Welcome to Peace News, the newspaper for the UK grassroots peace and justice movement. We seek to oppose all forms of violence, and to create positive change based on cooperation and responsibility. See more
"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky
News in Brief
On 7 June, Kent police issued an unqualified apology to long-time activist Dave Morris and to twins aged 11 after test case litigation challenging police on unlawful searches during the Kingsnorth Climate Camp in July 2008.
Evidence was given that the twins had been reduced to tears after being stopped and searched while attending their first political event.
With their apology, Kent police also gave a commitment to disseminate the lessons learned to every police force in the country and offered a modest amount of compensation.
Meanwhile, energy company E.ON has shelved its plans for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, blaming the recession, so Climate Camp can claim a double victory.
On 10 June, a jury at Isleworth Crown Court took only 30 minutes to find Harvie Brown not guilty of violent disorder at the G20 protests in Threadneedle Street on 1 April 2009.
Witnesses had given evidence that Harvie spent much of the protest in tears in reaction to the violence that he and other protestors were subjected to by police when they imposed a “kettle” (a containment cordon) across the street.
Harvie had appeared on TV news and been widely labelled in the media as a “ringleader” of violence against police at the event.
At the end of May, seven anti-arms trade protestors were found “not guilty” by district judge Quentin Purdy at Westminster magistrates court.
The seven were arrested in September 2009, as they demonstrated outside the Park Lane Hilton while a dinner was being held inside for delegates attending the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair at the ExCeL centre in east London.
The protestors refused to obey the direction of the senior police officer to confine the demonstration to a fenced area away from the hotel entrance (and obscured by parked vehicles including a large police van).
DJ Purdy stated that he was not convinced that the police decision to impose the condition was reasonable in all the circumstances, and that the condition to protest only in the obscured fenced area violated the right of the demonstrators to legitimate protest. The police action was unlawful on two grounds, either of which led to a not guilty verdict .
Nepal narrowly avoided a breakdown of its rickety peace process on 28 May, when the deadline for a new constitution ran out. Literally at the eleventh hour, one hour before midnight, the Maoists rescued the political system by agreeing to a one-year extension, despite a continuing lack of consensus on how to integrate former Maoist guerrillas into the Nepali security forces.
The 28 May written agreement was only reached because of a verbal commitment by the present prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal (of the United Marxist Leninist communist party) to step down within five days to allow the formation of a new coalition.
Nepal then delayed his resignation, demanding Maoist concessions: an army-sponsored plan for demobilising rather than integrating former guerrillas; the dissolution of the Maoist paramilitary youth wing; and the return of property seized by the Maoists during the civil war.
These demands were not met, and the paralysis of the political system was continuing as PN went to press.
In mid-May, Bishwambher Pyakuryal, professor of economics at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University, warned that the country’s economic problems, compounded by violence, insecurity and “non-functioning executive and legislative bodies”, could lead to “state collapse” as in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Somalia. On 8 June, four people were injured by what appears to have been a premature car bomb explosion in front of a hospital at Basundhara in Kathmandu.
At the end of May, Algeria and South Africa issued a joint condemnation of Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara, describing the conflict as a “question of decolonisation”, and calling for the people in the region to be able to exercise their right to self-determination through a referendum.
Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975, and refuses to allow a referendum. Also in May, the seventh FiSahara international film festival took place in a Sahrawi refugee camp with no paved roads, no sources of water and no vegetation.
First prize at the festival was awarded to the Spanish documentary about Western Sahara, El Problema, which also won the Amnesty International Prize at the San Sebastian Human Rights Film Festival.
Meanwhile, in Brighton, a photographic exhibition about Western Sahara, “The Thirst of the Dunes”, opened at the Real Patisserie, Western Road, Hove in June – it continues to 17 July and then transfers from 28 July to the Rosslyn Arms, Hampstead, London.
On 14 June, 24 Witness Against Torture activists were acquitted in a Washington DC court of “unlawful entry with disorderly conduct” during protests at the US Capitol on 21 January – the date by which US president Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo detention camp.
During the demonstration, people dressed as Guantanamo prisoners were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading: “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives”.
Inside, where deceased presidents lie in state, 14 activists were arrested performing a memorial service for three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006.
It was reported on 6 June that US federal officials had arrested 22-year-old army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning for passing classified US combat video and state department records to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
Manning was turned in last month by a computer hacker he had told that he was the source of videos that had appeared on Wiki-Leaks including that of a 2007 helicopter strike in Baghdad that caused civilian deaths.
On 23 May, Israeli human rights activist Ezra Nawi began a month’s jail sentence for his July 2007 attempt to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the West Bank homes of Palestinian Bedouins.
Ezra wrote: “I have been harassed and targeted throughout the years, because I embody three elements which provoke bigotry in the Israeli society: I am a homosexual, I am a Mizrahim [Middle-Eastern Jew], and I devote all my time to fighting for the human rights of Arab Palestinians…. I would like to believe that my personal adversity will inspire and motivate individuals to actively oppose the occupation.”
On 23 May, Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned for 11 years in 1986 for revealing the truth about Israel’s nuclear bomb, was returned to jail for speaking to foreigners. Amnesty International called Vanunu a prisoner of conscience and said: “Mordechai Vanunu should not be in prison at all, let alone be held in solitary confinement in a unit intended for violent criminals.”
