Monthly Archives: April 2008

Ballymurphy Massacre Families to Meet TDs and Senators

From Troops Out Movement:
Ballymurphy Massacre Families to Meet TDs and Senators
TOM News 29/04/08
Families affected by the actions of the British army’s Parachute Regiment in Belfast in August 1971 will be meeting with representatives of all of the twenty-six county political parties in Dáil Éireann tomorrow. In the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast the Parachute Regiment killed eleven people over a three day period, 9-11 August 1971.
Official accounts labelled all the victims gunmen and gunwomen, including a mother of eight and the parish priest. None of those killed had any connection to any armed group. They were innocent civilians. The barbarity of the killings was lost in the wider reporting of internment and became a forgotten massacre.
The British soldiers responsible for the killings went on to Derry the following January and were directly responsible for Bloody Sunday with fourteen more civilians being murdered. Now as adults, the children and the surviving siblings of those killed have been working to have the names of their loved ones cleared.
Following the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and with separate investigative findings, the relatives are confident that they can link members of the Parachute Regiment responsible for Bloody Sunday to the killings of their loved ones in Ballymurphy in 1971.
As a direct consequence of the killings in Ballymurphy forty-six children were left without a parent. Many of those children were evacuated to the twenty-six counties – mostly to Irish army camps as refugees. Some of the children watched the funerals of their parents on news footage broadcast by RTÉ. Others were too young to comprehend the enormity of what occurred. Their lives were irrevocably changed.
Theirs is a story of great importance and significance in terms of healing, recovery, truth and justice; a story which must be heard and addressed as part of the outworkings and benefits of the wider peace process. Essentially, the legacy issues of this terrible atrocity must be addressed in the context of personal and societal healing and reconciliation as part of transitional justice.
The families are seeking political support for a number of key aims, which include an independent investigative process that will secure a statement of innocence regarding all of those killed and an apology from both the British Parachute Regiment and the British government. Importantly, this is a process that has an emphasis on truth seeking, acknowledgement and recognition.

Continue reading

Food shortages – another crisis for the exploited

Announced to day are massive profits for the oil companies BP and Shell. The reason? Global oil prices. Also announced by Avaaz is another crisis on our doorsteps, the availability and price of food. More.
A visit to a local Chinese take-way last night showed that rising prices are having a dramatic effect. The owner told me that he was just breaking even as the price of rice was rocketing and increased prices were driving away custom.
It has long been clear in the development of the European Union that markets are the driving force, the tacit assumption being put around that it’s good for people. The outcomes we are seeing more and more graphically is that people come of second best, unless they are a member of an elite with the resources to absorb steep rises in prices of fuel and food. New Labour has not been about protecting working people from the effects of the globalisation of markets, said to be a good thing by many who ought to know better. Rather it has developed a new alternative elite. All major parties in UK are tied into capitalism and its logical outcomes which are creating crisis and chaos.
As war in Iraq and elsewhere brings massive financial reward to the ruling elite in the US, backed by Britain so fuel prices and shortages bring benefits to those in control. Those striking at Grangemouth about their loss of pension were quick to point out that the boss was fifteenth on the “rich list” published by the Sunday Times. The workers are told that they must “modernise”. Sound familiar to those in New Labour from exhortations of Blair et al. “Modernisation” is a euphemism for throwing away your hard won rights of all of us for the benefits of the few. The religious Mr Blair has benefited rather well from his disastrous spell in office.

Election candidates raise support for Council Workers’ strikes

Press Statement for immediate release 27/04/2008
Election candidates raise support for Council Workers’ strikes
Local Elections 2008
Raghib Ahsan and John Tyrrell, both candidates in the local elections, have been raising support for the council workers and their recent strikes.
Over 1,000 signatures have been collected so far on the doorsteps of Handsworth Wood and Lozells and East Handsworth. The response has been incredible with most people wanting to sign.
John and Raghib, both former Labour councillors, have made support for the council workers a major part of their election campaigns.
Raghib Ahsan says “It’s shocking that the council can think it is OK to cut the pay of thousands of their workforce. I visited the council worker’s picket lines and joined the street protest on Soho Road. There was huge support from passing motorists.”
John Tyrrell, who is standing for the Socialist Labour Party says “I joined the protest at Victoria Square where council workers, teachers, lecturers and civil servants all joined together to oppose pay cuts. As prices continue to rise the people who run our vital services should treated decently, not have their pay cut.”

Continue reading

Sadism in Hebron. The Israeli army out of control (?)

