Evil Terrorist Still At Large

Margaret Thatcher– Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. She would have nothing to do with him or his African National Congress, a “typical terrorist organisation”.

US president Ronald Reagan opposed a 1986 congressional resolution calling on South Africa’s apartheid regime to release Mandela and recognise the African National Congress.

In the ’80s, the “moral clarity” of Thatcher and Reagan helped the apartheid regime convince most white South Africans they were in a “terrorist war”, involving a “total onslaught on civilised values”. Since the terrorists didn’t play by the rules, nor could the state if it was to defend its citizens. The crucial conclusion, one that resonates loudly through the smoke and fury and fear of the contemporary “war on terror”, was that this justified an extraordinary distortion of the rule of law: it no longer applied equally to everyone.

No way in today’s world would Decent Anglosphere figures demonise millions of people as terrorists to pursue their own agendas, justify torture and wars of aggression, couldn’t happen, we’ve made progress.

Whatever the sentence Your Worship sees fit to impose upon me for the crime for which I have been convicted before this court may it rest assured that when my sentence has been completed, I will still be moved as men are always moved, by their conscience. I will still be moved by my dislike of the race discrimination against my people. When I come out from serving my sentence, I will take up again, as best I can, the struggle for the removal of those injustices until they are finally abolished.

-Nelson Mandela

US Army Backs Down & Discharges Alexis Hutchinson

A single-mom soldier who says she refused to deploy to Afghanistan because she had no family able to care for her young son will be discharged from the military instead of facing a court-martial, the Army said Thursday. Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, was arrested in November after skipping her unit’s deployment flight. Hutchinson, 21, said she couldn’t leave her son because her mother had backed out of plans to keep the child a few days before the soldier’s scheduled departure.

The Army filed criminal charges last month against Hutchinson of Oakland, Calif., but a general at neighboring Fort Stewart chose to settle the case by granting her an administrative discharge rather than try her in a military court.

“She’s excited that she’s no longer facing jail and can still be with her son, which is the most important thing,” said Rai Sue Sussman, Hutchinson’s civilian attorney. “We’re very happy about it right now.” The decision still carries consequences for Hutchinson. She is being demoted in rank to private and will lose benefits afforded to military service members and veterans, Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said.

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Bisher al-Rawi On Moazzam Begg

Bisher al-Rawi writes this letter to The Times, as Andy Worthington says ‘I found to be eloquent, understated and unerringly accurate about the role of Amnesty in providing hope to prisoners held outside the law in the “War on Terror”

Torch of hope told me I was not forgotten at Guantánamo

Sir, It may be easy to criticise the work that was done by Moazzam Begg and Amnesty, as it might also be easy to criticise Amnesty’s involvement with the Closing Guantánamo campaign, yet this work — along with others — has had a marked influence on where we are today (“How Amnesty chose the wrong poster boy”, David Aaronovitch, Opinion, Feb 9). I know that my memory plays on me sometimes and I forget things, but can we all remember where we were a few years ago, when everyone in Guantánamo was branded a terrorist? I hope we haven’t forgotten; none of us wants to go back to those black days.

Amnesty, and what it stands for, is a torch of hope; that is how it was when I was in Guantánamo, when I received letters of support through Amnesty. In that lonely cell with nothing but emptiness to hold a photocopy of a letter or a card and read the words on it meant so much. They opened up the walls and gave me hope, and whispered to me: “You are not forgotten.”

Mr Begg, whom I hadn’t met in Guantánamo but got to know very well after my release, has from the outset represented the voice of every prisoner caged in Guantánamo and elsewhere. He has reflected to the world the shadows of the horrors of such places. He has, with his words, drawn the pictures that no one else could, the pictures which I, and the hundreds like me who were in Guantánamo, and the thousands who are in their cells today in the so-called black sites, are living with and having nightmares about.

If you want to know, then you must listen, and we must all work together if we want even a small change.

