Archive for the ‘Torture’ Category

They have proved to be an effective means of dealing with the epidemic of youth on our streets. But now that acoustic dispersal devices are likely to be banned, how will we tackle one of this country’s most distressing and pervasive crimes: being young in a public place?

Acoustic deterrence was, until recently, used only to repel rats, mice and cockroaches. But thanks to an invention by the former British Aerospace engineer Howard Stapleton it is now just as effective at discouraging human vermin. The Mosquito youth dispersal device, manufactured by Compound Security Systems, produces a loud, high-pitched whine that can be heard strongly only by children and teenagers, and not at all by people over 25. It allows councils to keep children out of public places, making them safe for law-abiding citizens. It enables shopkeepers to determine who should and should not be permitted to use the streets. It ensures that society is not subjected, among other intrusions, to the unpleasant and distressing noises that youths are inclined to make.

A survey by the Guardian shows that 25% of local authorities in the UK use or have used these machines in their attempts to discourage the youthwave. Altogether 3,500 Mosquitos have been sold here, far more than in any other country. The product’s success is one of many signs of the enlightened attitudes to the menace of childhood that distinguish the United Kingdom from less civilised parts of the world. But last week the bleeding hearts in the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly unanimously recommended that acoustic deterrents be banned from public places, on the preposterous grounds that they discriminate against young people and deny their right to free assembly.

In a blatant attempt at emotional blackmail, the council’s parliament contends that, as well as causing distress to teenagers – whether wearing hooded tops or not – these devices cause “dramatic reactions” in many younger children, particularly babies, who often “cry or shout out and cover their ears, to the surprise of their parents, who, unaware of the noise, do not know why”. Nor, it says, do we yet know what impact high-frequency noise has on unborn children.

Really, who cares?

This is just the sort of Eurotrash we have come to expect from the fat cats of Strasbourg. Happily their decision is not binding, but it can be only a matter of time before the pressure on our legislators – especially high-pitched whining from do-gooders such as the Children’s Rights Alliance for England – becomes intolerable, and they cave in to the forces of political correctness.

What this will mean is that the police, councils and owners of property will be deprived of an essential weapon in the fight against youth. Youth statistics might be improving, but there are still far too many occasions on which young people venture out of their homes, sometimes in concert. It is true that the police have specific, if limited, powers to deal with individual cases. Admittedly the United Kingdom has one of the world’s most enlightened policies on the age of criminal responsibility. Children can be tried and imprisoned here at the age of 10. This is four years younger than in China, whose government is notoriously soft on crime, and six years younger than in the pinko, wet-blanket state of Texas. Admittedly, we have more child prisoners than any other country in Europe, and behaviour laws – asbos, extrajudicial fines, house arrest for excluded children, £5,000 fines for the parents of antisocial toddlers – that dictatorships can only dream of.

But while these measures offer society some protection against actual offences, they do nothing to address the general issue of young people in our midst. Worse, they attempt to draw a distinction between criminals and teenagers. As everyone over the age of 40 knows, this distinction is a false one. Now that the Mosquito is likely to be excluded from the armoury, now that police officers may no longer respond to the incidence of youth with a simple cuff round the ear, or a falling down the stairs or out of a police station window, how will Britain deal with this menace?

The authorities have been seeking creative solutions, but none meets the challenge we face. Some councils have imported an idea pioneered in New Zealand and Australia whose purpose is to disperse teenagers from public places: playing the songs of Barry Manilow over their loudspeaker systems. The problem with the Manilow method is that it is too blunt an instrument, as it disperses everyone except the hard of hearing.

Youth curfews, introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and dispersal orders, brought into effect by the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003, go some of the way towards tackling the problem, but they require the active involvement of the police, and apply only where and when they have been implemented. There is as yet no universal provision against those who insist, often in active collaboration with others, on being young people in public view.

I have a modest proposal for dealing with this problem. While forestalling sterner measures that might otherwise be deployed to address the troubling existence of youth, it enables good citizens to go about their lives at liberty. It also prevents young people from getting into trouble and ending up in the worst situation of all: the horror and humiliation of prison, where their golden years are blighted and they fall into the clutches of people ready to exploit them.

I propose that from school age onwards young people should, for the good of themselves and society, be kept in a safe, secure environment, under supervision and out of situations that might tempt them into trouble. Each would be given a small room, simple but comfortable, which in some cases they might share with another. They would be permitted one hour of exercise a day in a purpose-built yard offering appropriate facilities.

