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Raif Badawi Update


News5_20130802002341864.jpg Despite an international outcry and calls by Amnesty International for the Saudi Arabian authorities to quash the severe sentence and punishment of 1000 lashes for a charge of blasphemy, Saudi Arabian rights activist Raif Badawi was publicly flogged on Friday it is reported. This has been confirmed by Amnesty international from an eye-witness in Jeddah and from Mr Badawi’s wife.

Mr Badawi is a Saudi Arabian writer and activist and was the creator of the website “Free Saudi Liberals”

This is the first of 20 such public floggings that Mr Badawi will face after his conviction for insulting Islam through a forum/blog that his wife actually said he set up to merely examine and provide people the opportunity to discuss their Islamic faith. The forum was taken down by the Saudi authorities and Mr Badawi handed a sentence of 1000 lashes in 2014.

It is reported by an eye-witness that Mr Badawi raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arched his back in preparation for his flogging and remained silent after it but it was obvious it was said through his face and his body that he was in pain. Mr Raif Badawi was “beaten by a officer on his back and legs, who counted the lashes until they reached 50” the witness states.

This flogging it is worth noting took plays only days after the Saudi Arabian government and authority announced their condemnation of the actions of the  terrorists who last week killed staff at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

 

It is also worth mentioning that Amnesty International gravely concerned for Mr Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair a well known human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia following his Mr Badawi’s arrest anWaleed_Abu_Alkhaird conviction in 2012-4. Amnesty International is running a separate campaign for Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison last July. It is unfortunately expected that he could also face a similar sentence to Mr Badawi handed down as well as his prison term that he currently serving.

Cicero Lounge has today sent a letter to the Saudi Authorities immediately calling for his sentence to be either commuted immediately or nullified. Anyone wishing to contact the Saudi embassy and respectfully call for action to the following: Prime Minister Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, also Deputy Prime Minister Ministry of Defense HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir was appointed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz

(Email Saudi Arabian Embassy in the UK on ukemb@mofa.gov.sa or cms@saudiembassy.net – Saudi Embassy in US)

President Obama responds to North Korean Sony Cyber-attack


The Interview After the FBI tying North Korea to a alleged cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, and its involvement for the film “The Interview” and following also it’s decision to withdraw its release this Christmas following continued further threats, President Barack Obama has vowed a US response but he also added that Sony had “made a mistake” in refusing to release a controversial satire depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

On Friday US authorities linked North Korea to the hack, which saw sensitive studio information publicly released.

The film centres around two journalists who’s intention is to kill the North Korean leader. Many cinemas made the decision not to show the film, following the cyber-attacks on Sony and some people are calling for it to be made released and made available on the internet. Sony withdrew the film following  threats.

“We will respond,” Mr Obama said on Friday to reporters declining to be any more specific, “We will respond proportionately and in a space, time and manner that we choose…” adding “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States.”

The US leader said it could have significant economic and social impacts  if both public and private cyber-systems were under attack and therefore important to protect these systems. On the question of Sony’s potential self-censorship he said  “Americans cannot change their patterns of behaviour due to the possibility of a terrorist attack,” he said. “That’s not who we are, that’s not what America is about.”

 

In the UK,  Phillip Hammond the foreign secretary said he was “deeply concerned at the findings of the US investigation, which seems to provide further evidence of North Korea’s blatant disregard for international norms and obligations”.

 

The BBC website asks ‘ What is the FBI evidence?

US stalls CIA Covert Action in Iran report disclosure


The U.S. Department of State has blocked the publication of a long-awaited documentary history of U.S. covert action in Iran in the 1950s out of concern that its release could adversely affect ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The controversial Iran history volume, part of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, had been slated for release last summer. (“History of 1953 CIA Covert Action in Iran to be Published,” Secrecy News, April 16, 2014).

But senior State Department officials “decided to delay publication because of ongoing negotiations with Iran,” according to the minutes of a September 8, 2014 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation that were posted on the Department of State website this week.

Dr. Stephen P. Randolph, the Historian of the State Department, confirmed yesterday that the status of the Iran volume “remains as it was in September” and that no new publication date has been set. The subject was also discussed at an Advisory Committee meeting this week.

