Tag Archives: human rights

Migration And Humans

I apologize if I’ve already covered this subject, but I’m always amazed by the numbers of people that seem to think that migration can suddenly be stopped, simply on the basis that the ‘wrong’ people are moving across borders. First, borders are artificial constructs. Sometimes they are defined by geography and other times, they are lines drawn on a map. Second, and this is most important, humans like other animals, are a migratory species. Demanding that people remain in areas where there is conflict or a lack of food and opportunity, is almost like demanding that people stop eating or having sex.

There are many people, who believe that humans aren’t animals or organisms, and believe they’re something else. Quite what they believe themselves to be is a mystery. Do they see themselves as machines? Robots, perhaps?

If you move to take up a job in another town or city, that makes you a migrant. If you move house within a town, city or village, you’re a migrant. You can no more stop human migration than I can dig my way from Britain to China with my bare hands.

I’ve seen people on Twitter retweet Hungary’s semi-fascist President, Victor Orban, who believes that migration can be magically stopped. How can you stop people from migrating? Cut off their limbs?

The self-styled ‘Voice of Europe’ is full of anti-immigration memes and racist and xenophobic propaganda. Much of the content shades outright racism. The timeline is full of retweets from the Daily Express and other far-right sources, including its own blog site in which it claims to be providing “uncensored news”. It is little more than scaremongering and hysteria that’s intended to appeal to the paranoia of gullible fools.

I won’t link to the site, so here’s a broken link that you can copy and paste into your browser. https://voiceofeurope.com/2017/12/life-sentence-for-afghan-refugee-who-raped-and-burned-finnish-girl-alive/#.Wj0fUMN2ykc.twitter

What these small-minded anti-immigration types want is to limit migration to white people only. But there’s a problem with this line of thinking: the anti-immigrationists are selective in what kind of white people they want, though they won’t admit it. The other thing they won’t admit is that, if faced with war or starvation themselves, they would also migrate to find safety, shelter and food.

Migration is one of our survival instincts and to deny these instincts isn’t human at all, but quite the opposite.

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Priti Patel: Human Rights and Hard Cash

Priti Patel, the MP for Witham in Essex, was part of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs. She’s also a supporter of Aidan ‘Nazi Boy’ Burley’s Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) and a member of the Free Enterprise Group (FEG), which was responsible for Britannia Unchained, a sort of manifesto for a sweatshop economy.

Following from Labour’s embarrassing Falkirk episode and Mr Ed’s knee-jerk response to sever his party’s links to the trade unions, it was only inevitable that the spotlight would be turned on the Tories and rightly so. As much as they wriggle and squirm and point the finger at Labour and whine about union funding, the Conservative party cannot hide the fact that it is supported by faceless millionaires, billionaires, bankers, hedge funds and other corporate interests, many of whom have been invited to 10 Downing Street for a bite to eat and a chance to chat with dippiest Prime Minister in this country’s history.

With this in mind, I always keep an eye on the more rabid extremes of the Tory party, because those who shout the loudest about benefit ‘scroungers’ and workshy Britons are usually the ones who are taking a lot of money from big business. Thus I take a special interest in Patel, Raab, Shelbrooke, Truss, Skidmore and all the others who regularly lambast British workers and propose further attacks on the working class.

So when I went to her entry on searchthemoney.com  to do some digging I was not astonished to discover that Patel had been given donations ‘in kind’ by the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the latter was widely reported, the former was not). She was also provided with travel by these two governments. She’s also received donations from property developer, Knight Developments Ltd and Croudace Homes and other companies like Sun Mark Ltd, owned by Dr. Rami Ranger. More on them later.

As most of us already know, Bahrain has been brutalizing its people for the past 3 years in what Orientalists and brand executives alike have referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. While all eyes were on Egypt, Syria, Libya and Tunisia, the only mention of Bahrain came via the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage last year. Apart from that, there’s no mention of it in the mainstream media.  It’s as if someone somewhere in this country doesn’t want us to know what’s happening. And say, didn’t the disgraced former Murdoch employee Met Assistant Commissioner, John Yates take up a job as an adviser to the Bahraini Police? Oh yes, he did. There have been well over 155 deaths, some of those were caused by torture. No wonder the Tories are working to extricate Britain from the European Convention of Human Rights and replace it with a cheapo ‘British Bill of Rights’ (it fell off the back of a lorry. Honest, guv).

Gulf News tells us that Patel was part of the All Party Parliamentary Group to the UAE.