Besides schooling, occupations would be designed to keep them busy and happy, and prevent them from engaging in the kind of group activities the citizens of this country deplore. These pastimes might include assembling bags of the kind used for postal deliveries. They would also be offered the opportunity to pursue vocational qualifications, particularly in the sub-surface fossil fuel extraction and smoke duct-cleansing industries.

This firm but fair treatment programme will consolidate the policies introduced in a piecemeal and incoherent fashion by the last government, reverse the disastrous social experiment of the past 100 years that unleashed the youthwave on to our streets, and make devices such as the Mosquito redundant, useful as they are in the current legislative vacuum. It will ensure that the youth class ceases to blight the lives of law-abiding owners of property.

Juvenile citizens would be restrained from engaging with society until they have learned to shoulder the burden of respect and responsibility this entails. By this means we will rear the young people we all want to see: happy, well-adjusted, out of sight and out of mind.

Turn up the Mosquito and Manilow. And better still, lock the young up | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

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Stop the future president of EU - 27.10.09 - Steve Bell

If the man who waged an unprovoked war in Iraq gets this job, it could be the chance to hold him to account for his crimes.

Tony Blair’s bid to become president of the European Union has united the left in revulsion. His enemies argue that he divided Europe by launching an illegal war; he kept the UK out of the eurozone and the Schengen agreement; he is contemptuous of democracy (surely a qualification?); greases up to wealth and power and lets the poor go to hell; he is ruthless, mendacious, slippery and shameless. But never mind all that. I’m backing Blair.

It’s not his undoubted powers of persuasion that have swayed me, nor the motorcade factor that clinched it for David Miliband – who claims that no one else could stop the traffic in Beijing or Washington or Moscow. I have a different interest. You could argue that I’m placing other considerations above the good of the EU. You’d be right, but this hardly distinguishes me from the rest of Blair’s supporters. I contend that his presidency could do more for world peace than any appointment since the second world war.

Blair has the distinction, which is a source of national pride in some quarters, of being one of the two greatest living mass murderers on earth. That he commissioned a crime of aggression – waging an unprovoked war, described by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime” – looks incontestable. I will explain the case in a moment. This crime has caused the death – depending on whose estimate you believe – of between 100,000 and one million people. As there was no legal justification, these people were murdered. But no one has been brought to justice.

Within the UK, there is no means of prosecuting Blair. In 2006 the law lords decided that the international crime of aggression has not been incorporated into domestic law. But, elsewhere in the world, it has been. In 2006 the professor of international law Philippe Sands warned that “Margaret Thatcher avoids certain countries as a result of the sinking of the Belgrano, and Blair would be advised to do likewise”.

Has he? I don’t know. Blair’s diary and most of his meetings are private. He has no need to travel to countries where he might encounter a little legal difficulty. So he goes about his business untroubled. He seldom faces protests, let alone investigating magistrates. His only punishment for the crime of aggression so far is a multimillion-pound book deal, massive speaking fees, posh directorships and an appointment as Middle East peace envoy, which must rank with Henry Kissinger’s receipt of the Nobel peace prize as the supreme crime against satire.

I have spent the past three days trying to discover, from legal experts all over Europe, where the crime of aggression can be prosecuted. The only certain answer is that the situation is unclear. Everyone agrees that within the EU two states, Estonia and Latvia, have incorporated it into domestic law. In most of the others, the law remains to be tested. In 2005 the German federal administrative court ruled in favour of an army major who had refused to obey an order in case it implicated him in the Iraq war. The court’s justification was that the war was a crime of aggression.

A study of the constitutions of western European nations in 1988 found that if there’s a conflict, most of them would place customary international law above domestic law, suggesting that a prosecution is possible. President Blair would also be obliged to travel to countries outside the EU, including the other states of the former Soviet Union, many of which have now incorporated the crime of aggression. He would have little control over his appointments, and everyone would know when he was coming.

It’s just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him. But our best chance of putting pressure on reluctant authorities lies in a citizen’s arrest. To stimulate this process, I will put up the first £100 of a bounty (to which, if he gets the job, I will ask readers to subscribe), payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent arrest of President Blair. It shouldn’t be hard to raise several thousand pounds. I will help set up a network of national arrest committees, exchanging information and preparing for the great man’s visits. President Blair would have no hiding place: we will be with him wherever he goes.

Here is the case against him. The Downing Street memo, a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” The foreign secretary (Jack Straw) then told Blair that “the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran”. He suggested that “we should work up a plan” to produce “legal justification for the use of force”. The attorney general told the prime minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [security council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.” Bush and Blair later failed to obtain security council authorisation.

This short memo, which should be learned by heart by every citizen of the United Kingdom, reveals that Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression; that the only legal reasons for an attack didn’t apply, and that the war couldn’t be launched without UN authorisation.