The suppression of this history has been a source of frustration for decades, at least since the Department published a notorious 1989 volume on U.S. policy towards Iran that made no mention of CIA covert action.

But the latest move is also an indirect affirmation of the enduring significance of the withheld records, which date back even further than the U.S. rupture with Cuba that is now on the mend.

Liberty calls for better managed return orders


Today a cross-party amendment opposing the Government’s proposed temporary exclusion orders (TEO) has been tabled. TEOs would effectively exile British citizens by revoking their passports when outside of the UK  – and risk exposing them to torture or delivering them into the hands of terror factions.
The amendment, drafted by Liberty, would replace the TEO with a Notification & Managed Return Order.  The NMRO would allow the Home Secretary to require airlines and other carriers to notify her of the return plans of those she suspected of terrorism abroad.  The authorities could then use their existing powers against a suspect when they return to the UK.  But, crucially, the Home Secretary would not have the power to revoke passports while they were outside of the country.

Universal credit legislation may force tenants into debt in recovering rent arrears


image

Changes to legislation concerning
rent arrear recovery through universal credit will claw 20% from non-housing increment of UC and could mean tenants seeking loans from loan sharks and the problem of mismanagement of remainder of their  benefits and debt housing and social housing providers warned .

http:// http://m.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/scale-of-arrears-clawback-plan-sparks-fears/7006926.article

US GOVERNMENT DRAFTS NEW RULES ON “NO FLY” LIST


The “no fly” list procedures that are used to prevent individuals who may present a security hazard from flying on commercial aircraft are being revised to make them more transparent and easier to challenge, government attorneys said Friday. They asked a court to suspend a lawsuit disputing the constitutionality of the “no fly” procedures for two months until the revisions are complete.

“The Government… is currently reviewing and revising the administrative redress procedures for denials of boarding,” Justice Department attorneys said in a November 14 memorandum in support of a motion for a stay of proceedings in the lawsuit Gulet Mohamed v. Eric Holder.

“The Government is revising current redress procedures to increase transparency of the process for certain persons denied boarding on commercial aircraft,” the memorandum said.

Documentary Nelson Mandela The Fight For Freedom


A tribute to one of the greatest men that the 20th Century witnessed who died almost a year ago.

For more information on his struggle against Apartheid and his unifying of South Africa visit http://www.nelsonmandela.org/

Indian PM boycotts Sri-Lankan Summit


Manmohan Singh

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will boycott the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka over alleged human rights abuses by its host.

Mr Singh is expected to write to Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to explain why he will not be attending the summit which will put political pressure on other counties to take a stronger stance against the allegations of  war crimes committed  in the war  the countries national party and the Tamil Tigers during the 25 year conflict.

The absence of the leader of the Commonwealth’s biggest member state may embarrass David Cameron who has defended his attendance in Sri Lanka because it  would allow him to personally deliver a a “tough message” about its human rights record.

The Sri Lankan government has conducted a  repressive regime that  has silenced resistance to the national party but recent reports of deliberate targeting of civilians in the conflict and crimes committed by its armed forces against violent Tamil separatists in the north of the country.

A British parliamentary committee has noted “continuing human rights abuses” in Sri Lanka with the UN also  critical over a lack of effort towards over reconciliation between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority.

Officials at the Indian foreign ministry have downplayed the decision to boycott the summit, which was reportedly taken by senior Congress party officials last Friday. They said it was not unusual for a prime minister to be unable to attend the meeting – however it will send a tough message on India’s Foreign policy against it’s neighbouring country.

Bradley Manning labelled ‘reckless’ by Military Judge


Private-Bradley-ManningThe military judge who’ll be determining the sentence of Private Bradley Manning on Monday said  will determine how long  said his acts  were “wanton and reckless.” Bradley Manning will be sentenced over what has been called the biggest breach of classified data in the US history on Monday

Judge Colonel Denise Lind last month found Manning, 25, guilty of 20 criminal counts which include  include charges of  espionage and theft of military property when he handed over 700,000 secret US documents to WikiLeaks.  He was caught when he confided to Adrian Lamo a computer hacker whom he’d built a online relationship with about about his activities. He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the 22 charges, and the trial on the remaining charges began on 3 June 2013.

