Friday, 25 April 2008

More on BAE fraud investigation

News via the Ekklesia website:

High Court re-opens Saudi arms corruption investigation
By agency reporter
24 Apr 2008

The High Court today formally quashed the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) decision to drop its corruption investigation into arms deals between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. The decision is a huge success for the campaign groups that brought the case.

The decision follows the Court's ruling on 10 April 2008 that the SFO, acting on government advice, acted unlawfully in stopping its investigation in December 2006 following a threat from Saudi Arabia.

[and it continues with additional background and information]

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Conscientious Objection - remembering and looking forward

Just got in the post today a leaflet for the Conscientious Objectors Day ceremony taking place in Manchester (Peace Gardens, St Peter's Sq, 1.00-2.00, with Bruce Kent at the keynote speaker. Actually, CO day is 15th May and the Manchester event is the following Sunday, 18th May. Just hope they can cope with the challenges of the Great Manchester Run happening all around them at the same time!

Whilst some sort of progress has been made recently in relations between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, it is in that part of the world when Conscientious Objection is still a big issue. A group of human rights and CO groups was in Athens last week and issued a .... Call for Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise international standards on the right to conscientious objection

Greek Section of Amnesty International
Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors
Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus (north)
European Bureau for Conscientious Objection
War Resisters' International

To the

Embassy of Turkish Republic, Athens
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus, Athens
Prime Minister of Greece, Athens

Athens, 11 April 2008
Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise international standards on the right to conscientious objection

Representatives of conscientious objection and human rights organisations from several European countries, meeting in Athens over the weekend, call for Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise the right to conscientious objection according to European and international standards.

The representatives remind the governments of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey that the right to conscientious objection has been recognised by several international institutions, among others the United Nations[1] and the Council of Europe[2]. More specifically, in a decision on two individual complaints from South Korea, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled in 2007 that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

(More information about the situation in these countries on the page link here)

Missile Defence/ Defense

The spelling depends on whether you see this from a US or UK perspective. A comprehensive analysis of the state of play on this is provided in the latest issue of Disarmamanet Diplomacy, with Nicola Butler and Martin Butcher concluding their long and fascinating piece with the conclusion:

"... it will be important for any new [US] administration to take more account of Allied opinion, giving Europeans a way to avoid a potential new confrontation with Russia and reason not to rush agreement on deploying an unproven system. Canada, for example, has negotiated a way through its similar dilemma by allowing the US to use NORAD facilities for BMD purposes, while refusing to participate themselves - both on cost grounds but also because Ottawa fears an arms race in space.[67] The UK and Czech Republic may come to regret having dashed to support Bush administration policies, while Polish leaders may well look the shrewder for having waited."

The same issue of the journal contains an equally detailed analysis of the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Editor Rebecca Johnson looks beyond non-proliferation towards making the use of nuclear weapons illegal as a starting point for a real turning away from the development and deployment of these dangerous tools of insecurity:

"A more effective deterrent against the use of nuclear weapons is to make it a crime against humanity. Even despots fear being held personally accountable and subjected to public trial and punishment.
Many have already achieved the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. To move towards accomplishing the reality of that world, we now need to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons for all."

60 years on

A good number of church leaders (particularly from the UK, it seems) are adding their names to a declaration on the occasion of Israel's 60th Anniversary, which concludes:

To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness.

We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.

“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Food security

This is an issue that is only now getting into the headlines and one that we are probably all going to have to become more familiar with, with pressures on land coming from the growth of bio-fuels and climate uncertainty also adversly affecting harvests around the world. The article - The price of food: ingredients of global crisis
by Heidi Fritschel - in Open Democracy today, concludes thus:
"A new agriculture, food, and nutrition governance architecture is needed. With so much at stake - the world's food supply, environmental threats to agriculture, and unacceptably high rates of hunger and poverty - a fresh response is needed. We cannot afford to be complacent."

BAE investigation should not have been stopped

Very interesting and encouraging news just through regarding the government's decision (through the Serious Fraud Office) to stop its investigation into BAE corruption...

Court rules Government's termination of BAE investigation unlawful

The High Court this morning ruled that the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted unlawfully when he stopped a corruption investigation into BAE Systems' arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

The judgment was handed down by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan in response to a judicial review brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House.

In the light of this judgment, the Serious Fraud Office must reopen the BAE-Saudi corruption investigation immediately. Both groups are calling upon the SFO to work jointly with US and Swiss investigators in doing so. [and there's a lot more background information in the press release]

On the last point they make, there seems to be some ambiguity, however, with the BBC saying "The judges in London did not rule that the case would be reopened, but have said they would listen to further arguments. "

No doubt this will be clarified soon. Congratulations of CAAT and Cornerhouse and to all their supporters for peristing with this.

It is also important to note at this point the following, released by CAAT and The Conerhouse just last week:

"As The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade await judgment on their landmark judicial review of the decision by the Serious Fraud Office to halt its BAE-Saudi Arabia corruption investigation,[1] the Government has introduced draft legislation that would prevent such a judicial review in future.

Clauses 12-14 of the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill [2] propose to create a new power for the Attorney General – a political appointee and member of the Government – to stop a criminal investigation or prosecution on the grounds of 'national security'. This new power allows for extremely limited oversight by
Parliament and prevents and future review by the judiciary of such a decision. "

.... and, again, it continues with a lot of additional background to this.