The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Blair. In March 2002, as another leaked memo shows, Jack Straw had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war: “i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent; ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”

Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.” A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that “there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”

It’s just a matter of getting him in front of a judge. The crazy plan to make this mass murderer president could be the chance that many of us have been waiting for.

via Making this ruthless liar EU president is a crazy plan. But I’ll be backing Blair | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

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The Bush administration’s Justice Department was properly and justifiably criticized for the infusion of politics in its hiring and firing decisions. A political litmus test was imposed for new hires and a number of U.S. Attorneys were fired for refusing to kowtow to pressures to indict for partisan purposes. Although possibly not as egregious, the decision to limit the torture investigation to low level interrogators “who failed to act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance” (which in itself may be illegal) seems also to suffer from political considerations.

No one can fault the President’s desire to look forward and deal with the myriad of problems that now face the country. Likewise the prospect of investigating and possibly indicting high ranking members of the former administration and rival party sets a dangerous precedent and risks charges of political motivation. The hesitancy to look at the top is understandable and a tough call for any attorney general. But the limits placed upon the prosecutor, Mr. Durham, appear to be driven by politics. What other reason can there be for so limiting the investigation other than fear of the political consequences?

There can be no question now that representatives of the United States engaged in torture. An investigation which closes it eyes to those who authored and authorized it demeans the justice system and the nation. Of course there will be political fallout. But the Republicans did not hesitate to impeach President Clinton for charges arising out of misconduct of a personal nature. Here we are speaking of potential war crimes—certainly more serious than lying about an affair with an intern.

Finally, the suggestion that even the charges against the persons who actually did the torturing should not be pursued because they will affect the morale of those who did not is ridiculous. We do not refrain from investigating and disciplining police officers guilty of excessive force merely because it will affect the morale of other officers. If anything such investigation and charges deters similar conduct. Concededly there will be consequences to pursuing this investigation, some of which may be negative, but that hardly seems to be a sufficient reason to limit its scope. It is difficult to predict what such an investigation will do to us as a nation if we pursue all of those responsible; or what it will say about us if we do not.

via Judge H. Lee Sarokin: Has The Obama Justice Department Also Been Politicized?.

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“No matter how you dress it up, the question on the table is whether the Obama administration should continue to cover–up evidence of the criminal offence of torture, committed by US personnel. It is a truly remarkable notion that evidence of crimes should be suppressed because it might provoke anger around the world. Try telling the victim of child abuse that it would be better if we all hushed the facts up, and let the paedophile go free, because news of what happened might spark outrage among the readers of the Sun – who, in turn, might go on a vigilante raid against some innocent paediatrician.

Yet this is basically the argument advanced by Michael Tomasky today. Tomasky is probably correct when he suggests that the photographs of prisoners being abused by American soldiers will inflame passions. It is possible that this might even put entirely innocent Americans in danger. I carry an American passport, and I might be the victim. I certainly hope none of this happens. But can these fears really justify the continued cover-up?

I got off a plane this morning from Washington DC where – sadly – President Obama continues to suppress the evidence of the torture committed against British resident Binyam Mohamed. Binyam is suffering badly these days, the bitter consequences of the years of torture he endured in American custody, in Pakistan, in Morocco, in the dark prison in Kabul, and in Guantánamo Bay. So far, the United States has not only refused to apologise, but will not even admit what American personnel did to him. Bizarrely (and, as the high court said, the approach of a totalitarian state rather than a democracy), the US won’t even admit where Binyam was for at least two of the seven years he was held without trial.

Binyam does not want revenge; he is not even calling for people to be locked up for what they did to him. But he does want the truth to come out, so that others can be spared his fate next time our politicians respond to a terrible crime like September 11. We cannot, as he says, expect to learn from history if we don’t know what that history is.

Crimes have been committed in the recent past against Binyam and others. Unfortunately, another crime is currently being committed when politicians suppress evidence of torture. As the judges noted in Binyam’s case, section 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 makes it an offence to assist in concealing a crime such as torture.

We might all have more sympathy for those keen to sweep all this under the carpet – to “look forward rather than backwards” as the sloganeering suggests – if the American and British officials concerned would put their hands up, admit that they did wrong, and apologise. Sad to say, this has not happened. Without truth, there is unlikely to be any reconciliation.”

Clive Stafford Smith, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 May 2009

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Next week, the foreign secretary will present the Foreign Office’s annual report on human rights violations around the world. For anyone who cares about Britain and human rights, it will feel difficult to ask about anything except the British government’s own entanglement in a case of torture.(…)

Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, Thursday 12 March 2009

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