Manning is expected to face up to 90 years in prison for his role in a case that put the whistle-blowing and anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and in particular its founder,  Julian Assange, into the world spotlight.

“Manning’s conduct was of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others. His conduct was both wanton and reckless,” Lind said in a series of written findings issued after prosecutors finished their sentencing arguments yesterday.

Civil Right’s groups in the US and worldwide will watch with great interest the sentencing of Bradley Manning with many groups actually having called for him to be merited for his work in exposing US Government secrecy.

Manning was working as a low-level intelligence analyst at a military base in Baghdad in 2010 when he handed  diplomatic cables and other documents to WikiLeaks. At the time he’d only hoped his actions would create broad debate about US foreign activity.

Military prosecutors have argued that his actions have aided al-Qaida and harmed the United States,  though proof of this would be hard to get as this would inevitably be classified information.

Manning’s lawyers this week presented their case for giving the defendant a mild sentence. Witnesses including military mental health specialists and members of Manning’s family testified that the soldier, who is gay, showed signs that he was unsuitable for overseas deployment, including violent outbursts.

Manning, slightly built and dressed in his uniform and glasses, his hair cropped close, on Wednesday addressed the court for the first time since February, saying that he was “sorry” and understood that he “must pay a price” for his actions.

Before the prosecutors rested their case Friday, they presented a written statement from army criminal investigation command special agent David Shaver, who said chat logs and e-mail he found on Manning’s computer in Iraq indicated he was responsible for leaking the classified documents.

There is a website that has been set up to support Bradley Manning it’s website address http://www.bradleymanning.org/

manning-wikileaks

Dark Days Ahead – Justice and Security Bill loses safeguards


Photograph of the debating chamber of the Hous...

Last night was a dark moment for British justice as odious Government plans for Secret Courts moved to the brink of becoming law. The House of Lords voted against introducing safeguards to the Justice and Security Bill ensuring that so-called Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) were used only as a last resort. The margin was tight, but the legislation was passed in its entirety and now heads for Royal Assent and the statute book in all of its foul, shadowy glory. Not only are Secret Courts infesting our civil law system – minor restrictions making them slightly less deplorable have also been dismissed.
Peers voted by 174 to 158 against a Labour amendment which would allow CMPs only where a judge decided a fair verdict was impossible by other means. The proposed safeguard won cross-party support, with 26 Liberal Democrats rebelling alongside 16 crossbenchers, six non-affiliated peers, one Conservative and 109 Labour counterparts to back the amendment. Regrettably it wasn’t to be, and we now move towards a world where Ministers will be able to rely upon secret evidence – never disclosed to the claimant, let alone public or press – during cosy private chats with judges behind closed doors.

And yet the principled opposition to Secret Courts was clear throughout the Upper House. Labour opposition spokesperson for justice Lord Beecham, moving the amendment, urged peers to help “minimise the damage threatened to the most valued elements of our jurisprudence and judicial system”.

Liberal Democrat peer and former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC observed: “Nothing would be more corrosive of justice and public confidence in justice than the routine intrusion into our system of closed procedures, of secret courts, of excluded defendants, of confidential meetings between government lawyers and the judge.”

“I have never been convinced of the Government’s position that expelling one party to the proceedings and running the risk of evidence not being challenged is better justice than excluding some evidence, not a party, from the hearing,” said Conservative peer Baroness Berridge, a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. “It is better for the Government, but not for justice.”

And former Attorney-General and Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC told the House of Lords: “Openness will sometimes be more important for the health of the nation because of the poison that is released by secrecy.”

“This legislation involves so radical a departure from the cardinal principle of open justice in civil proceedings, so sensitive an aspect of the court’s processes, that everything that can possibly help minimise the number of occasions when the power is used should be recognised and should appear in the legislation itself,” added non-affiliated peer and former Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.

We also mustn’t forget the mountain of outside opposition which the Government ignored in forcing the Bill through. Lawyers, the international community, the Scottish Government and much of the national press rejected the legislation, along with politicians of all political stripes and hordes of Liberal Democrat supporters. Liberty members also fought the proposals determinedly and we salute their dedicated campaigning.