Bisher al-Rawi
Former Guantánamo detainee, Internment Serial Number: 906

Word.

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Environmentalists 4 Ethnic Cleansing

I have written twice to a petition site over this petition and had no reply, see if you can spot what’s wrong with it-

The Chagos Islands, located near the centre of the Indian Ocean, are a UK Overseas territory and by far the richest marine ecosystem under British jurisdiction. They are a very special and rare place, a relatively unpolluted and undisturbed part of the world, with reefs and oceans still teeming with life.

Yet marine life almost everywhere – including fish, invertebrates, mammals, seabirds and turtles – is suffering massive losses as a result of over-exploitation, bycatch and pollution. Combine these with the effects of acidification brought about from rising carbon dioxide emissions, and the very survival of many marine species is in doubt.

With your help, we can protect the reef and ocean ecosystem of the Chagos for present and future generations – but we only have until 12 February 2010 to convince the UK government! Please sign our petition urging the British government to declare the world’s largest marine protected area and give protection to one of the best coral reefs left on this planet.

Did you get it? Because the The Chagos Environment Network & Chagos Conservation Trust certainly don’t nor do Care2, no mention of the Chagos Islanders who were forcibly removed by the UK government so it could rent the islands (primarily the largest one Diego Garcia) to the US military that uses it to launch bombing raids on the Middle East and transit renditioned captives. Now call me weird but before I get all flustered trying to get a nature reserve established I would put my energies into righting the wrong of the dispossession of the Chagossians. The Independent has now caught onto this and makes the same point, very very powerful and successful environmental lobbying has superseded the rights of the islanders, which would rather suit both the UK & US as they get to hide a crime against humanity in a warm fuzzy- Ooh look we’re saving the planet. Short version -you can stuff your petition up your arse until the human rights of the Chagos Islanders are respected. While the Chagos Conservation Trust are careful to state when pushed (though good luck finding mention of the ethnic cleansing of the Chagossians on their site)-

The marine reserve proposal stresses the advantage of the islands being “uninhabited” and mentions the former residents only briefly and obliquely, saying that any decision would be “without prejudice” to the current court case in Europe, and adds: “This means that should circumstances change, all the options for a marine protected area may need to be reconsidered.”

I would ask you to do as I am and write to the Chagos Conservation Trust and the Foreign Office and tell them to stop laundering a historic ethnic cleansing under a Greenwash. After all the Chagossians are amenable to the idea, so stop writing them out of history-

Among those leading the criticism is a retired senior diplomat, David Snoxell, who is the co-ordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group. “The consultation is extremely unfair to the Chagossians,” says Mr Snoxell. “It deliberately ignores them. People are running this campaign with the idea of keeping the islands uninhabited for time immemorial.” The Chagossians themselves would very much welcome a marine protected area, but they need to be part of it, Mr Snoxell says.

“We will support the project only if we are physically involved in it all the way, and our right of return to the Chagos Archipelago is not compromised,” said Roch Evenor, a spokesman for the islanders and secretary of the UK Chagos Support Association. “With the Chagossians living on Chagos we will be able to help the marine protected area, as our presence will be a deterrent factor for illegal fishermen who are fishing the sea cucumbers and sharks. We can co-exist – the Chagos archipelago could be something great if we all put our heads together and collaborate.”

The full Independent article-

A major conservation row is developing over proposals for Britain to establish the biggest and most unspoiled marine nature reserve in the world. The issue of the Chagos Islands raises the increasingly difficult question of how to weigh up the protection of the best remaining parts of nature, in a rapidly degrading world, against the needs and rights of people.

It concerns the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a group of isolated coral islands teeming with wildlife which is considered to be among the least polluted marine locations on Earth. Its seawater is the cleanest ever tested; its coral reefs are completely unspoiled; its whole ecosystem, with its countless seabirds, turtles, coconut-cracking crabs (the world’s largest), dolphins, sharks and nearly 1,000 other species of fish, is pristine.