Lord (Michael) Howard of Lympne, a former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, who was a government minister for over 10 years until 1997, was elected as Chairman, with Kevan Jones MP, a former Minister of Defence under the last Labour Government, and Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat, being elected as Vice-Chairmen. Mark Tami MP, Labour, was elected as Secretary and Priti Patel MP, Conservative, as Treasurer.

I guess that’s okay then. Or is it? As you can see this visit to the UAE included members of the three main parties. Nice work, if you can get it.

The House of Commons Register of All-Party Groups informs us that it was just a visit:

To promote good relations between the United Kingdom and The United Arab Emirates

Well, if the House of Commons Register of All-Party Groups tells us that this trip was all about promoting “good relations”, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Well, not really.

Dubai, which is a part of the UAE, is often hailed in right-libertarian/classical liberal/neoliberal circles as a kind of free market paradise. But if you’re a migrant worker it can be hell on earth. Migrant workers who go on strike face deportation.   Some are driven to suicide.  What the free marketeers neglect to tell us is how this country supports repression in the UAE through its sale of arms and other items to that country. Perhaps this is the model that the members of the FEG have in store for us in the UK? How about those Labour members of this group? Kevan Jones, for instance, is a former Defence Minister. Kerching! Need I say more?

Let’s return to Bahrain, where the country’s news agency tells us:

London, March 21. (BNA) – UK MP Priti Patel has lauded the report delivered to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa by the National Commission in Charge of Following up on the Implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), asserting that such a milestone document highlighted the positive steps taken by the government to bring about many changes and landmark achievements that meet the citizens’ expectations.

“Lauded”, eh? Let’s read on…

“I believe that countries of the Arab Spring went through difficult situations last year, and the case in Bahrain was no better. However, the Government of Bahrain has reacted positively and taken bold steps by engaging all parties in a National Consensus Dialogue, the best means through which popular demands can be discussed,” she said.

That was last year and things aren’t getting any better. In fact, they’re getting worse.

Of Patel’s paid visit to Bahrain, The Guardian’s Hugh Muir noted,

Two months later, Patel tabled a parliamentary question aimed at strengthening our cultural links.

Here’s the question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made a recent assessment of the (a) contribution of cultural links to UK relations with Bahrain and (b) merits of taking steps to strengthen such links with Bahrain.

“Cultural links”? Would these “cultural links” have anything to do with cracking skulls? Silly question…

Patel is all for human rights but not for everyone. Below is a question that she asked of David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions last year. Notice how it’s preceded by a disclaimer (in italics):

Priti Patel champions the human rights of the law-abiding majority.

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): If the Human Rights Act is

“a glaring example of what is going wrong in our country”,

when will the Government put the human rights of the law-abiding majority above those of dangerous convicted criminals?

Anyone could be considered a ‘criminal’. Even those who protest could be seen as ‘criminals’ in the eyes of Patel and the rest of the FEG. But who is this “law-abiding majority”? Human rights in the mind of today’s Europhobic, headbanging Tory sounds suspiciously European. We can’t have that kind of effete nonsense getting in the way of making a profit!

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the ECHR, Patel is as clueless as the rest of her party:

Those who support the current system or who want to see closer integration will often claim that it was British lawyers who drafted the Convention and Winston Churchill who pushed for its adoption, as Nick Clegg alluded to during his speech to the Lib Dem conference. But while Britain has a strong tradition of promoting human rights and after the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed it was right to look at ways to prevent future genocide and persecution in Europe, Churchill would never have allowed Europe to meddle in our laws the way it currently does. He would have stood up to put the British interest first and that is what Government ministers and Parliament must do now. Otherwise, a failure to curtail the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights will lead to Britain facing a further unstoppable flow of powers to Europe, which would severely undermine our democracy.

My bold. Notice how she summons up the ghost of Churchill. All a Tory needs to do is rub their Churchill talisman and the entire world will fall at their feet. What Patel and her chums deliberately forget is that the United Kingdom signed up to the ECHR in the aftermath of World War II. It was created in 1959 and is not part of the European Union – as Patel and the rest of her party would have you believe. Removing human rights legislation of any kind would be a massive step backwards and would lead to a relaxation/abolition of workplace health and safety regulations.  It would also lead to detention without trial and kangaroo courts. Patel only plays lip service to the idea of human rights. Are you surprised?