That the Government failed to make the case for Secret Courts is beyond debate. There wasn’t a shred of evidence suggesting they were necessary; not a single previous case where the existing system for handling sensitive material had fallen short. Clearly the argument was won, but not quite the politics. Needless to say we’ll continue working hard on this – starting as soon as the Bill is rolled out.

Source – Liberty

http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/2013/dark-days-ahead-for-british-justice.php?dm_i=C3V,1DLZO,6YC936,4O9SJ,1

 

Angola 3 Documentary


Amnesty International UK will host a free screening of the acclaimed documentary about the notorious case of the “Angola 3” on Tuesday 10 July.

The 2010 film – In the Land of the Free, with narration by Samuel L Jackson – tells the story of how three men – Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King – were placed in solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as Angola prison) in the USA in 1972.

Wallace and Woodfox – who were convicted of the murder of prison guard Brent Miller, a crime they have vigorously denied – have now spent the last 40 years in solitary. King, who was convicted of a different crime, spent 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola until his release in 2001. He will appear on a panel with the film’s director to discuss the case after the film screening.

Amnesty is currently calling on the Louisiana authorities to remove Wallace and Woodfox from solitary confinement, and is challenging the authorities’ contention that the pair remain a threat to prison employees and others (see http://amn.st/MQcp2U). Meanwhile, Woodfox’s lawyers are pursuing a claim of racial discrimination in jury selection at his 1998 retrial. This could see his conviction overturned (for the third time) and lead to his release.

Source: Amnesty  See also Angola 3 Film

ORG : Current Report on Mali


ORG’s April and May Global Monthly Security Briefings covered the current status of the al-Qaeda movement, and a loosely related development, the growth of the radical Boko Haram Islamist group in northern Nigeria. Since those briefings, there have been further developments. One issue of current concern relates to recent events in the West African state of Mali. Paul Rogers discusses the current security situation in Mali its context and assesses the implications of a possible foreign military intervention.

Read more

Source : Oxford Research Group

Amnesty – It Starts With a Letter


Amnesty International was started in 1961 by a lawyer called Peter Benenson who had heard of the arrest of two Portuguese students imprisoned for raising a toast to freedom.

It has grown to an international movement – and it all started with putting a pen to paper to help another human being gain their human rights (as provided in Universal Declaration of Human Rights created after the World War II).

On a personal note – I learned to letter write a lot by this organization and have been privileged to write to many people to call for the release or fair trial of other people and  urge any person to enjoy the wonderful experience of also having the opportunity to do so by joining their local group.

Manchester, where I’m currently living meets every second Wednesday of the month at Cross Street Unitarian Church.

As Rt. Hon Jack Straw MP, says in this documentary – “If people do nothing, nothing will happen!”

Below is it’s history. Go to Amnesty

 

Courtesy: BBC Four/Amnesty International/AP/ITV

 

Assange Requests Ecuadorian Asylum


assange_seeks_refuge_equadorJulian Assange has formally requested asylum in Ecuador in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces an investigation for rape and sexual molestation.

Assange, the bombastic founder of Wikileaks, fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Tuesday. He had been under house arrest in England while awaiting the outcome of an appeal of his extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wish to question Assange.

Assange had appealed his extradition to the European Court of Justice after losing on appeal in the Supreme Court of England, but the European Court had not yet decided whether to take up the appeal. Assange is supposed to be extradited to Stockholm by June 28.

Swedish prosecutors wish to interview Assange about two cases of alleged rape and sexual molestation, in which Assange allegedly refused to wear a condom as requested by his partners, and hid the fact until they were done with intercourse. Assange has claimed he is innocent of all charges, and that the case is nothing but a smear campaign orchestrated by the Pentagon.  Assange has also complained of Sweden’s tough anti-rape laws, calling the Scandinavian country the “Saudi Arabia of feminism.”

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/assange-requests-asylum-in-ecuador.html#ixzz1yL6xiJV9

Red Cross Urgent Syrian Appeal


In the past few days the Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers, along with two mobile health units and six doctors, have treated dozens of people in the Syrian town of Houla, where more than 100 people were killed last week.

