­violence were upheld, even where video ­evidence was available.’

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The select committee on Culture, Media and Sport issued its report into ‘Press Standards, Privacy and Libel’ yesterday.

The committee is chaired by John Whittingdale MP (pictured).

The committee has been gathering evidence from a variety of sources over the last year looking into the manner in which the British media has covered the disappearance of Madeleine McCann as well as the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and the problem of ‘libel tourism’.

The report contains a section devoted to the Press Complaints Commission and the future of self-regulation of the press:

‘Finally we discuss self-regulation of the press; its future viability; the history and structure of the PCC, the current industry regulator; and its fitness for purpose. We also set out a considered programme of reform, aimed at making regulation of the press in the UK more effective.

‘Both the principle of press self-regulation and its practice by the PCC have always had critics and have often been matters for general concern. Indeed, in 1993 Sir David Calcutt, in a second report commissioned by the Government, concluded that self-regulation was not working and recommended that the Government should impose statutory regulation. This recommendation was not acted upon.’

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  Home Office figures released today show 200 hundred terror arrests were made last year and 200,444 people stopped and searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

From today’s Independent:

‘There have been 1,759 terrorism arrests since September 11 2001, the figures show.

‘For the year ending September 11 2009, a total of 201 people were arrested of which 66 people were charged – 17 (26%) were charged under terrorism legislation while seven (11%) were charged with terrorism-related offences.

‘The most common charge under terror laws since 2001 is possession of an article for terrorism purposes (30%) and fundraising (14%).

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  Simon Jenkins in his Guardian column today reflects on the car bomb that exploded in front of Newry courthouse in Northern Ireland on Monday, the major NATO push against the Taliban in Marjah and the attempt by politicians to conflate the war in Afghanistan with strengthening domestic security.

Jenkins writes:

‘Terrorism in Northern Ireland is nowadays hardly reported because it has rightly been redefined as a crime. The terrorist must be denied the oxygen of publicity. And it works. If Monday’s court-house bombing in Newry had been perpetrated on a public building in London there would have been pandemonium. Security chiefs would have been summoned. Doors would have been kicked down in immigrant suburbs and “suspects” arrested.

‘Gordon Brown would have dived for his Cobra bunker, declaring “the nation is under threat” and the bomb was proof of the necessity of the Afghan war. That was how Washington reacted yesterday to news of a (failed) plot to put a bomb in the New York subway. It was nothing as commonplace as a crime but, said a spokesman, “an assault on our nation … a threat to our homeland security”.

‘The attempt of Gordon Brown, David Miliband and David Cameron to link the battle in Helmand with safety on British streets is no longer just implausible, it is surreal. Their declared objective is to reduce the risk of Islamist attacks by stamping out distant “terrorist sponsors” and “training camps”. Other motives – maintaining Nato unity, regional stabilisation and confronting jihadism – are mentioned but are subsidiary. War can only be about security.’

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  The papers today (Telegraph, Times, Independent) report on the rebuff by Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman (pictured), of foreign secretary, David Miliband’s request that Israel co-operate fully with the UK in getting to the bottom of the fake British passports that were used by the assassins of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

It comes as Dubai police claim two further forged British passports were used by the assassination team, making the total eight and not six.

The Telegraph reports:

‘Israel has shown little inclination to accommodate Britain’s requests for answers and yesterday delivered a fresh rebuff to pleas for co-operation.

‘David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, emerged from a 45-minute meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Brussels empty-handed. Three other European states caught up in the plot – Ireland, France and Germany – received similarly short shrift.’

Lieberman is said to have told the EU foreign ministers that were was “no proof” of Israel’s involvement in the killing and that “If someone would present information beyond articles in the media, we would relate to it. But since there are no concrete elements, there is no need to react.”

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  The Guardian reports on an unprecedented legal challenge launched by the charity, Reprieve (Director, Clive Stafford-Smith pictured), against the government concerning guidance issued to MI5 and MI6 on torture and the treatment of detainees held abroad.

Reprieve has taken the matter to the High Court claiming that the government has failed to disclose guidance issued in 2004 to intelligence agents despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to publish it last March. The delay in making the guidance available has previously been criticized by the Intelligence and Security committee.

Reprieve said in a statement that the government had “failed adequately to ensure that UK intelligence personnel refrain from acts and omissions amounting to complicity in torture”.

It claims to have “compelling evidence” that British intelligence agencies have been engaged in the practice of “systemically providing information and questions and of conducting interviews with detainees in the custody of a foreign state in the knowledge, or constructive knowledge, that the individuals were being subjected to torture”.

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  The Daily Telegraph reports on a further five cases pending investigation into MI5’s (Director General, Jonathan Evans, pictured) collusion in the torture of British Muslims abroad.

The paper reports that the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, is to decide this week on whether the five case files are to be given to Scotland Yard for a full investigation into the claims.

‘Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said he has been given evidence from Pakistani officials that MI5 and MI6 officers knew about the torture but continued to take part — directly or indirectly — in interrogations.

‘Baroness Scotland called in detectives over two cases last year, including that of Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was tortured by the CIA.

‘The five new cases being considered include that of a 24-year-old medical student, identified only as ZZ, who was allegedly abducted off the street and tortured for two months in a building opposite the British deputy high commission in Karachi. Towards the end of his detention, he says, he was questioned by two British intelligence officers.’

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  The Daily Mail front page story on Friday claimed that MI6 had been tipped off about the use of fake British passports in the assassination of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

The paper reported:

‘MI6 was tipped off that Israeli agents were going to carry out an ‘overseas operation’ using fake British passports, it was claimed last night.

‘A member of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, said the Foreign Office was also told hours before a Hamas terrorist chief was assassinated in Dubai.

‘A British security source who met the Mossad agent, and has a track record of providing reliable information, told the Daily Mail: ‘This is a serving member of Israeli intelligence.

‘He says the British Government was told very, very briefly before the operation what was going to happen. There was no British involvement and they didn’t know the name of the target. But they were told these people were travelling on UK passports.’

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