Officially British Indian Ocean Territory, the islands are the subject of an ambitious plan by conservationists – backed by the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband – to keep them the way they are, by creating a marine protected area, where fishing and all other exploitation would be banned, of 210,000 square miles – more than twice the land surface of Great Britain. In an age when the oceans and their biodiversity are being ever more despoiled, it would be a supreme example of marine conservation and one of the wildlife wonders of the world – in effect, Britain’s Great Barrier Reef, or Britain’s Galapagos.

The plan excites many wildlife enthusiasts and has the formal support of several of Britain’s major conservation bodies, from the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the Zoological Society of London to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The backing of the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary is significant. A public consultation on the plan ends on Friday.

But there is a notable omission from the plan. It takes no account of the wishes of the original inhabitants, the Chagossians – the 1,500 people living on the islands who, between 1967 and 1973, were deported wholesale by Britain, so that the largest island, Diego Garcia, could be used by the US as an airbase for strategic nuclear bombers.

When, in the 1990s, details emerged of the Chagossians’ enforced exile, which left them in poverty and unhappiness on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, it was widely seen as a substantial natural injustice; and in 2000 the then-Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, gave them permission to return.

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Honduras Murders

SOAW:- Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, a 29- year old nurse, was abducted last Wednesday after leaving a meeting of the SITRAIHSS labor union. She was murdered and her body was dumped in a neighborhood with ties to the Resistance movement. Vanessa leaves behind 3 small children, and a country where fear is a growing commodity.

Since the “election” of President Porfidio Lobo in late November, in a balloting process boycotted by the majority of Hondurans, over 10 leaders of the resistance movement have been murdered. Those who dare to raise their voices about this situation are also targeted. Last week two cameramen from media programs opposing the government were kidnapped and tortured. After filing reports on these and other situations, members of the COFADEH human rights team received death threats.

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Widney Brown on Today

Transcript of Widney Brown on the BBC Today show this morning by the furiously typing fingers of Earwicga (and again sadly interviewed by Justin ‘Dim but Dim’ Webb, a man who seriously wrote about Obama being elected meaning racism is over, jeebus). Further statement by Amnesty at the end. I have to say that what Gita Sahgal is doing does seem to be a political campaign in the wake of Irene Khan leaving, Khan was not liked by people who are now supporting Sahgal  (Nick Cohen -very rapid founder of the Facebook group supporting Sahgal- at the neocon rag Standpoint for one).

Amnesty supports humans ‘every human

On the Today programme yesterday Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s International secretariat, accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims. She said that the charity’s collaboration with Moazzam Begg, a former British inmate at Guantanamo Bay, “fundamentally damages” the organisation’s reputation.

Widney Brown, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International, responds to Ms Sahgal’s accusations.

