23 December, 2013

Report of the Detainee Inquiry ~ concerns remain

Sir Peter Gibson
Update 7th July 2015 - The Guardian - Why did the Gibson Inquiry into rendition disappear?


In early 2012, the then Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) announced that the government was discontinuing the detainee inquiry which had been set up in 2010 under Sir Peter Gibson - Detainee Inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson scrapped   Clarke also stated that he had asked Sir Peter to produce a report summarising the work done and identifying any issues likely to form the subject of further investigation.

The report has now been published - Detainee Inquiry Report  The Report is an interim document. It is intended to help Government in its preparation for any new Inquiry, including in relation to the terms of reference and protocols it may wish to develop. The Report may also serve to identify areas where action would be appropriate now, without awaiting a further Inquiry.

The United Nations

16 October, 2013

Maritime Piracy Protection

Attacks by pirates on two vessels within four days indicates a resurgence of piracy - Ship Management 16th October.  Marine piracy cost the global economy £3.8bn last year.  Just over £1.25bn was spent on hiring armed guards to protect valuable cargo and £40m was spent on ransoms.  A new device is enhancing the protection of ships against those who wish to get on board using ladders and grappling hooks.  See Marine Security Solutions

There is considerable concern about the existence of various websites which indicate the position of ships and the cargo being carried.

Previous post on piracy:

Piracy - A major problem in modern times - 14th February 2012.

22nd October - Suspected Somali pirates captured by navy led forces after attack on supertanker

4th November 2013 - The Horn of Plenty: How piracy becamse a $413m business

07 September, 2013

Syria ~ just who is the 'opposition' to the Assad government?

Wm Hague with Ahmad Al-Jarba
The Daily Mail - 5th September - published an article showing the moment when seven of Assad's soldiers were executed on camera by rebels fighting to overthrow the regime.  The soldiers are stripped, bound and pushed to the ground where a number of rebels stand over them pointing guns at their bodies. Some bear vicious injuries on their backs and arms - 'Stripped, bound and shot in the head...'

This appalling scene took place in April 2012.  It is said that the footage has come to light recently having been smuggled out of Syria only a few days ago by a former rebel who says he had become horrified by the brutality of the tactics his one-time comrades are using. He gave the footage to The New York Times.

So, just who are those opposing the Assad regime? The Combating Terrorism Centre has a useful starting point for those seeking an answer to this question - The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria (27th August 2013).  Pointing out that the uprising against Assad has always been disorganised, the US Defence Intelligence Agency has estimated 1200 rebel groups are opposing Assad.

The British government has pledged support to the Syrian Opposition  In a Foreign and Commonwealth Office announcement of 5th September  it is indicated that the government views the Syrian National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces as the 'sole legitimate representatives' of the Syrian people.

The BBC has a Guide to the Syrian Opposition ...and see the website of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces

The G20 meeting was held in St. Petersburg on 5th and 6th September - HERE - but no consensus emerged as to an international way forward to handle the Syrian crisis - BBC News - G20 divided on Syria.

The Syrian Opposition has condemned the killings featured in the Daily Mail article - see, for example, Washington Times 5th September

23 August, 2013

Syria ~ Chemical weapons

There is no doubt that chemical weapons are being deployed in Syria.  The question is who is responsible for this since all sides in the conflict deny responsibility and indulge in mutual blame.

The recent attacks, near Damascus, appear to have involved Sarin.

Sarin has extreme potency as a nerve agent and production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 where it is classified as a Schedule 1 substance.

As at 21st May 2009, Syria had not signed or acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention - see OPCW - though Syria was a party to the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol.  There is some authority that the use of chemical weaponry is unlawful under customary international law.

Law and Lawyers 31st August - House of Commons debate on Syria 29th August

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

OPCW 31st August - UN Investigation Team return to The Hague from Syria

UN Office for Disarmament Affairs - Chemical Weapons

UN Office for Disarmament Affairs

Statement of Foreign Secretary (William Hague) 23rd August 2013.

Sales of chemicals to Syria:

The Guardian 2nd September - Chemical export licences for Syria - just another UK deal with a dictator

Update --- Syria and the Chemical Weapons Convention:

Syria is to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention - HERE.

Update --- Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14th September 2013



OPCW Director-General Welcomes Agreement on Syrian Chemical Weapons 


The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, has welcomed the agreement on chemical weapons in Syria that was announced today following talks held in Geneva...14 September 2013  Full story

OPCW to Review Request from Syria 


The Director-General of the OPCW Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü received a letter on 12 September sent by the Syrian Foreign Minister, Mr Walid al-Muallem, informing him of the decision by the Syrian Government to join the Chemical...13 September 2013  Full story

Inspection Report:

16th September - United Nations - The Report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21st August 2013

The Independent 16th September 2013 - Syria gas attacks: the clear ad concise evidence from UN chemical weapons inspectors

United Nations Commission taking evidence from North Korean defectors

The New York Times reports on how defectors from North Korea are recounting their stories to a United Nations Commission.  

