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Groundhog Day with the NSA?

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“unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying… that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States… there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in #rendition.” – Jack Straw, December 2005

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/18/jack-straw-libya-rendition

“The idea that in #GCHQ people are sitting working out how to circumvent a UK law with another agency in another country is fanciful. It is nonsense”, William Hague, June 2013

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/gchq-broke-law-nsa-intelliegence #nsa #edwardsnowden

Written by Richard Wilson

June 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Checks and balances, Corruption

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VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF THE GATUMBA MASSACRE OF BANYAMULENGE REFUGEES IN BURUNDI STILL CRY FOR JUSTICE

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From the peacebuilding group Ubuntu:

VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF THE GATUMBA MASSACRE OF BANYAMULENGE REFUGEES IN BURUNDI STILL CRY FOR JUSTICE

Eight years have passed since 164 Congolese citizens were savagely killed, some burned alive, on 13 August 2004. The victims were slayed while under the protection of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi. Hundreds of others were injured. The overwhelming majority of victims – many of them women and children – belonged to the Banyamulenge community. They had sought refuge in Burundi to escape from political oppression in South Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. A report dated 18 October 2004 jointly produced by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that the attack was clearly directed against the Banyamulenge refugees and apparently, ethnically and politically motivated. Various sources, including the above UN report as well as a report by Human Rights Watch, compiled credible evidence leaving little doubts over the responsibilities in the massacre. The evidence clearly indicated that the Burundian Forces Nationales de Libération (PALIPEHUTU-FNL), the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the Congolese army (FARDC) and Mayi Mayi militia were directly involved in the Gatumba massacre.

The UN report asserted that many of these foreign armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi border region harbour resentments against the targeted group and others such as FARDC and Mayi Mayi militia may have political motives for preventing the refugees from returning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. PALIPEHUTU-FNL, then a rebel movement led by Agathon Rwasa, openly confessed its responsibility in this massacre. The ideology underlying the commission of the genocide in Rwanda one decade earlier was evident in the perpetration of the Gatumba massacre in August 2004. The UN report documented the fact that the attackers chanted such slogans as “we will exterminate all the Tutsis in Central Africa”; “kill these dogs, these Tutsis”; “today, you Tutsis, whether you are Rwandese, Congolese or Burundian, you will be killed”.

The massacre was widely condemned by several countries from around the globe as well as by supranational institutions such as the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations. Many of them pledged to support endeavours aimed at bringing the perpetrators to justice. The United Nations urged countries in the sub-region to cooperate in investigating the massacre and bringing perpetrators to justice. Eight years after the event, no single step has been taken to deliver justice for the slain and surviving victims of the Gatumba massacre. The uproar that accompanied the commission of the crime has faded and victims face the sad prospect of never seeing justice done. The peculiar circumstances of a crime committed against Congolese citizens, on Burundian territory, by Congolese national army and armed groups reportedly originating from three different or neighbouring countries of the region complicate, if not annihilate any prospects of domestic prosecutions against perpetrators of the crime. Victims are nonetheless still crying for justice. The inaction of Burundian, Congolese and other sub-regional authorities imposes a duty on the international community to get actively involved in delivering on the promise of justice made to them in the aftermath of the crime.

This eighth remembrance of the victims of the Gatumba massacre occurs at a time of revived tensions in eastern Kivu, the homeland of the slayed victims. Sources of the continued tensions include the unresolved socio-political and legal issues including elusive promises of justice and redress. Crimes committed in the DRC over the last decades have claimed numerous victims from the various communities living in the country. All victims deserve justice. Owing to the particular circumstances of the massacre and to the involvement of numerous actors, domestic and international initiatives aimed at delivering justice to the victims generally ignore the victims of the Gatumba massacre. This is evidenced by the non-coverage of the Gatumba massacre in the 2010 UN Mapping Report.

On this eighth remembrance of victims of the Gatumba massacre, UBUNTU notes that since the crime was committed, no active steps have been taken to bring perpetrators to justice. UBUNTU therefore urges:

• The international community to deliver on the promise of justice made to survivors of the Gatumba atrocities in the immediate aftermath of the crime.
• The United Nations to use all appropriate means to bring Agathon Rwasa and other perpetrators of the massacre to justice.
• The Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other sub-regional countries to cooperate in rehabilitating the victims.

For Ubuntu: Dr Felix Ndahinda and Alex Mvuka Ntung

UBUNTU is an organisation created by individuals from eastern DRC for purposes of contributing to initiatives aimed at preventing violence and working towards sustainable peace and conflict resolution in their native land and the wider Great Lakes Region of Africa. UBUNTU membership includes individuals who survived the Gatumba massacre. UBUNTU is one of only few actors who have constantly tried to remind the international community of the unfulfilled promise of justice for victims of the Gatumba massacre. It is an international peace-building and non-profit organization based in Brussels.

UBUNTU – Initiative for Peace and Development
Rue Creuse 60, B-1030 Brussels, Belgium, Enterprise no: 891.545.509, Approved by the
Belgium Royal Decree of 26th.07.2007.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

How the UK Foreign Office covered up war crimes in the name of “official secrecy”

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From Al Jazeera

It’s a case involving allegations of torture, long-hidden government records, and a successful anti-colonial struggle.

