News in brief

Sing out, sister

In May, East Cheshire’s new mayor was criticised after trying to stop a local resident voicing her opinion during a council meeting.
On 23 May, Charlotte Peters Rock, 66, obtained permission to address the council for five minutes to protest against the closure of a local respite centre for people with dementia.
Having checked the rules to make sure it was not banned, Mrs Peters Rock launched into a protest song. The mayor ordered her to stop, switched off the microphone, and ordered security staff to intervene. Despite being manhandled, she sang to the end, and received a round of applause.

BAE Hawks to Saudi

In late May, the government of Saudi Arabia announced that it had awarded a £1.6bn training contract with BAE Systems. The order includes the purchase of 22 Hawk trainer/fighter jets from BAE (to be supplied in 2016) and 55 aircraft made by a Swiss company.

The aircraft will be used to train Saudi pilots to fly 72 Eurofighter Typhoons made by a European consortium including BAE. The Typhoon order, signed in 2006, was worth more than £6bn.

The latest deal has saved 278 jobs at a BAE factory in Brough, East Yorkshire.

Secrecy for us, not you

The queen’s speech, delivered on 9 May, revealed details of the government’s plan to give the police and security services access to every UK phone call, email and text message, without requiring a warrant.
The Justice and Security bill, announced in the same speech, will allow ministers to declare evidence in civil trials to be too sensitive to be made public, and only to be revealed in secret court sessions, secret even from the litigant and their lawyers. Such secret evidence may involve government wrongdoing. See the Coalition Against Secret Evidence.

Israeli refusenik jailed

On 14 May, 18-year-old Israeli Noam Gur was exempted from further military service, soon after she finished her second 10-day prison sentence this year for her conscientious objection.

Noam said in April: ‘I refuse to join an army that has, since it was established, been engaged in dominating another nation, in plundering and terrorising.... the Palestinian people have been increasingly choosing the path of nonviolent resistance, and I choose to join this path and to turn to a popular, nonviolent struggle in Palestine – this, rather than to serve in the Israeli army and continue the violence’.

Western Sahara

In mid-May, the government of Morocco said that it had ‘decided to withdraw its confidence’ from UN envoy Christopher Ross, who it accused of giving ‘biased and unbalanced guidance’ on the issue of Western Sahara. Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has illegally occupied the territory since then.
Morocco also criticised a UN report, published in April (see PN 2545), which suggested Morocco had been spying on MINURSO, the UN monitoring body for Western Sahara.
In response, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon expressed complete confidence in Ross.
Meanwhile, also in mid-May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the failure of the Moroccan authorities to investigate the beating of a HRW research assistant. Since Brahim Elansari was beaten by police in November 2010, in front of a US journalist, the authorities have not provided any information about the progress of any investigation.
‘If there is impunity for police who beat up a citizen who works for an international organization in broad daylight, in front of witnesses and despite formal complaints, it’s clear how vulnerable ordinary citizens are,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Nepal crisis

PN went to press just after the six-year Nepali peace process was meant to have been finally resolved. It wasn’t.

As widely predicted, Nepali political parties failed to meet the 27 May deadline for agreeing a new constitution. The original deadline set in the interim constitution of 2007 was 28 May 2010 – there have been four extensions, even though the first was judged unconstitutional by the supreme court. The supreme court ruled just before the deadline that extending the life of the constituent assembly beyond 27 May would be illegal.

The main parties are divided on the number, size and borders of the federal states to be created.

The central question is whether state boundaries are to be based on ethnicity. During May, demonstrators from historically-marginalised groups paralysed much of the country with demands for either single- or multi-ethnic federal states.

It is unclear how these conflicting demands can or will be satisfied.

The International Crisis Group has noted the narrowing of the peace process: ‘The commitment to democratise the Nepal Army has already been dropped. The commission on land reform is a dead-end. The issue of justice for war-era abuses continues to be defined by the lack of incentive for all actors to deal with it.’ All of these were commitments laid down in the comprehensive peace accord of 2006 which ended the civil war.

Upper Heyford reunion

On 7 May, activists gathered outside the former US air force base at Upper Heyford, 15 miles north of Oxford, to mark 30 years since the founding of the Upper Heyford peace camp.

In mid-1983, the peace camp organised a nonviolent blockade of the nuclear-weapons-enabled base that involved 752 arrests.

At a meeting in the village hall, activists shared memories and memorabilia and honoured the peace campers and the campaigners who are no longer with us.

The US air force left the base in 1994. It is now a business park.

East London warzone

The alleged terrorist threat to the London Olympics has been made the excuse for a military and security clampdown unprecedented in peace time.

Surface-to-air missiles are to be placed on residential blocks, without consultation with their occupants, to shoot down aircraft suspected of evil intent. An aircraft carrier is moored on the Thames, equipped with attack helicopters.

The Olympic Park itself is surrounded by a massive 11-mile-long high-voltage fence, and is to be guarded by 13,500 troops, 48,000 security guards, with guns, surveillance drones and a sonic weapon that disperses crowds by creating ‘head-splitting pain’. 

Academic action

On 6 July, academics and activists from all over the world will hold a seminar blockade as part of Faslane’s 30 Days of Action (see left), following similar actions at Faslane in 2005 and at the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations.

The theme of the seminar is ‘security’. Participants are invited to contribute papers from a range of perspectives on the complex issue of nuclear weapons. Contact Dr Kelvin Mason or Dr Kye Askins:
MasonK4 AT
kye.askins AT

A new international

A new radical international project has been launched by Michael Albert, one of the main speakers at the Peace News-initiated Rebellious Media Conference last October, and coordinator of one of the world’s largest radical websites: ZCommunications.

Michael is also a co-founder of Parecon, a vision of how to organise society in the future – and how to organise radical projects today (see PN 2530 and 2535).

The International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS) is based on parecon principles as a bottom-up organisation, based on self-managing interconnected national branches and local chapters. The interim committee, which includes John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, David Graeber and Maya Evans, is calling for members.