The three-member Commission of Inquiry was started by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March with a one-year mandate to investigate what the council called allegations of “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights,” including possible crimes against humanity, by the North Korean authorities.

The three panel members are retired Australian judge Michael Kirby (Chairman), UN special rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and human rights activist Sonja Biserko.  The panel will examine reports of prison camps, torture and food deprivation, reporting back in March 2014, a UN statement said.

According to UN Human Rights Council resolution 22/13, among the violations to be investigated are those pertaining to the right to food, those associated with prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other States. 

06 August, 2013

International Big Brother

In early June 2013, the news broke that the United States National Security Agency was operating a data collection programme known as Prism.  Details of the programme were published by the Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers on 6 June.  Late that day the US director of national intelligence confirmed the initiative's existence and declassified some information about it.

The 'detailed information' claims that there are errors in the Guardian and Washington Post reports and informs us that the programme operates under section 702 of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  The information further states that the section is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.

Naturally, that enables

31 July, 2013

Bosnian Croat leaders convicted at the ICTY

Work in the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) continues.  In late May 2013, after a trial lasting seven years, six Bosnian Croat leaders were convicted for their involvement in 'ethnic cleansing' during the breakup of Yugoslavia - (The Guardian 29th May 2013).  The six men and the sentences imposed are Jadranko Prlić (25 years imprisonment), Bruno Stojić (20 years), Slobodan Praljak (20 years), Milivoj Petković (20 years), Valentin Corić (16 years) and and Berislav Pušić (10 years) and a summary of the Trial Chamber's judgment is available here.

The ICTY is to hear appeals from the six - see Cases on Appeal - and a very helpful Case Information Sheet is also available.


26 May, 2013

The aftermath of the Iraq War - the story continues ....

On 23rd November 2011 the Law and Lawyers blog looked at The unfolding aftermath of the Iraq War and considered the decision of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in R (Ali Zaki Mousa) v Secretary of State for Defence [2011] EWCA Civ 1334 where the court (Maurice Kay, Sullivan and Pitchford LJJ) held that an investigatory process into allegations of ill-treatment committed by British armed forces personnel did not meet the requirements of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted and applied by the European Court of Human Rights.  The investigatory process had been set up by the Secretary of State for Defence and involved an Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) reporting to the Iraq Historic Allegations Panel (IHAP).

The Administrative Court has now handed down judgment in R (Ali Zaka Mousa) v Secretary of State for Defence [2013] EWHC 1412 (Admin) - Sir John Thomas President of the Queen's Bench Division and Silber J.  It is a

23 May, 2013

Extraordinary Rendition - new material

Strasbourg, 07.06.2006 – Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly rapporteur Dick Marty today revealed what he called a global “spider’s web” of CIA detentions and transfers and listed seven Council of Europe member states who could be held responsible, in varying degrees, for violations of the rights of named individuals by colluding in these operations.


Writing in The Guardian 22nd May 2013, Ian Cobain and James Ball draw attention to new research showing that UK support for the CIA's global rendition programme after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US was far more substantial than has previously been recognised - see UK provided more support for CIA rendition than thought - study.

Evidence gathered by The Rendition Project – an interactive website that maps thousands of rendition flights – highlights 1,622 flights in and out of the UK by aircraft now known to have been involved in the agency's secret kidnap and detention programme.

The CIA's use of UK airports was first reported by the Guardian in September 2005.   Jack Straw,  then foreign secretary,

17 April, 2013

Constitution Project Task Force Report on Detainee Treatment

The Washington based Constitution Project has published its Task Force Report on Detainee Treatment.  It is a lengthy pdf document (600 pages) but a 'quick read' is possible by looking at pages 1 (Statement) and 9 (Findings and Recommendations).

The following is by Jesselyn Radack - National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the USA's  leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.  It is reproduced from Government Accountability Blog 

The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment is an independent, non-partisan group that produced a report comprehensively 800px-White_House_Washington_DCdocumenting the United States' descent into torture. The Task Force released a 600-page report today.

Among the Report's many conclusions:

U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.


16 April, 2013

Human rights reports ~ Alleged UK complicity in torture ~ Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strikes

Council of Europe Report:

The 6th Annual Report of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers has been published.  It deals with Supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report:

The FCO has published the 2012 Human Rights and Democracy report.   Foreign Secretary William Hague commented:

'The promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy objectives.  I, along with my ministerial team, consistently raise human rights violations wherever and whenever they occur.  And with this in mind, I am delighted to introduce the FCO’s 2012 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, which details our efforts to promote human rights during 2012.' 

21 March, 2013

Confessions of a Judicial Activist: Albie Sachs

The School of Law at Queen Mary, University of London and the British Institute of Human Rights hosted the launch of the Human Rights Collegium (HRC), a collaborative initiative focused on providing scholarly expertise, research and teaching on human rights. The inaugural HRC lecture was given by Justice Albie Sachs, author, activist and retired judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The event was chaired by Geraldine Van Bueren, Professor of International Human Rights Law, Queen Mary, University of London and Co-Director of the HRC.