It isn’t just the Bahraini and UAE governments that bungs Patel a bit of wedge, she’s also received £2,5000 in donations from Knight Developments Ltd, a property developer in Essex, while Dr Rami Ranger has donated a total of  £17,000 to Patel as an individual and through his company, Sun Mark Ltd.  No doubt Dr Ranger, who is a big wheel in the British Asian Conservative Link,  claimed that his company was giving money to ‘charity’. The thing is, the Conservative Party is not a charity, it is a political party that works in the interests of the rich. Rich people like Dr Ranger. Then there’s Croudace Homes, another property developer (a pattern is beginning to emerge), who provided Patel with £5,000 in 2010.  When property developers donate to an MP or a candidate, it’s easy to be suspicious. Last year, Croudace purchased William Julien Courtauld Hospital in Braintree for development.  The NHS refused to disclose how much it was sold for.  Braintree is the adjoining constituency to Witham; its MP is Brooks Newmark, who is also a member of FEG. Meanwhile in Kent, Croudace are trying to cut down a much-loved ancient woodland to make way for a development against the wishes of local residents. This kind of thing is being repeated elsewhere.  Croudace must be pleased that they have someone in the Commons who can bat for them.

She’s also received payment in kind from the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society that comes to £2,500. In total, Patel has received £38,137.97 over the course of three years, which includes her work for ComRes, Ipsos Mori and others. Yes, she’s an MP but she has a second and a third job. Is this why we pay salaries to MPs, who are public sector employees, so that they can moonlight for private companies?

Who says money doesn’t buy influence in the Tory Party? David Cameron? And you believe him?


Filed under Conservative Party, Free Enterprise group, Government & politics, Trade Union Reform Campaign

Cameron, Blair and Kazakhstan

Today, David Cameron is in Kazakhstan with a 33 strong business delegation. There are two words that spring to mind: oil and arms.

I always suspect ulterior motives for these trade visits. Only a few months ago, Cameron was swanning around the Persian Gulf flogging arms to the region’s absolute rulers. Now here he is in Kazakhstan doing the same thing under the aegis of ‘trade’. In the case of both visits, oil and gas was part of the attraction.

Cameron’s visit to Kazakhstan was arranged by none other than Tony Blair.  The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt writes:

The Kazakh foreign minister praised the prime minister and Tony Blair, who is advising the president, for helping to improve the republic’s image on the world stage.

Ah, so it’s part of some PR stunt, is that right?

Erlan Idrissov said: “We are very honoured and privileged to have such attention on the part of two prime ministers [towards] Kazakhstan – Tony Blair and David Cameron. We cherish and enjoy the support of developed countries on our part for development … We are grateful that Mr Tony Blair and his colleagues are providing invaluable advice.”

Hmm, that must be very nice for you. Kazakhstan’s record on human rights is appalling. At home, Cameron’s coalition government wants to abolish human rights legislation so that we may become a sweatshop economy that is supported and protected by the repressive apparatuses of the state.

Watt says:

The business leaders accompanying the prime minister, including representatives from Shell, BG and Petrofac, are due to close deals worth £700m. Downing Street has its eye on future deals estimated by officials to be worth £85bn over the coming years.

Kerching! It’s boom time for our corporate overlords.

At the end of the article, Watt writes:

Britain is also to encourage trade by piloting a special visa service, called the Business Bridge, in the new capital of Astana for selected companies. Britain still processes visas from the old capital, Almaty, which is 60 miles away.

Simply spiffing.

The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in power for over 20 years.  Something that wannabe dictators like Cameron can only dream of.

Blair is one of the most dangerous men on the planet and Cameron is his true heir. Should Cameron lose the next General Election, there’s always a job waiting for him at The Office of Tony Blair as well as a nice cushy number with JP Morgan. Jobs for the boys, eh?

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Filed under Asia, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Kazakhstan, Tony Blair

The EU, human rights and right wing hypocrisy

Since the European sovereign debt crisis, the usual voices  on the Europhobic right have been in full cry, “Let’s withdraw from Europe”! “Give the British people a referendum on whether we should stay in the EU”. To the latter, I’d say, “We’ve already had the referendum and the majority of British people elected to join the EU”. To the former, I’d say “The only reason you want out of Europe is to scrap crucial workplace legislation”.

The one thing that has caused them to increase their anti-EU noise levels over the past few years is the Human Rights Act or, rather, its interpretation by judges… but that isn’t something that they want you to know about. They’d rather you think that it is the convention itself is the problem. We can’t have people coming here and breaking the law, only to be allowed to remain in the country because they have a cat. It simply won’t do.

Yet, when it comes to Syria, it’s a different matter. In that country, human rights are routinely abused as they are in Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Burma and many other countries. They’ll complain bitterly about abuses in those countries but  yet, they want to scrap the act in this country and replace it with something called the “British Bill of Rights”. According to the Newsnight studio guests last week, the proposed bill would be exactly the same as the HRA.  As the average bloke in the high street would say, “It’s, er, like the Human Rights Act but it’s, er, British. Because, like, we ‘ave nuffink in common wif dem bloody Europeans”.