I have no hesitation in including this article from Jewish Voice for Peace about what is going on in Hebron and possibly, likely, other areas of occupied Palestine. The Israeli army is out of control.
This article reports on a situation out of control in the West Bank town of Hebron, where young IDF conscripts are encouraged or allowed to act as sadistically as they like and to inflict what the article describes as a “reign of terror” on the Palestinian residents. The article is painful to read, but gives you a real sense of the brutal manner in which the occupation is being administered, in Hebron at least. The piece is framed in terms of the moral degradation of the conscripts themselves, the fact that they are becoming (as one young soldier puts it) “animals”.

Continue reading

Torture Israeli and U.S. style

“The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has revealed that the Israeli security service (Shin Bet) harms or threatens to harm the relatives of prisoners in order to extract confessions from the prisoners themselves. In some cases, the relatives are physically tortured. The accusations of torture are bad enough, but harming or threatening to harm uninvolved noncombatants for the political end of extracting a confession appears to fall under standard definitions of terrorism.”
The information comes from Jewish Voice for Peace. It’s just another example of information where you just can’t possibly believe it can be as bad as it’s described here. Not from anyone with the least pretension to regarding themselves as civilised. We appear to be witnessing regression in society! Here there appear to be no holds barred when people are actually prepared to go out and commit barbaric acts on civilians. In the name of Zionism? Hasn’t that got something to do with “God”? What does this mean? We are told there is “one God” in this context embracing Judaism, Islam and Christian alike. This “one God” looks more and more like the opposite: “Mammon”. As Jesus of Nazareth observed you can’t serve both, but then look what happened to him.

Continue reading

Sheena Kotecha, 1982-2004. The verdict: “Left to die”.

I am grateful to Pauline Campbell for updating me on the result of the inquiry into Sheena Kotecha’s untimely, unnecessary and brutal death at the hands of the state. Privatised institutions employ staff at cut rates of pay and this is what we get. More.
In 2004 I wrote of my experience of meeting the family just as they learned of the beloved daughter’s death the previous evening. Jamnadas Vadhia had been visiting her at Brockhill Prison where he took her fruit to perform Hindu rituals. It was the only way to get nutritious food to Sheena who had two stone.
At the time the Leicester Mercury had likened the story to Bonny and Clyde. Their reporting today looks a bit different. All it did at the time was to hide the reality in order to get a bit of sensational reporting. I hope they remember this disgrace.

Continue reading

Modern Britain. The incarceration of Mothers and children

The date is 2008, place Britain. The Government Is New Labour. Mothers and children are incarcerated.The following is from NCADC
Mothers United in Yarl’s Wood IRC / Listen To Our Cry
Seven mothers in the family unit in Yarl’s Wood immigration prison have been on hunger strike since Thursday the 10th of April. The group includes two breastfeeding mothers.
A protest involving up to 15 families started last Thursday when a mother who was to be taken to the airport took sanctuary in the church in Yarl’s Wood IRC with her baby and refused to leave, she was joined by up to 14 other mothers who refused to let the mother be removed from the church.

Continue reading

International Conference on Penal Abolition

A high profile conference will take place in London in July at which Pauline Campbell has agreed to speak;
International Conference on Penal Abolition
New Speaker added to the agenda
We are pleased to announce the addition of campaigner and penal abolitionist, Pauline Campbell, to the ICOPA line up. Pauline became involved in the campaign for penal abolition following the death of her daughter Sarah, whilst ‘in the care’ of Styal Prison in 2003. She was just 18.
Pauline is one of the leading figues in England and Wales calling for the closure of women’s prisons. She has, to date, organised 28 demonstrations, been arrested 15 times and been charged 5 times. She is currently awaiting criminal trial following a demonstration outside Styal Prison in February this year.
She said, “Where there is injustice, there will be protest. And long may the spirit of protest remain alive and well in our democratic society.”
She joins BBC Journalist and ex-prisoner Raphael Rowe, and leading human rights lawyer, Imran Khan, to discuss ‘Penal Abolition, the media and the public’.