Academy of Achievement - Albie Sachs

The Queen Mary University, School of Law, London 5th March 2013 ~ Confessions of a Judicial Activist: Albie Sachs 

 Listen to a podcast of 'Confessions of a Judicial Activist' (mp3 approx 60 minutes). Choose 'playback' to play video, slides and audio.

20 March, 2013

Mariam Rajavi ~ exclusion from the UK

The Home Secretary (Theresa May) decided that prominent Iranian Mrs Maryam Rajavi may not enter the United Kingdom on the basis that her entry into the United Kingdom would not be conducive to the public good. The reasons are based principally on foreign policy and security grounds, not on fears about Mrs Rajavi's conduct here. 

A judicial review of Mrs May's decision failed when heard in the High Court and that decision has been upheld in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) - R (Lord Carlile of Berriew and others) v Secretary of State for Home Affairs [2013] EWCA Civ 199 (Arden, Patten and McCombe LJJ).  Mrs Rajavi is the leader of two groups in Iran opposed to the government there. She is the de facto leader of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran ("PMOI") and the "President-elect" of the National Council for the Resistance of Iran (NCRI) since 1993.


09 March, 2013

Iraq ~ The Al-Sweady Inquiry

The process of trying to establish the truth about events during the Iraq War and its aftermath continues.

On 4th March 2013, the Al-Sweady Inquiry commenced.  A preliminary hearing was held 3 years ago on 9th March 2010 and four "Directions" hearings took place in the period up to 18th December 2012.  All this appears to be a particularly slow, cumbersome and already costly process with costs (at February 2013) of almost £16m.

The Inquiry is chaired by retired High Court Judge Sir Thayne Forbes and is being held under the Inquiries Act 2005.  It was set up by Labour Minister Bob Ainsworth and given the following terms of reference:

08 February, 2013

The Iran Tribunal ~ Judgment

The Iran Tribunal has given its judgment relating to events in Iran in the 1980s under the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.   See the Tribunal's Press Release of 7th February (PDF).  The full Judgment may be downloaded here  (Word Document).

Media Comment - The Independent 7th February 2013 - Iran's Srebrenica: How Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned the deaths of 20000 enemies of the State. 

The Tribunal sought to investigate the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the country’s political prisoners during the 1980s, when between 15,000 and 20,000 citizens were tortured and executed under the power of the Khomeini’s Fatwa (Telegraph 4th February 2001) for holding beliefs that conflicted with the regime.  The Tribunal heard firsthand accounts of the appalling atrocities committed against Iranian citizens.  The Islamic Republic of Iran was invited to participate in the trial but refused to engage with the Tribunal process.

The Tribunal comprised 6 respected jurists under the chairmanship of Judge Johann Kriegler (Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa 1994-2002) and was assisted by

05 February, 2013

Rendition and Torture ~ Report implicates the UK

Rendition by the United States of America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the subject of a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).  The publication of the report was covered by The Guardian (5th February 2013) CIA rendition: More than a quarter of countries offered covert support

The report - "Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition" - (PDF 216 pages) - states that some 54 countries (including the United Kingdom) offered some level of support for rendition.  The United Kingdom is discussed in Section V at para 51.

According to the report, the United Kingdom:

  • Assisted in the extraordinary rendition of individuals, gave the CIA intelligence that led to the extraordinary rendition of individuals, interrogated individuals who were later secretly detained and extraordinarily rendered, submitted questions for interrogation of individuals who were secretly detained and extraordinarily rendered, and permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with extraordinary rendition operations.

10 January, 2013

Drones ~ Judgment of the High Court

The High Court handed down judgment in R (Khan) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2012] EWHC 3728 Admin - Moses LJ and Simon J - 21st December 2012.

The background to the case was that people attending an outdoor meeting (Jurga) in Waziristan on 17th March 2011 were killed by what the claimant (Mr Khan) asserted to be a missile fired from an American drone.  One of those killed was Mr Khan's father.   The allegation that the drone strikes are linked to agents of the US government and to UK employees of GCHQ was based on various reports which were summarised in a 'respectable but unconfirmed' report in the Sunday times 25th July 2010.  The British government neither confirmed nor denied the allegations though the government has consistently said that its operations are in accordance with the law.  This assertion was not seen by the court as breaching the 'no comment' policy.

Mr Khan wished to challenge, by judicial review, what he described as a 'decision' by the Secretary of State relating to employees of GCHQ passing information to the USA.  He sought a declaration that where a person passes such information and does so with foresight that there is a serious risk that the information would be used to target or kill an individual then the person passing the information would not be entitled to a defence of combatant immunity and may be liable under English criminal law (e.g. for encouraging murder - Serious Crime Act 2007 Part 2  - etc).  Accordingly, the Secretary of State had no power to direct or authorise the passing of such information.