The United Kingdom came in for robust questioning on its human rights record from other UN member states last week at the Human Rights Council, during the historic first session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Over the course of three hours, 38 countries took the floor to ask UK Justice Minister Michael Wills about a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, corporal punishment against children, abuses committed by UK armed forces abroad, and failure to ratify particular UN conventions and their protocols.
Coming at a time when the UK government is trying to pass yet another piece of counterterrorism legislation, which includes extending pre-charge detention to 42 days, it’s no wonder a significant number of countries asked about UK counterterrorism policies. Neighbors such as The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland expressed concern about 42 day detention, but so did countries like Syria and Algeria. Algeria’s representative pointed out that the Human Rights Committee – the UN body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – had recently “upbraided” Algeria for allowing up to twelve days of pre-charge detention.
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[W]e should urgently try to understand how significant change came about for [the Irish during the Troubles]. Much current reminiscence ignores vital factors, such as the inescapable responsibility of the Irish Republic and, above all, the political weight of the Irish diaspora and the far-sightedness of those who began and maintained contact, long before Blair was elected and claimed the ultimate prize. Throughout the thirty years of conflict, forty million Americans of Irish descent formed an electoral statistic that no US administration could afford to ignore. It is said that on the night before he decided to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton watched a film about the catastrophic injustice inflicted on one Irish family by the British state. Here, Lord Scarman and Lord Devlin, retired law lords, joined Cardinal Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England, in educating themselves in the finest detail of three sets of wrongful convictions involving 14 defendants. At one critical moment Cardinal Hume confronted the home secretary, Douglas Hurd, challenging the adequacy of his briefing.
No similar allies for the Muslim community are evident today, capable of pushing and pulling the British government publicly or privately into seeing sense. Spiritually, the Muslim Ummah is seen as being infinite, but the powerful regimes of the Muslim world almost without exception not only themselves perpetrate oppression, but choose to work hand in hand with the US and the UK in their ‘war on terror’. It is for us, as a nation, to take stock of ourselves. We are very far along a destructive path, and if our government continues on that path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours.
Treatment of asylum seekers coming to the UK falls “seriously below” the standards of a civilised societyPublished March 27, 2008 Asylum seekers , Britain , Human Rights , International Law Leave a Comment
The UK’s asylum system is “marred by inhumanity” and “not yet fit for purpose”, the most comprehensive study ever conducted into its workings has found.A report published today by the Independent Asylum Commission found the treatment of asylum seekers coming to this country fell “seriously below” the standards of a civilised society.
The year-long study of the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, led by former appeal court judge Sir John Waite, said the system denied sanctuary to some in need and failed to remove others who should go.
It called the treatment of some asylum seekers a “blemish” on the UK’s international reputation.
The Border and Immigration Agency has refuted the report, claiming it operated a “firm but humane” system.
The commission was established in 2006 after the then home secretary John Reid branded the immigration system “unfit for purpose”.
It took testimonies from every sector of society, including former home secretaries, policy makers, charities, asylum seekers, police, local authorities, and citizens.
The findings highlighted three particular areas of concern: the use of detention centres, especially to hold children, pregnant women and torture victims; the often brutal handling of removals; and the use of destitution as a tool to drive claimants out of the country.
Waite said: “The overuse of detention, the scale of destitution and the severity of removals are all areas which need attention before the system can be described as fit for purpose”.
Commenting on the common practice of locking up refugees, the report said: “The detention of asylum seekers is overused, oppressive and an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer,” and branded the detention of children “wholly unjustified”.
Israel’s far-right settler movement has set itself on a renewed collision course with the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, declaring that last week’s massacre in a Jewish religious school had targeted them directly and vowing to build a new illegal outpost in the West Bank for every one of the killed students.
Amid a sense of spiralling crisis in Israeli and the Occupied Territories – which has stemmed from the impression that both Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are rudderless amid the climbing violence – Abbas performed yet another policy U-turn, calling for new talks with Israel after having earlier appeared to back away from peace talks.