1. BBC Is Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, who has worked for prisoners of conscience, has been saluted across political divides for a generation or more, falling into a terrible trap?  The head of its Gender Unit has been suspended after complaining that Amnesty was too close to Moazzam Begg the former Guantanamo inmate, who speaks for a group called Cageprisoners.  On yesterday’s programme I asked Gita Sahgal why she thought Amnesty failed to link what’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan with extremism in this country.
2. Gita Sahgal My suspicion is that they need perfect victims.  In other words we need to defend somebody who might not have done a wrong.  And I’m not saying that Moazzam Begg has, I want to make absolutely clear that I’m making no claim that he’s either committed a crime or a human rights violation, and that’s why I find the statement after statement that Amnesty International has put out in his support somewhat surprising, because the issues that I’m concerned with are addressed to Amnesty International
3. BBC But you’re making a wider point aren’t you?  That Islamic radicalism is treated what softly by liberals?
4. Gita Sahgal Something like that, but we’re not liberals, we’re a human rights organisation and we should not be falling into the traps that many people do fall into.
5. BBC That was Gita Sahgal.  Widney Brown is Amnesty’s Senior Director for Law and Policy and she’s on the line now.  Good morning to you.
6. Widney Brown Good Morning.
7. BBC What’s your answer to what Gita Sahgal was saying then?
8. Widney Brown Well, first I want to clarify that she was not suspended because she brought these issues up in the organisation.  We encourage debate on precisely these sorts of issues within the organisation.
9. BBC So it’s because she went to the papers?
10. Widney Brown I can’t comment on the grounds for it, but want to clarify any misrepresentation that it was because she brought this up internally.
11. BBC But just to make it very clear then, she was suspended because of, I mean it had something to do with these views that she’s been expounding.  It wasn’t something separate?
12. Widney Brown I’m not going to, we maintain confidentiality and we’re only breaking it because of the misrepresentation that she was suspended because she asked questions internally.
13. BBC Yeah, but that does raise quite an important point doesn’t it, because I mean she has been suspended having raised these questions.  I think the point that a lot of people make is that the two are linked.  Are you saying they’re utterly not linked?
14. Widney Brown The grounds for the suspension I cannot talk about consistent with confidentiality.  What I can do is try to answer the questions that she brought up in the interview yesterday.First of all, we are not a political organisation.  We’re non-partisan, and we work on behalf of victims of violations, regardless of their political affiliations.  So that is why on the issue of Guantanamo Bay we do work with Moazzam Begg as somebody who was released from there after three years of experiencing the violations there.  And of course yesterdays court decision in the Binyan Mohammed case underscores again how critical the violations are that are happening even now in the context of the war on terror. Now, with regard to whether we are ignoring the issue of radical organisations, all you have to do is look on our website of all the work we’ve done on the Taliban and Afghanistan and Pakistan and other religious insurgent groups in places like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and of course all over the Middle East.  As recently as the 26th of January we were saying explicitly, not just to the Afghan government, but to, in the context of the London conference, you can’t sell away women’s rights in a dialogue with the Taliban.
15. BBC Yeah, but I suppose that there’s the problem isn’t it, that what you’re accused of is a mixed message, because you do issue statements like that, but then if you become close to people, and let’s get away from Moazzam Begg, if you become close to people who are associated with supporting the Taliban or with supporting those that have been imprisoned in the war on terror, who do have very extreme views about violence and about women’s rights,  then you’re sending out a very different signal?
16. Widney Brown I would totally disagree.  Your human rights violations, your right to be free from them is not dependent on whether you’re quote a good or a bad person.  Whether you’re quote guilty or innocent.  If you’re being tortured the whole point is that governments think that they can justify torture if they can prove you’re guilty of something.
17. BBC So, you’re happy to support people who don’t themselves support human rights?
18. Widney Brown We support the rights of every human being to be free from human rights violations.  And we do not make that contingent on whether they can prove to us their guilt or innocence on any alleged charge.  I mean, the whole idea that we would think it’s ok to torture someone if they’re guilty undermines the whole principle that’s there’s an absolute prohibition on torture and ill treatment.
19. BBC Widney Brown, thank you very much

Amnesty International on its work with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners
11 February 2010

There has been a lot of controversy in the media surrounding Amnesty International’s work with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners, in light of statements by Gita Sahgal, a Amnesty International staff member.

Contrary to Gita Sahgal’s assertions to the media, she was not suspended from Amnesty International for raising these issues internally. In fact we actively welcome vigorous internal debate. Up to now we have maintained confidentiality in line with our policy but wanted to correct this misrepresentation. This is not a reflection on the organisation’s respect for her work as a women’s rights activist and does not undermine the work she has done over the last few years as the head of Amnesty International’s gender unit.

Our work with Moazzam Begg has focused exclusively on highlighting the human rights violations committed in Guantánamo Bay and the need for the US government to shut it down and either release or put on trial those who have been held there. Moazzam Begg was one of the first detainees released by the US without charge, and has never been charged with any terrorist-related offence or put on trial.

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