Continue reading

Another criminal trial – another waste of the court’s time – and an even greater waste of public money

The prison system is indefensible, not least in the way that women prisoners are treated. It is acknowledged over and over that those in prison need medical help. Because it is indefensible the government and its agents get tough. They hate to hear the truth. So people like Pauline Cambell are beaten up and taken to trial. Why? Because her daughter died in an inhumane institution, and yes she’s angry.
If people in our prisons are treated like garbage what do we expect the outcome to be? David Blunkett toured South Africa to tell us about using warehouses for prisons – and he’s a member of New Labour!!! Meanwhile in Scandinavia small local prisons are the thing where families can remain in touch more easily, rather than the end of civilisation as we know it.
The following is from Pauline Campbell and now a few day’s old:
Outcome of pre-trial review
Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court, Hibel Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 2AB
Wednesday 9 April 2008, 1130-1245 hrs
Defendant: Pauline Campbell
* Court has today announced a three-day criminal trial, to be held at Knutsford Crown Court, Wednesday 30 July 2008-Friday 1 August 2008.
* Application for legal aid has been refused, on the grounds of ‘interests of justice’.
* The Crown intends to call 13 witnesses to give evidence against me, making a total of 18 witnesses in all.
* Unconditional bail was granted.
Background to case
1. Arrest and charge (obstructing the highway): 5 February 2008, at a prison-death demonstration outside Styal Prison, to protest against the death of the young mother Lisa Marley, who died on 23 January 2008 in the care of the jail. Thirty-two year old Ms Marley was on remand, and therefore legally innocent when she died.
2. Court hearing: 27 February 2008 – ‘not guilty plea’ entered [Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court].
3. A pre-trial review was held on 19 March 2008, also in Macclesfield.
Today’s hearing
* The hearing took place before a panel of lay magistrates: Mrs Saunders (chair); Dr Sharma (male); and Mr Fryer, and I was unrepresented in court today.
* Clerk of the Court (“Senior Legal Adviser”) was Mrs Warren. She declined to answer my question about whether or not she was a qualified solicitor.
* CPS Prosecutor: Mr Jonathan McGahan (solicitor), based at the Crewe office.
* The court agreed to my request for the case to be transferred to another magistrates’ court in Cheshire. The trial will be held in Knutsford; venue: Knutsford Crown Court, Sessions House, Toft Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0PB.
* At the start of today’s hearing, my legal aid position was still unclear, and I told the court this would need to be resolved before a trial date was set, to enable me to check if my lawyers were available on the suggested trial date. I further explained that, if my legal aid application was refused, it would be even more important that I speak to lawyers before agreeing to a date, as I would be dependent on lawyers acting pro-bono.
* Hickman and Rose, Solicitors, London, made an application for legal aid on my behalf on 28 February 2008, and again on 7 April 2008. I insisted the “Senior Legal Adviser” make enquiries about my legal aid status. I was told my application had not met the criteria necessary to meet the ‘interests of justice’ test. Despite my earlier request, the court insisted on fixing a trial date.
* The 13 witnesses for the Crown include police officers; Styal Prison staff; GSL prison van staff; and a local authority highways representative. Had these written statements been acceptable to me, fewer witnesses could have attended court. However, I told the court that I was not prepared to accept some of the statements, as they included factual inaccuracies and some outrageous comments about me, which will need to be challenged in court by my lawyers.
* The court has instructed me that legal issues and case law to be argued must be served by 30 June 2008.
* The CPS has still not provided all the necessary statements; two GSL statements are outstanding.
* New information was again handed to me in court today, including a statement from a GSL prisoner escort officer: page one of the statement included a glaring error about my late daughter – that she “had committed suicide [sic] in Styal”. I protested about this factual inaccuracy to the bench, and said the jury did not return a ‘suicide’ verdict at my daughter’s inquest, and I did not want to be confronted with such insensitive and inaccurate statements again in court.

Continue reading

Black farmers in the US. The end of the struggle?

Al Jazeera highlights the work of a researcher, John Ficaras, who is looking at the lives and histories of black farmers in the USA. It is another chapter in the story of discrimination, which far from falling away is a continuing issue as banks and government withhold support. Promises dating back to Lincoln and abolition have never materialised.
“The history of black owned farms in the United States dates back to the years immediately following the US Civil War in the mid-1800s.
At the end of the war the then US president, Abraham Lincoln, liberated all of the slaves and the reforms that followed promised that each family would receive forty acres and a mule, a promise that was never fulfilled.
Black owned farms peaked in the early 1920s with an estimated total of 15 million acres and over 900,000 farmers.
Today there are only 2.2 million acres owned by black farmers. These farmers are losing their land three times faster than white family farmers and a recent study by the university of Michigan predicts that within the next ten years there will be virtually no black owned farms.
This is a vanishing part of American history and Ficara uses the power of their stories and these images to keep the history of their slice of the American dream alive while their way of life falls under the plough forever.”

Continue reading