The latest moves follow the killing on Thursday by a Palestinian gunmen of eight Jewish seminary students, the bloodiest attack in Israel in two years. Hamas, which had vowed to avenge the more than 125 Palestinians killed in a recent Gaza offensive by Israel, at first claimed responsibility, then backtracked.
Hamas’s claim came as the spokesman for Israel’s right-wing settlement movement said that he believed the attack on the religious college was aimed at his movement. Dani Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council, said yesterday that the attacker deliberately targeted Mercaz Herav yeshiva, known for its messianic, national religious Zionism. ‘Of course it wasn’t a coincidence or by chance,’ Dayan said.
Israel has been under increasing pressure from the United States, its main ally, to stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank but the government has struggled to curtail the expansion because the settlers wield considerable electoral power.
Olmert needs the religious right in his governing coalition to maintain his fragile grip on power.
The religious right opposes the US-backed Annapolis peace talks and this latest attack will further undermine Olmert’s authority. Dayan said the peace talks were ‘leading nowhere’. ‘They have raised expectations that everyone knows can’t be fulfilled by Olmert or Abbas,’ Dayan said. ‘In this part of the world, when your raise expectations and can’t fulfil them, you get violence.’
Apparently, Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, has threatened a ‘shoah’ (‘catastrophic disaster’, some say ‘holocaust’) on Gazans.
The scenes on CNN today of Serbian political and religious leaders holding candles at a vigil to protest Kosovo’s independence, as well as the rogue protesters setting fire to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, bring to mind Graham Fuller’s January/February FP cover story, “A World Without Islam.” In the piece, Fuller cautions Islam’s critics not to assume that a Middle East dominated by Orthodox Christianity would be any more accepting of Western influence than today’s Middle East. With Serbian Christians now fighting to retain what they they view as their religious homeland, maybe he was on to something:
The culture of the Orthodox Church differs sharply from the Western post-Enlightenment ethos, which emphasizes secularism, capitalism, and the primacy of the individual. It still maintains residual fears about the West that parallel in many ways current Muslim insecurities: fears of Western missionary proselytism, a tendency to perceive religion as a key vehicle for the protection and preservation of their own communities and culture, and a suspicion of the “corrupted” and imperial character of the West. Indeed, in an Orthodox Christian Middle East, Moscow would enjoy special influence, even today, as the last major center of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox world would have remained a key geopolitical arena of East-West rivalry in the Cold War. Samuel Huntington, after all, included the Orthodox Christian world among several civilizations embroiled in a cultural clash with the West.
Whatever you think of Fuller’s characterization, it certainly seems noteworthy that the United States and the EU are about to go the mat with Russia for a Muslim country at the expense of a Christian one. If the rift between an increasingly religious Russia and the West continues to grow, can it be long until the op-eds start appearing on “The Orthodox Threat” or “The Failure of Political Orthodoxy”? “Orthofascism” doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?
The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, today told Turkey not to “violate” the country after Turkish troops entered northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels.
Several hundred troops – some reports claimed thousands – crossed the border after fighter jets and heavy artillery bombed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) forces.
The PKK said two Turkish soldiers were killed and eight wounded in clashes following the incursion, but Turkey refused to comment on the claim.
A rebel spokesman pledged that fighters would “prevent Turkish army from entering deep in the Iraqi land”.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who said he had given both his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, and the US president, George, Bush advance warning – defended the raid as “just”. He said the only targets were “PKK camps located in the north of Iraq”.
However, a Baghdad spokesman said Talabani had told the Turkish head of state, Abdullah Gul, that Ankara “should respect Iraq’s unity and sovereignty and not violate its lands”.
The spokesman added that Iraq considered the PKK’s actions in Turkey to be “terrorist”.
In a statement, Turkish military officials said the incursion had been launched yesterday evening.