Four Kenyans, including two who say they were castrated, sexually abused and severely beaten in a British-run prison camp during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s and 1960s, have launched a lawsuit against the UK government. Legal proceedings begin in London on Thursday.

“I don’t think many people are aware of the idea that the British government was involved in the systematic torture and abuse of people fighting for their freedom,” said Martyn Day, a senior partner at Leigh Day & Co, the law firm representing aging Kenyan activists…

The historical research of David Anderson, a specialist of African politics at Oxford University, has played a crucial role in the case.

During archival searches in Kenya and the UK during the 1990s, he found the British had “deliberately” taken documents out of Kenya before the country declared independence in 1963.

“It was a conspiracy to conceal things from the Kenyan government,” Anderson told Al Jazeera, adding that British law, specifically the Public Records Act of 1958, prohibits this sort of behavior.

Anderson interviewed a number of senior former colonial officials to ask whether documents were removed from Kenya. “They shrugged in kind of a cagey way and said ‘what do you think?’ You don’t leave your dirty laundry for the new house dwellers to find it, you take it with you.”

Historians estimate that at least 90,000 Kenyans were executed or tortured between 1952 and 1960, with tens of thousands more detained under brutal conditions as they fought for independence. Mau Mau rebels are also blamed for violent attacks on white farmers and colonial authorities.

“The experience of these claimants was not unique,” said Anderson, who has written several books about Kenya. “I would go as far to say that torture was systemic, it was part of a system of detention and abuse, organised in a pragmatic way.”

Lawyers for the UK government will argue the case should be thrown out of court because the events in question happened decades ago and are difficult to prove today. “That [time delay] will be in big issue heard by the court in the next few days,” said Day, the plaintiff’s lawyer.

“They [lawyers for the government] also say we are suing the wrong people; they say we should be suing the Kenyan government,” Day told Al Jazeera…

‘Cover-up’ or bungle-up?

Records from the UK Foreign Office, discovered as part of the court case, could include information on torture.

In November 2010, in the lead up to the case, Anderson issued a statement to the court, detailing why he believed records existed.

The judge took the historian’s letter seriously and instructed the Foreign Office to find the documents which they previously said did not exist.

“Within 48 hours, they [Foreign Office officials] had the documents,” said Anderson. Officials later admitted they made a mistake in not locating the documents earlier. “I am not sure if I entirely swallow that explanation,” Anderson said. “I think this was a conspiracy that became a cock-up.” He stressed that the contents of the secret files remain unknown…

Written by Richard Wilson

April 7, 2011 at 7:58 am

Posted in Corruption, torture

Tagged with ,

Boosting UK trade links with Sudan…

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UK Africa Minister Henry Bellingham says that he and his colleagues can be “candid friends” of the Sudanese dictatorship, whose president is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court

So this is what the UK government means by “boosting UK trade links” with Sudan…

From The Guardian

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court.

Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him.

“Ocampo suggested if Bashir’s stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a ‘crusader’ to that of a thief,” one report by a senior US official states. “Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money,” the cable says. “Ocampo suggested exposing Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him.”


Written by Richard Wilson

December 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Corruption

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BBC’s Mark Easton uncritically regurgitates report downplaying corruption in the UK – but chooses not to reveal that the “thinktank” behind it is a finance industry front group

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Dear Mark Easton,

1. Why did you decide not to reveal to your readers that this report – which claims that the UK Financial sector has been sorely maligned and that corruption in the UK is not as bad as people think it is, and whose conclusions you appear to accept uncritically – was produced by a front group for the Financial industry?

2. Did it not strike you as noteworthy that this study is being launched with great razzamatazz – fronted, of course, by Peter Mandelson – on exactly the same day as the annual report by the independent (ie. not funded by an industry front group) anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International?

In contrast to today’s sunny findings from the Legatum Institute, Transparency International has warned us that  Britain is “seriously at risk of dropping out of the top 20″ in its anti-corruption index.

According to the Guardian:

Britain’s failure to prosecute foreign bribery has been partly blamed on its outdated, fragmented and complex anti-corruption legislation.

Interestingly:

In its dying days, the last Labour government brought in a modernised law to stamp out bribery… Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, announced in the summer that the act will not be enforced until April next year, so further consultation on its details can be held.

Transparency International’s Director told the Guardian that

Britain’s worsening performance in the league table “strengthens the case for the UK’s new bribery act to be properly enforced, and sends a warning signal to the government that there should be no dilution of the bribery act or further delay in its commencement”.

I wonder what “signal” the Legatum Institute is hoping to send the government by launching its somewhat cosier assessment on exactly the same day…

Written by Richard Wilson

October 26, 2010 at 11:53 am

Utter humiliation: Old media meets new media, old media wins…

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Utter humiliation: Bloggers beware…

See also: “Your Freedom” – Hit, Miss or Maybe?, and Memo to John O’ Farrell

I was on BBC Newsnight on Thursday, talking about this and this, though you probably would not have guessed it from the way the issue was presented.

