Hi everyone. I just thought I’d share with you that I’ll be a member of a post film discussion panel in Balham, London next Sunday 13th May. The File Hub, a independent film group based in Balham, are showing the film Son of Babylon at 6pm. Tickets cost £10. It would be great to see some friendly faces in the audience for what will be a powerful and emotional evening.
Sons of Babylon trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbNfnnKEDmg
The Film Hub box Office: http://thefilmhub.tumblr.com/post/15562070930/whats-on
In this edition you’ll find articles on the:
- The Baha Mousa Inquiry into war crimes by UK forces.
- Death penalty in Iraq.
- US force withdrawal from Iraq.
If you do nothing else with the newsletter, please take action on the case of Walid Yunis Ahmed.
But that’s not all. There is also the first in a regular Q & A column about campaigning on Iraq. I also want to bring you news in brief from and about Iraq complete with links to additional detail. Iraq is not a country that gets much news coverage in the mainstream media so I hope this goes someway to addressing the balance.
Two of the things I love about the Amnesty UK AGMs are the dynamic atmosphere and eclectic mix of members. I rarely go home without being deeply moved by the commitment and energy of our membership. Yet the fact that we all come from very different backgrounds makes this all the more incredible. A former Chair of my local group once said, “We have different skills, interests, political and religious beliefs, ethnicity and social status yet we turn up at each meeting in the common belief that human rights are worth fighting for.” Such sentiments are a powerful argument for any NGO.
As we gather at Queens University, Belfast let us not forget our stakeholders. By all means let’s discuss the detail of policy but with one eye firmly set on the human rights trouble spots. Belfast a few years ago was not dissimilar to Libya or Egypt today. There were calls for reform, civil unrest, terrorism, torture and extra judicial executions. Now Belfast is a lively cosmopolitan city and a shining example of what can be achieved if we and our politicians want to change.
No doubt there will be occasions this weekend where I will disagree with the sentiments of my fellow members, but I’ll buy them a drink in the bar afterwards. That is the real strength of Amnesty International. No matter what we say, agree or disagree with, we always remember that we are not fighting for ourselves but for the many, many people who rely on us to get along together for their human rights.
The news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed following a US special forces operation in Pakistan is a huge news story. The US has made it their number one priority to track down and capture Bin Laden since 9/11. His legacy is a trail of destruction that has affected many people, many of them from his own faith. His reign of terror defined a generation of terrorists. So we should be glad he has gone. Right?
I’m not sure it is as simple as that. As historian David Starkey said, “dancing on the graves of one’s enemy” is never a good idea. The scenes from the United States are deeply unhelpful, shocking and will do nothing to help international relations. However there is another aspect of the killing that disturbs me even more. President Obama seems to have ordered an operation that was tantamount to an assassination. There are those who see nothing wrong with this, including many of our own politicians. The trouble is shooting an unarmed man, whether or not he was resisting arrest, seems heavy handed.
I know I lot will be made of the fact that this was the world’s most wanted man and that he would not have gone quietly. The problem I have is that a lot has been made of “justice being done”. Real justice involves an arrest, trial and conviction. With a human rights perspective everything possible should have been done to capture him alive. Maybe that did happen. The facts are creeping out at the moment so we shouldn’t pre-judge the US Navy Seals. However the tacit acceptance that the fact he was killed IS justice is just plain wrong.
There is no doubting the sincerity of those who see a need to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). It can be useful as it requires a state within the European Union to arrest and transfer to the issuing state an individual on whose behalf the warrant has been issued. On the face of it, this can be useful if a criminal has committed a crime in one country before absconding abroad. The problem is, that it is increasingly being used to settle old scores.
Take the case of Ian Bailey, an Irish man accused of the murder of a French lady in Ireland in 1997. He was never charged with any offence by the Gardia yet he seems likely to sent to French to face trial. OK you may say, if there is evidence that he committed the crime, so be it. The problem is that there is no credible evidence.
The most disturbing aspect of this case is the apparent amateurish detective methods used by the Gardia. Despite the fact that the murder victim is alleged to have clutched hair in her hand, there is no evidence of this. Further more there is no finger print, blood or DNA evidence. Without such evidence it would seem hard to convict anyone. Suggestions that Ian Bailey was “fingered” by corrupt Gardia officers maybe wide of the mark, but the whole manner of the inquiry rankles. The main prosecution witness has made eight contradictory statements, only identifying Ian Bailey in the fourth. Then she withdraw all her statements saying she had been coached and pressured by the Gardia to make them.
So far no charge has been made against the prosecution witnesses for perjury or the Gardia for false imprisonment, wrongful arrest or perverting the course of justice. Similarly the EAW is being used in a way many never thought possible.