Tag: united kingdom

Tackling antisemitism doesn’t mean clamping down on criticism of Israel

The government has formalised a flawed definition of antisemitism that includes ‘exceptional criticism’ of Israel.

It is summer 2013, the height of the most recent Gaza war. With around twenty fellow members ‘Jewdas’ – a group of self-proclaimed leftwing Jewish anti-zionists, are assembled opposite Brighton Pavilion. I’m there to picket a demonstration by ‘Sussex Friends of Israel’. We read out the names of the Palestinian dead – a figure that by that point was already in the hundreds – only to be half drowned-out by the boos of the larger of demonstration.

From between two bulks of policemen, we were faced down by a gaggle of young men around the age to be fresh of the grand tour of Israel . who yelled at us that we were antisemites. Someone pointed out, as politely as possible whilst still being heard over the chanting, the cheers, the sirens, that we were in fact all Jews, or at least, Jew-ish. He replied that real Jews support Israel. Another Jewdas member shouted that antisemitism was not the same as anti-zionism, whilst someone else waded in to the effect that Jewish identity is complicated. From somewhere in the crowd someone lobbed a “self-haters!” at the picketers. This unlikely identitarian dispute was quickly broken up when an unprepossessing auntie-type (complete with cardigan and pearls) punched me in the arm and ripped up my “Zionism, Schmionism” sign.

Yemen: US-Made Bombs Used in Unlawful Airstrikes

Dozens of Civilian Deaths Underscore Need for Saudi Arms Embargo.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition killed several dozen civilians in three apparently unlawful airstrikes in September and October 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The coalition’s use of United States-supplied weapons in two of the strikes, including a bomb delivered to Saudi Arabia well into the conflict, puts the US at risk of complicity in unlawful attacks.

UK bases used for targeting in secret US drone war, documents indicate

Personnel on military bases in the UK have been involved in choosing targets for a secret US drone campaign which has killed hundreds of civilians in violation of international law, documents obtained by human rights charity Reprieve indicate.

Job adverts and CVs identified from publicly-available sources show that the US Air Force has employed a “MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator” at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire ; while a Private Military Contractor (PMC) has advertised for an “All Source Analyst – Targeting” to work at the same base.

RAF Molesworth is leased to the US, but the UK Government has refused to answer questions on whether it plays a role in the covert drone campaign – which carries out missile strikes outside of warzones with minimal accountability.

What’s the point of prison?

Well over half of all prisoners in the UK have personality disorders and other mental health problems. What are we doing?

Gifted to the people of the city by King James II in 1450, Glasgow Green is Scotland’s oldest public park. It’s the site where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army camped in the year of the rebellion against English rule in 1745; where upwards of 40,000 people met in the first quarter of the nineteenth century to demand more representative government from the British Parliament; and where another 100,000 gathered in the mid nineteenth century under the banner of the Chartists.

Florida judges block appeal of innocent Brit serving life

A Florida appeals court yesterday denied permission for an elderly British businessman to appeal his life sentence.

On Thursday, the Florida Court of Appeals blocked a challenge to the conviction of 77 year old British national Kris Maharaj, who has spent nearly three decades in prison, with 16 of those years on death row, for a double murder he did not commit.

The court declined to write an opinion as to why Mr Maharaj should be denied a new trial, and refused to refer the case to the full court for review.

Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?

“We have a long-standing relationship with the Saudi armed forces, particularly the Royal Saudi Air Force… We’ll support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.”

Philip Hammond, then UK Foreign Secretary, March 2015

It has been almost 18 months since Saudi Arabian forces intervened in the ongoing Yemeni civil war, and unfortunately the UK government has stayed true to Philip Hammond’s promise. Since he made it, over 7000 people have been killed, 2.8 million have been displaced and vital infrastructure has been destroyed.

UK hides Bangladesh prison report as British journalist suffers in Dhaka jail

Britain’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has refused to declassify files about its work with Bangladeshi prison guards, as an elderly British journalist enters his fourth month of detention without charge.

International human rights charity Reprieve is concerned that Shafik Rehman, an 81 year old former BBC journalist, could face a potential death sentence.