The programme ‘hook’ was the launch of a new UK government website, “Your Freedom”, through which members of the public are invited to nominate laws that need to be scrapped in order to reverse the erosion of civil liberties that took place under the last government. The discussion was broadly in line with most BBC coverage of anything to do with “people from the internet”, and I am ashamed and embarrassed to have been associated with it. Given the BBC’s track record, I really should have seen this coming…

I’d been contacted by a Newsnight researcher who’d seen my blog post suggesting we bin the vaguely-defined crime of “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”, which has been used in some disturbing court cases against people who receive information from government whistleblowers.

The format was as follows:  Five people who’d each submitted an idea to “Your Freedom” got to speak for about 25 seconds about a law they’d nominated, and the reason they felt it should be scrapped.

Then there was a much longer discussion between the presenter and two ‘experts’ – a guy named Andy Williamson from something called the Hansard Society, and a writer called John O’ Farrell. Although Newsnight chose not to disclose this, O’ Farrell had been actively involved with the government which did so much to attack civil liberties, and whose authoritarian laws the public is now being invited to review.

The last thing I did for TV about the online media (a piece for Al Jazeera on Trafigura/Carter Ruck) had been quite a positive experience, which was partly why I agreed to do this one. The Al Jazeera feature is still online here, and it makes for an interesting comparison with the BBC’s loud-and-proud “old media” approach.

O’ Farrell and the Hansard guy (along with the presenter Gavin Esler) seemed to be competing with each other to flaunt their contempt for the public in general, and the online world in particular. According to O’ Farrell, the five ‘bad law’ examples that had just been featured were nothing more than “single issue obsessions”. According to Williamson, most of the ideas the public had submitted to the new website were “utterly stupid” or from “single issue fanatics”. All the while, the five token faces of Joe Public adorned the wall behind them.

The overarching message seemed to be that the very idea of asking ordinary people to participate in an online policy discussion was completely absurd, and we really ought to leave the thinktankery to people like Andy Williamson and John O’ Farrell.

The Hansard Society modestly purports to be “universally recognised as the independent and non-partisan authority on Parliament and democracy”. I beg to differ (and these guys don’t seem too impressed either).

The Newsnight discussion might at least have been enlightening if O’ Farrell had been bumped, and the guy from Hansard put up against someone who actually understood the relationship between democracy and the web, such as the people behind the excellent website, www.theyworkforyou.com.

As things stood, it was like watching a gruesome TV re-enactment of Radio 4′s “The Moral Maze”, with my own face superimposed in the background the whole time. Utter humiliation…

*UPDATE* – The Hansard Society’s corporate donor list makes for interesting reading. Turns out that this “authority on Parliament and democracy” is bankrolled by MBDA, a subsidiary of the arms manufacturer BAE, whose relationship with British democracy is, let’s say, somewhat questionable

Other donors include the Rio Tinto mining group, who are notorious for their alleged complicity in serious human rights abuses around the world, the lobbying firm Ellwood and Atfield, and, perhaps inevitably, BP.Yet again, the BBC gifts air-time to a corporate front-group without any disclosure of its affiliations…

Lies in the name of “peace”? Opposition fears a stitch-up as European Union agrees to validate Burundian elections despite killings and voting irregularities

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One of the most shocking NGO rumours I’ve heard in recent years was that UN observers in a South Asian country were willing to certify an election as legitimate not because it actually was free and fair, but because they feared that acknowledging the full extent of voting irregularities could plunge the country back into civil war.

Now there are fears in Burundi that the European Union – which has invested heavily in the “Burundian success story” narrative – may be trying something similar, following the first round of this year’s national elections.

In the run-up to May’s polling, dozens of opposition activists were murdered, and many others harassed and threatened by the security services, while the ruling party CNDD-FDD mobilised its youth militia to intimidate voters. When the respected monitoring group Human Rights Watch highlighted the extent of abuses, the Burundian government responded by expelling the HRW researcher from the country.

Now, amid serious concern about the legitimacy of the first round of elections, 13 opposition parties are boycotting the next rounds until they receive credible guarantees that the polls will be properly managed and monitored. Yet rather than address this issue directly, the Burundian government’s international sponsors appear to be holding to the line that the vote was fair, and are now pressurising the opposition to take part in further elections which they fear will be rigged.

Contacts of mine in Burundi tell me they are worried that the international community, in its eagerness to support the “success story”, is turning a blind eye to evidence of serious irregularities.

“It is normal after an election to hear some actors who do not want to recognize or accept the result of an election”, one EU official, Renate Weber, is quoted as saying to VOA news, before urging the opposition to address any concerns by filing a complaint with the same state authorities who have been killing and arresting their supporters.

One of the opposition figures rejecting the poll results is Alexis Sinduhije, a man who has been beaten, threatened, harassed, and served time in jail for his willingness to speak openly and honestly about the situation in his country. For the moment at least, I would attach more credence to his analysis of the situation than the opinions of some comfortable, generously paid, European Union official.

Written by Richard Wilson

June 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Corruption

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