Tag: united kingdom

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.

CPS refuses to prosecute UK Govt for plotting Libyan renditions to torture

British prosecutors have today stuck by a decision not to bring charges against the UK Government over its role in the 2004 kidnap and rendition of two Libyan families, including a pregnant woman and children aged 6 to 12.

The torture victims had demanded a review of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision in June 2016 not to bring any prosecutions, despite finding that a senior British intelligence official was involved in the operation and had – to a limited extent – sought political approval for it.

The CPS took two years to consider the original police investigation which produced a 28,000 page file. However, it completed the victim’s review in just seven weeks. The review staff were junior to the team who made the original decision not to charge, putting them in the position of having to challenge their superior’s decisions on a high profile case.

Ministers urged to correct claims over Saudi juveniles executions

International human rights organization Reprieve is urging the UK Government to correct inaccurate statements it has made about three juveniles facing beheading in Saudi Arabia.

Ali al Nimr, Dawoud al Marhoon and Abdullah al Zaher were aged 17, 17 and 15 (respectively) when they were sentenced to death for alleged involvement in protests calling for reform in the Kingdom.

However, the UK Government has wrongly maintained that “under Saudi Law they are considered to have been adult at the time.”

Foreign Office reveals ‘step-change’ in Egypt approach

Foreign Office concerns over Egypt’s human rights record have led to a “step-change” in the UK’s approach to that government, according to a new FCO human rights report.

The shift comes days after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sparked surprise when he insisted at a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry that a “burgeoning crisis” in Egypt was now a priority for the UK.

Atoning for Washington’s ‘Mass Kidnapping’ in the Indian Ocean

One week after British voters decided to exit the European Union, the UK Supreme Court was set to decide the fate of a small group of British citizens who had no such vote when the UK and U.S. governments forced the people to exit their homeland beginning in the late 1960s.

Known as the Chagossians, these little known refugees have long been denied the kind of democratic rights exercised in the Brexit referendum. Instead, Britain and the United States forcibly removed the Chagossians from their homes during the construction of the U.S. military base on the isolated Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Over nearly 50 years, the base has become a multi-billion-dollar installation, playing key roles in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, the people have lived in impoverished exile, mostly on the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Government secrecy on overseas police training “unacceptable”, say MPs

Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has condemned the Government for the secrecy surrounding the approval of overseas police training, saying the current policy to guard against the human rights risks of such training may not be “fit for purpose.”

The Committee’s report, focused on the UK College of Policing, found that the College “has been put under pressure” by government departments “to raise revenue, including through providing overseas training”, and that some of this training been provided “on the basis of opaque agreements, sometimes with foreign governments which have been the subject of sustained criticism.” In a statement, the MPs warned that some of these programmes “threaten… the integrity of the very brand of British policing that the College is trying to promote and smacks of hypocrisy.”

UK Govt Spends Over Half a Million in Attempt to Cover Up MI6 Torture Case

The UK Government has spent over £600,000 on lawyers in an attempt to stop a torture case being heard in court, documents obtained by human rights group Reprieve have revealed – even though the victims bringing the case have offered to settle for an apology and a token payment of one pound.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar were kidnapped and tortured in a joint MI6-CIA ‘rendition’ operation in 2004, and have brought a case against the UK Government, along with Jack Straw, who as Foreign Secretary was responsible for MI6 at the time, and a former senior director at the intelligence agency, Mark Allen, who took credit for organising their kidnap.