In 2015, the MoJ’s commercial arm, Just Solutions International (JSi) carried out a feasibility study of Bangladesh’s prisons. Reprieve made a freedom of Information request for copies of files from this JSi project, asking in particular for details about healthcare and facilities for elderly prisoners. However, the MoJ recently refused the request claiming that releasing the files would damage international relations.

Government secrecy in renditions prosecution challenged

The UK government’s refusal to answer questions about political interference in a decision not to bring charges over British complicity in renditions has been challenged by international human rights group Reprieve.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced in June 2016 that it would not bring any charges in Operation Lydd, a police investigation into the UK Government’s role in the 2004 kidnap and rendition to torture of two families, including a pregnant woman and children aged 6 to 12.

Ethiopia denies legal access for death row Brit, despite Foreign Secretary’s promise

A British father on death row in Ethiopia continues to be denied access to a lawyer – over two months after the UK Foreign Secretary claimed he had “secure[d] legal representation.”

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a British citizen and political activist, was kidnapped from an international airport in 2014 and has been detained under an unlawful, in absentia death sentence ever since – as part of a government crackdown on opposition politicians and journalists.

Lauri Love’s trial: escaping thoughtcrime in the UK

British hacker Lauri Love was back at the Westminster Magistrate Court on July 25th for the final court hearing of his legal fight against extradition to the US. If extradited, he would face a sentence of up to 99 years for having allegedly hacked into the US Army, the US Federal Reserve, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, NASA, and the Missile Defence Agency, as part of the Anonymous-led online protest #OpLastResort.

Love’s trial has raised important questions for the right to privacy in the UK. When he first got arrested, Love was served with Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which allows the police to demand the decryption of a hard drive, under certain circumstances. In order to demand decryption, the police have to prove the defendant can decrypt the requested material, that ordering such decryption is necessary and proportionate, and that there is no other less invasive way to obtain the material. Love had declined to decrypt his hard drive and the National Crime Agency (NCA) did not pursue the case.

From Twitter to Syria, UK’s Anti-Extremism Prevent Program Still Not Working

An MP in Britain has joined renewed calls for a review of the UK government’s counterextremism program, Prevent, following revelations a London teenager, who fled to Syria to join Daesh, has been killed in an airstrike.

Schoolgirl Kadiza Sultana left her home in east London in February 2015 with two friends. Sultana is reported to have died in the Daesh militant’s stronghold in Raqqa. The three girls are thought to have been groomed online by radicalized members of Daesh — also known as ISIL — before choosing to abandon their studies and board a flight bound for Turkey and married jihadis in Syria.

The “Great Difficulty” of Mass Data Retention

In late July, the EU Advocate General (AG) released his opinion in the Watson et al. case pending before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The case challenges the UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA), which requires communication service providers to retain all communications data passing through their networks. The AG’s opinion concludes that general data retention powers of this kind must be accompanied by certain strict safeguards if they are not to violate EU law.

The opinion of an AG, given before the judges themselves deliberate on a case, is advisory and has no legal effect (though in practice, the Court’s judgment tends to be consistent with the AG’s recommendations). As such, the opinion is often able to more fully explore a debate than the judgment that follows it. AG Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe’s opinion in this case is no exception. Citing US President and founding father James Madison’s “great difficulty”—the tension between giving government the powers it needs to protect citizens, and preventing it from abusing those powers—the opinion addresses frankly the issues arising out of general data retention.

UK-funded Bangladesh police squad arrested British journalist

The UK government has been funding the Bangladesh police squad that arrested an elderly British journalist who potentially faces a death sentence, human rights group Reprieve has discovered.

Shafik Rehman, an 81 year old British grandfather, is a prominent journalist and opposition figure in Bangladesh. He was arrested in April 2016 by plainclothes officers from the country’s Detective Branch, amid a recent crackdown on free speech in Bangladesh.

Mr Rehman continues to be held without charge, having so far been denied bail, and is in poor health. Officials in Bangladesh have accused him of offences including sedition and it is feared that if charged he may face the death penalty. However, no evidence has been presented to his lawyers and the case appears politically motivated.