As well as food parcels, they have distributed hygiene kits, kitchen sets and blankets to families who have fled their homes due to the ongoing fighting.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is still the only organisation able to access many of the affected areas in Syria.

Aid Worker killed in Pakistan


British aid worker Khalil Dale, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in January of this year has been found dead, the Foreign Office have confirmed.

His body was discovered in an orchard in Quetta with a note saying he had been killed by the Taliban, local police said.

Mr Dale who worked for the Red Cross‘ International Committee (ICRC), was kidnapped in Quetta, south-west Pakistan.

Responding to his murder Red Cross have described the health programme workers killing as “barbaric”.

It is understood the militants holding him had asked for a ransom which could not be paid. The Foreign Secretary has described his murder as “senseless and cruel”.

Mr Dale worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years, carrying out assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He had been abducted by unidentified armed men while on his way home from work in Quetta. It is now feared that most international aid agencies will move further foreign staff out of Quetta as they will now be concerned for their staff’s safety.

The ICRC commenting on the aid worker’s work that he was “a trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member who significantly contributed to the humanitarian cause.”

Universal Credit will lose free school meal


350,000 children ‘will lose free school meals in welfare reform’ – charity

Children’s Society says coalition’s universal credit, as currently envisaged, seems a step backward

school meals

Free school lunches are the main meal of the day for many children, says the Children’s Society.
Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

More than 350,000 children will lose their free school meals under the government’s radical plans to reform welfare entitlement next year, an analysis by the Children’s Society has warned.

In a report entitled Fair and Square, the charity says the proposed universal credit system, which comes into force in October 2013, will stop paying for certain benefits if a household earns more than £7,500.

At present the welfare system compensates poor families with cash from the tax credit system.

The result is that 120,000 poorer families are likely lose free school meals, worth £367 a year, unless they dropped their earnings below the threshold of £7,500. This would mean parents having to cut the numbers of hours worked or take a pay cut to keep their benefits.

Source: The Guardian

UN urges Syria over voluntary ceasefire


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking in Geneva said that presently this is a critical point for Syria, and the world is watching with skepticism due to previous promises being broken by the government of Syria. He has said that Syria’s words on a ceasefire should be will be matched by their deeds, but that UN military action to get Syria would not be an option. Obviously Syria’s adherence to the ceasefire is therefore voluntary.

Many including the Arab-envoy Kofi Annan are concerned that Syria may not comply with all the points in the peace plan set down by the UN. Under these terms the six- point peace plan agreed to by Syria, all violence and fighting was to stop on today.

Mr Ban Ki-Moon said today: “Joint special envoy Kofi Annan and I and many world leaders have made it quite clear that any militarization or any military operation is not an option. It will only complicate and worsen the situation and thus arming opposition forces is not desirable.”

Today’s ceasefire followed Kofi Annan receiving a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria informing him of the Syrian Governments decision “to cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 6 a.m. Damascus time 12 April” but it also said it wanted to keep the right to respond to any attacks carried out by terrorist groups or civilians against “government forces or public and private property.”

Chile passes anti-homophobia law


Chile’s Congress passed an anti-discrimination law Wednesday following the killing of a gay man whose attackers beat him and carved swastikas into his body.

The House of Deputies approved the law in a close 58-56 vote, seven years after it was first proposed. The Senate passed the law in November. Some passages remain to be finalized in a commission of senators and House lawmakers.

President Sebastian Pinera had urged lawmakers to accelerate approval of the law after 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died March 27. Zamudio’s death came more than three weeks after he was attacked, and his case set off a national debate about hate crimes in Chile.

Source : Huffington Post

Syrian Update (from the BBC)


The current news from the BBC Internet News service concerning Syria

Heavy artillery fire has been rocking Homs, as Syrian troops step up an assault on the restive city.

A BBC correspondent there describes almost constant blasts, in the fiercest attack in the 11-month uprising.

US President Barack Obama said it was important to resolve the conflict without outside military intervention.

Meanwhile, Russia and China defended their veto of a UN draft resolution criticising Syria – a move that angered opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

Later the US State Department said it had closed its embassy in Damascus and pulled out all remaining staff because of security concerns.

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