On 16 June, the Belgrade high court acquitted a group of six anarchists of charges that they caused a general danger to society by with throwing Molotov cocktails at the embassy of Greece. “The basis for acquittal is the legal, not political. It is not proven that the accused committed the crime,” said the judge Dragomir Gerasimovi.
The six members of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative (ASI), Sanja Dojkic, 20, Tadej Kurepa, 25, Nikola Mitrovic, 30, Ivan Savic, 26, Ratibor Trivunac, 28, and Ivan Vulovic, 25, had spent six months in prison (August 2009-February 2010) while awaiting trial. They were initially accused of “international terrorism” – for causing an estimated 18 euros of damage to the front of the embassy building.
The ASI now plan to sue their prosecutors and to publish the court documents.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List 2010, the fortunes of super-rich have soared by a third over the past year of recession and increasing unemployment.
The 1,000 richest people in the UK increased their wealth by £77 billion last year, bringing their total wealth to £335.5 billion – equal to more than one-third of the national debt.
It was the largest rise in wealth since the list was first published in 1989, in part due to effects of “quantitative easing”, where the Bank of England pumped £200bn into the financial system. Gratifyingly, the number of billionaires has risen from 43 to 53, with nine people seeing their wealth rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months.
Fittingly, the new Lib-Con cabinet, which is going to impose swingeing financial pain on the rest of us, contains 18 millionaires – out of 23 full-time posts.
Well, it did contain 18 millionaires, until the resignation of David Laws, the chief secretary to the treasury, thought to be worth £1.3m, and his replacement by church mouse Danny Alexander. Gordon Brown’s socialist cabinet is thought to have included only 10 millionaires, worth only a measly £35m, compared to the £60m Lib-Con total.
One in ten of Britain’s prisoners are former members of the armed forces, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform. “The percentage of ex-servicemen [sic] in jail has increased by a third in the last five years,” said ex-paratrooper Tony Banks.
“It is well publicised that some servicemen [and women] face problems when adjusting to civilian life but bitter military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that we have not had such a large number of combat troops returning to civvy street since the Second World War,” said Banks.
The dugong, a coast-hugging sea cow close to extinction, is taking the US military to court over plans to relocate a military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The legal case, Dugong et al v Robert Gates, over Henoko bay, the projected new base site, has been running since 2003, and the dugong are ahead, as the San Francisco court ruled in 2008 that the US defence department had not complied with the US national historic preservation act. The dugong is sacred in Okinawa.
Last issue, we mentioned Tony Fuller’s protest against heavy traffic trundling through his Dorset village (he walked back and forth on the pedestrian crossing). This direct action in Chideock, near Bridport, was itself the victim of direct counter-action, as superglue was applied to the buttons at the crossing, making it impossible to stop the traffic. Fuller: “The battle continues.”
BAE Systems, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, is to develop lead-free bullets for the British army. This more environmentally-friendly bullet (lead poisoning is apparently a danger at firing ranges, don’t laugh) is a response to the army’s call for greater stopping power in Afghanistan. A longer bullet will cause more impact against unarmoured targets such as lean Taliban footsoldiers, and have a longer range.
If you thought the campaign to regulate home education had disintegrated, think again. On 16 June, Ofsted, the education inspection agency, called for compulsory registration, and a compulsory annual home visit, with discussions with children, without their parents present.
The eighth annual Liverpool military show was cancelled at the end of May after the local council withdrew £8,000 funding. Organisers were told the show did not “score highly enough” on the council’s diversity scale to justify funding from the arts and culture budget. Jonathan Swift, where are you?
PN readers will be glad to know that the construction of the $120m Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial in Washington DC, USA, is proceeding. The sculptor of the 28-foot statue, Lei Yixin, will assemble it this autumn (it’s arriving in pieces from China). Joy. You can watch construction live online on a webcam:
Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, employees of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), were arrested on 21 May on charges of possessing obscene material and of undermining the authority of the president. While in detention, the two were tortured by police. On 26 May, police raided the home of Chesterfield Samba, the director of GALZ, and a former council member of War Resisters International.
Ellen and Ignatius were released on 28 May, and are scheduled to stand trial in July. Ellen was given permission by a judge to attend a workshop in conflict resolution in the US in late June, returning before her trial, but a state prosecutor invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to overrule the judge.
A call for direct action against climate change has been made by Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, a state made up of a necklace of atolls whose maximum natural ground level is only 7 feet 7 inches above sea level (ASL), and whose average ground level is only 4ft 11in ASL. Speaking at the Hay literary festival at the end of May, Nasheed said: “What we really need is a huge social ’60s-style catalystic, dynamic street action.”
The main problem was the US, not China: “If the people in the US wish to change, it can happen. In the ’60s and ’70s, they’ve done that.” Nasheed added: “We need to act very quickly.”
Kew Bridge Eco Village, featured on our front cover a year ago, was sadly evicted at the end of May. Villagers fanned out from the site, some creating an allotment on an empty site in nearby Syon Lane, with the owner’s permission. Ten people set up Hounslow Community Land Project on vacant land owned by Transport for London in Hanworth Road, Hounslow.