Showing posts with label Hertsmere. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hertsmere. Show all posts

12 December 2007

Response from a British Tory MP supporting Guantanamo Bay

My local MP, James Clappison, has responded to my recent fax regarding Guantanamo Bay (long story short, I asked him to support Amnesty's campaign to close the facility, he didn't want to, I told him why he should).

I disagree vastly with him, of course, but fair play to him for taking the time to respond, and very quickly in the case of this letter:


Click to enlarge.

The classic liberty / security argument it would seem and one which completely fails to stand up to scrutiny. People like me who are against Guantanamo Bay aren't proposing that those held there be released if it can be proved they have committed a crime, but rather that they should face clear, transparent and fair due process, as opposed to detainment purely on the basis of a "feeling" some intelligence officer has about them (or, put another way, who is deciding that those held them are a security risk?). Those against whom sufficient evidence is not available, but the authorities still have concerns about, should be subject to rigorous surveillance in accordance with the law. Question is, should I bother responding to this letter, or just let this issue lie?

It would be interesting to know how many other MPs hold a similar position to my local parliamentarian. Amnesty has put up a list of those who have signed the petition if you're interested where your MP stands on this issue (although a failure to sign obviously doesn't mean support per se).

11 December 2007

Response to a British Tory MP supporting Guantanamo Bay

Here's the fax I've sent off, via the invaluable WriteToThem, in response to the letter earlier this month from my MP in which he supported Guantanamo Bay:

Dear James Clappison,


Thank you for your letter dated 26th November 2007 regarding your decision not to support Amnesty International’s campaign to close Guantanamo Bay. I can appreciate that, as your constituent, I should not expect you to do exactly as I tell you and it is fully within your rights as an MP to refuse my request. However, I am disappointed, and rather upset that you offered no reason for your refusal to support the closure of Guantanamo Bay and hope that you could expand on your support for the facility.


Rather than discuss the myriad number of reasons why Guantanamo Bay should be shut down, I would like to focus on just one: The detainees are being held in clear breach of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, 1949, relating to the treatment of civilians and Prisoners of War. It is worth emphasising in this discussion, however, that a number of human rights objections exist relating to the practice of officially sanctioned torture (modelled on our very own Northern Ireland practices) and the conditions in which detainees are held, as well as problems relating to judicial due process.

The United States Government has argued that the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, 1949, relating to the treatment of civilians and Prisoners and War respectively, do not apply to their current ‘war on terror’, believing them to be “quaint”. They believe that those they capture in their war without end do not fit in to either categories covered by the Conventions and instead are part of a class which the rest of the world abandoned long ago – that of “enemy combatants” – and so are not deserving of the protections contained therein. Denied habeas corpus and subject to the whim of those that hold them without fear of transparency and accountability, these people exist, as Lord Steyn has put it, in a “legal black hole” (although thankfully the US Military Commissions Act 2006 has at least put their detention on some legal footing, however feeble it might be).

The arguments in favour of this obfuscation of the internationally accepted rules of the game are not without merit – those who commit certain criminal acts on a worldwide stage do not meet the criteria set out in the fourth Geneva Convention, nor can many find it right to call them “civilians” for the purposes of the third Convention. However, the approach used by the US is in the end, unconvincing. A more sensible practice, and one which would not have effected a major unilateral change in international law (and thus obtain wider acceptance of the world community), would have been to admit that those they have detained do not fit into the POW / Civilian paradigm, however, given the new circumstances those who met certain criteria (i.e. They identify themselves as Islamic Extremists, or as part of an armed group opposing the US) they will be determined to be POWs for the purposes of the fourth Geneva Convention.

Of course, living in a fantasy world as I clearly do, I also believe the US should not kidnap people (those detained in Guantanamo Bay are often not from Iraq nor Afghanistan, but from other countries), call them “enemy combatants” and hold them indefinitely. Alas, my views do not hold sway in amongst US Republicans and I am left with the knowledge that the former colonies may, at any time of their choosing, pluck me off the street, declare me a terrorist and hold me against my will.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Whenman

02 December 2007

British Tory MP supports Guantanamo Bay

I sent a fax via WriteToThem to my local MP, James Clappison, a couple of weeks ago asking him to support Amnesty's campaign to close down Guantanamo Bay. I received this rather disappointing response today:

So, by implication he supports torture, extraordinary rendition and the detention without trial of persons on severely questionable legal grounds waiting for a war with ill-defined goals to end.

A response, needless to say, is being drafted.

13 November 2007

Cover-up at Tory-Run Council

From Iran and the US to something just a bit more local: Hertsmere Borough Council, situated in the delightful commuter belt county of Hertfordshire. As one might expect, the council is run by the Conservative Party (28 seats), with the Liberal Democrats as the main opposition (7 seats), and Labour (4 seats) not too far behind.

So, that gives the Tory party a 17-seat majority and boy, have they been (ab)using it. Last month, the Council's Chief Executive, Eden Lee, resigned for what he claims were "personal/family reasons and to allow him to take his career in a different direction".

Except, as every single councillor knows (and a few other people outside their select circle, including the Borehamwood Times), that's not the real reason he resigned, and they're refusing to reveal the truth - the Tory councillors because they don't want to be embarrassed and potentially lose their seats, the LibDem and Labour councillors because they have been threatened with legal action if they do (under the principle of confidentiality). The Council claims it cannot divulge any more information because to do so would be a breach of confidence and the matter is nonetheless a personal one covered by the necessary exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act. This is a lie - it is a public matter and the public have a right to know.

Eden Lee resigned because he was stealing public money. At some point during his tenure at the Council, he started to misappropriate funds from the Council, and the District Auditor is currently investigating where this money has gone.

It is absolutely abhorrent that the Tories are refusing the tell the public the truth - the spineless bastards are refusing even to tell us whether there is currently an investigation! In hiding behind the principle of confidentiality and claiming this is a wholly personal matter, they have shown a complete disregard for the public interest in an attempt to save their own skins.