But that sort of flushes over 1000 years of history down the khazi, doesn’t it?

This country owe much of its character to continental Europe. Okay, the Normans were a brutal bloodthirsty bunch who introduced feudalism but what about those Romans? Or the Norse? Or those Saxon hordes? They all hated human rights….well, to tell the truth, they had no conception of human rights. If they didn’t like the look of you, they’d have cut you down where you stood.

Europhobes claim that the reason they want Britain to withdraw from the EU is “sovereignty”. They want Britain to be able to lock people up without trial without recourse to human rights legislation. They want to roll back workplace legislation because they believe that “health and safety” is a form of red tape that prevents people from making a profit.  People should work in dirty, dangerous and unsanitary conditions and like it. Just as workers did in the 19th century. Which reminds me, the Tories tend to view the 19th century through rose-tinted spectacles. For them workplace deaths were a price worth paying. After all, it made Britain great. Those dead workers were martyrs to the cause of capitalism. Well, they weren’t actually.

The problem for the Tories is that, for all their talk, they can’t repeal the HRA, as this blog points out.

The Conservative Party has its own Human Rights Commission. As one might suspect, the commission is only concerned with human rights outside our borders.

Are they hypocrites?  Of course they are.

But are the Tories the only ones to oppose the HRA? Well, no and predictably enough, UKIP also oppose the HRA… but then UKIP are, for all intents and purposes, cut from the same cloth as the Tories. Here’s what UKIP’s Paul Nuttall had to say in 2007,

The second problem is the Human Rights Act, which was incorporated into British law in 1998. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for human rights, but only the human rights of the victim. Those perpetrators of low-level crime who ruin the lives of many hard-working citizens could not be locked up as in New York because it would contravene their human rights. It leaves a sour taste and a feeling that the human rights of the criminal are well protected but those of the victim are routinely trampled on. It has also been a golden opportunity for human rights lawyers, such as Cherie Booth QC, to make a fortune. Again, if you want “zero tolerance” then the Human Rights Act needs to be ripped up.

“Don’t get me wrong” he says, “I am all for human rights, but only the human rights of the victim”. In which case he isn’t in favour of human rights at all.

What really makes me laugh is the way some vox pops on television will actually claim that they “hate” human rights. Maybe a few months in concentration camp will help to change their minds?

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Tory Party conference, UKIP

The return of Baby Doc

Baby Doc as young playboy dictator

Haiti has enough problems to contend with. It has suffered from years of corruption, violence, misrule and natural disasters. It has also been subjected to neoliberal incursions from its wealthier neighbour, the United States. Haiti is the original pariah state. When the Haitians under the command of Toussaint L’Ouverture overthrew the slave-owners, they created the second republic in the Western Hemisphere. The rebellion set off alarm bells among slaveholders who feared that a similar rebellion might take place –  particularly  in the southern states and Jamaica, which is only 50 or so miles away.  In the years that followed the rebellion, Saint Domingue (Haiti) confirmed its allegiance to France and signed treaties with the US and Britain.  Haiti even had the support of Alexander Hamilton, himself born in the West Indies. During Thomas Jefferson’s first term as President, he made attempts to get Britain to join the US in a blockade of Haiti. He had more success in persuading the French to join in. Thomas Jefferson is often seen as the father of American democracy. He is also hailed by die-hard classical liberals and neoliberals alike.

Jefferson was terrified that the creation, and flourishing, of a black republic in the New World would serve as a model for the rebellion of America’s own slaves; and that, at all costs, would be unacceptable. As early as 1793, Jefferson wrote to James Monroe that “Never was so deep a tragedy presented to the feelings of man … I become daily more and more convinced that all the West India Island will remain in the hands of the people of colour, and a total expulsion of the whites sooner or later take place. It is high time we should foresee the bloody scenes which our children certainly, and possibly ourselves (south of the Potomac), have to wade through and try to avert them.” Two years later, in a letter to Aaron Burr, Jefferson compared the Haitians to assassins and referred to them as “Cannibals of the terrible republic.”

In 1801 Jefferson said to the French charge d’affaires, Louis Andre Pichon “Nothing would be easier than to supply everything for your army and navy, and to starve out Toussaint.” Jefferson could not foresee the events that were about to unfold in revolutionary France.

Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the Directory in the coup d’etat of 1799 and he was intent on retaking Haiti. In 1801, Bonaparte dispatched a massive expeditionary force under the command of Marshal Charles Leclerc (his brother-in-law) to restore French authority. Bonaparte also wanted to restore slavery to Saint Domingue.  Jefferson remained neutral throughout this period but this position of neutrality was part of a long game. During the ensuing struggles, L’Ouverture’s second-in-command, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defected to the French. The French promised  L’Ouverture his freedom if he surrendered but they deceived him, clapped him in irons and deported him to France where he died in prison. The remaining French troops were defeated in 1803 (Leclerc died of yellow fever) and Dessalines assumed power. He later declared himself emperor. Independence was declared in 1804. Dessalines’s men ransacked the country and slaughtered any whites they could find. This steeled Jefferson’s resolve and he ordered an economic embargo of the new country

Having helped the Haitians gain their freedom, he then sought to strangle the new-born nation. He sought to quarantine the island and opposed official trade because that would mean recognizing its independence. And that could inspire slave insurrections throughout the American South. The embargo on Haiti remained in force until the spring of 1810; trade fell from $6.7 million in 1806 to $1.5 million in 1808. Non-recognition of the republic remained official American policy until 1862.

The US wasn’t the only country to act in this way towards Haiti. Britain and France both demanded compensation and when this was not forthcoming they placed an embargo on the country and issued threats.

Jean‐Pierre Boyer (President, 1818–43) unified the entire island and signed a controversial indemnification treaty with France in 1825. In return for French recognition, the Haitian government agreed to pay 150 million francs over five years to compensate losses by French colonists.

The French believed that they had been unjustly treated by the Haitians. When the Bourbon monarchy was restored, Charles X made a decision to punish the Haitians.

So in 1825, French warships threatened to re-enslave the former colony, King Charles X came to collect 90 million gold francs – 10 times Haiti’s annual revenue at the time. With no way to refuse, and no way to pay, the young nation was shackled to a debt that would take 122 years to pay off.

The debt was finally paid off in 1947 but other nations came looking for money: most notably Britain and the United States.  By the beginning of the 20th century, Haiti fell under the control of foreign commercial interests that. Britain, the US and Germany allegedly helped themselves to the contents of Haiti’s national bank.   Following years of external pressure and not an inconsiderable amount of internal turmoil, the country was invaded and occupied by US forces in 1915. The Marines finally left in 1934.

When I heard that Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’  Duvalier had returned to Haiti I, like many others, could not believe what I was seeing and hearing. Surely Duvalier wasn’t foolish or arrogant enough to return?  Surely crowds of angry Haitians were waiting to string him up?  But what is he doing there? He claims that he wants to help rebuild the country, which is ironic given that he and his father helped themselves to millions, if not billions of dollars from Haiti’s treasury.

Mother Jones has the story here.

Duvalier had been threatening to return to Haiti for some time. He was reminded that if he did set foot in the country, he could be arrested and tried for corruption, theft and human rights abuses.

As I finish this blog, I hear that Duvalier has been taken into custody for questioning. RTE reports that,

a senior government official told Reuters news agency that Mr Duvalier would be questioned and may be prosecuted for stealing from the treasury during his years in power as ‘president-for-life’.

The Guardian says,

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was charged with corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes committed during his 1971-1986 rule after the former Haitian dictator was hauled before a judge in Port-au Prince tonight.

“His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge. We have brought charges against him,” Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor, Aristidas Auguste, told Reuters.

Maybe he won’t be needing that return ticket to France after all. We watch and wait.

UPDATE: 21/1/11

Some tidying up. Added link to US occupation of Haiti

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Prisoners to get the vote

I’ve just heard that prisoners are to get the vote. The European Human Rights Commission has declared Britain’s penal laws to be in violation of human rights.

The move comes after government lawyers advised that failure to comply with a 2004 ECHR ruling could cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds in litigation costs and compensation.

David Cameron was said to be “exasperated and furious” at having to accept that there was no way of keeping the UK’s 140-year-old blanket ban on sentenced prisoners voting.

One can only imagine how the bods at the Torygraph will react to this. I suspect The Great Lord of Darkness will be foaming at the mouth at the prospect. But then I also suspect that many of the newly enfranchised cons will end up voting for the Tories in large numbers. I am sure that Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer will do their best to use their prison connections to convince prisoners to vote for the party.

I’ve just had a look at the Telegraph blogs and so far, there is nothing about this story. But give it time. I’m sure Janet ‘the Tea Party is misunderstood’ Daley will have something to say on the matter –  if she’s not occupying herself with Tea Party celebrations that is.


Filed under Government & politics, Human rights