News in brief

Finally Mark Stone

Former British police spy Mark Kennedy, who infiltrated anti-climate change and other activist groups between 2003 and 2010 (see PN 2530), is now working as a security consultant for the Densus Group in the US, providing ‘investigative services, risk and threat assessments’, according to an entry on his online LinkedIn profile.

The new job, like Kennedy’s initial exposure, was first reported on the activist media website Indymedia before being picked up as ‘exclusive’ breaking news by mainstream newspapers.

In this case, the Indymedia report came on 1 June; the Evening Standard ‘exclusive’ (and Guardian story) on 21 June.

Flotilla at last

On 28 May, charges were at last brought for Israel’s May 2010 assault on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza (PN 2523- 2524).

The indictments were laid at a Turkish court against four Israeli military leaders, the former chief of staff of the Israeli defence force and the former heads of military intelligence, the navy and the air force. They were indicted for incitement to murder the nine unarmed humanitarian volunteers killed during the assault, and incitement to torture others during the attack.

If the four are convicted, the Turkish court could issue a warrant for their arrest. Israel carried out its own investigation but has not prosecuted anyone involved in the raid and has said it will not cooperate with this trial.

Israel: The truth never

On 30 May, it was announced that Israel is to prosecute a Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau, who demonstrated that senior Israeli officers had authorised the targeted assassination of Palestinians.

Blau drew on 700 classified military documents leaked by Israeli soldier Anat Kamm, who was as a result sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison last year (PN 2540-2541). 

Blau is charged with ‘aggravated espionage’, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Guantanamo forever

The 169 men held in the US Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, including 87 cleared for release, can no longer challenge their indefinite detention without trial.

That is the effect of a US supreme court ruling handed down on 21 June, refusing to uphold a previous ruling in 2008, while giving no reasons.

In 2008, the supreme court gave Guantánamo prisoners the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention under habeas corpus. Subsequently, lower courts whittled away at this right, so requests were sent to the supreme court to reaffirm Guantánamo prisoners’ rights. It refused.

Western Sahara

In early June, Western Sahara Resource Watch accused the Danish vessel Marianne Danica of illegally shipping phosphates from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Marianne Danica left Laayoune in Western Sahara on 6 June, headed for Denmark.

Shipowners Folmer & Co denied acting illegally, but refused to identify the cargo – classified as category A dangerous, a category that includes phosphates.

According to international law, trade in resources and goods from Western Sahara is illegal according unless the people of Western Sahara themselves accept the deal and benefit from it.

Morocco, which has illegally occupied the territory since 1975, sells many of Western Sahara’s resources, including phosphates, which are used in fertilisers. Western Sahara is home to the world’s longest conveyor belt system, a 60-mile facility that has been operating for 30 years, taking phosphates from the mine at Bu Craa to Laayoune.

Late news: back in late April, Sahrawi fisherfolk boarded a Swedish fishing boat and chained themselves to the deck in protest at being systematically excluded from employment on foreign fishing vessels.

According to reports received by Western Sahara Resource Watch, the protest blockaded the ship for 13 hours.

Nepal crisis

After six years, the Nepali peace process is entering an explosive new phase. The directly-elected parliament/constituent assembly failed to agree a new constitution at the end of May, and was dissolved, pending new elections in November.

The Maoists, formerly a guerrilla insurgency, then the party with most seats in the constituent assembly, are currently the dominant partner in the coalition caretaker government.

On 18 June, the party split into two.

The party in government, hilariously, continues to be the ‘Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)’. The breakaway, headed by former vice-chair Mohan Baidya, is called the ‘Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)’. This is the original name of the party, used by rebel Maoist Matrika Yadav when he broke away in 2009 (see PN 2506).

The Baidya-led party is said to regard the 2006 comprehensive peace accord (that ended the 10-year civil war) as a strategic error. Baidya himself has argued that: ‘The objective circumstances are favourable for a revolution. We should now create the subjective circumstances for revolution.’

Most of Nepal’s political parties have declared that they will refuse to take part in the elections, and are trying to dislodge the Maoist-led coalition on the basis that the dissolution of parliament was unconstitutional.


Up the workers

After three years’ work, the Radical Routes network of radical co-ops presented the updated version of their brilliant ‘How to Set Up a Workers’ Co-op’ pamphlet to the world at the Northern Futures co-op conference on 23 June.

It is available for £6 (inc p&p) from Radical Routes, Cornerstone Resource Centre, 16 Sholebroke Avenue, Leeds LS7 3HB, or it can be downloaded for free:

What's not being taxed

Economic justice group UK Uncut has just released a 24-minute documentary on its successful struggle to take the tax authorities to court over their ‘sweetheart deal’ with Goldman Sachs — which let global banking giant off £20m in tax:

What's (not) being cut

In June, more than 4,000 British military personnel received redundancy notices (of which about a third are compulsory) in the largest single reduction in the last 20 years. In 2010, cuts were announced of 5,000 jobs each in the navy and air force, 7,000 in the army, and about 25,000 civilian jobs in the MoD.

A further reduction of 12,000 army personnel was then announced, which will cut army numbers to 82,000 by 2015.

The slimmed down force will have a much heavier emphasis on special forces capabilities, according to plans revealed in June.

There’s also an emphasis on replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system.

The MoD awarded contracts worth £350m for designing replacement submarines in May, and then signed contracts in June for £1bn of work on two submarine reactor cores, one of them for Trident replacement.

Licence to kill

A recently-declassified memo indicates that the British government gave British soldiers a ‘licence to kill’ in Northern Ireland. The memo records a meeting on 10 July 1972 between then-secretary of state for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, the top army commander in Northern Ireland, the deputy chief constable and senior civil servants.

The 10 July meeting discussed the army’s strategy in Northern Ireland, noting that Whitelaw would announce the government’s intention to carry on the war with the IRA ‘with the utmost vigour’.

Crucially, the meeting concluded: ‘The army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified’.

In 1972, before and after this meeting, British soldiers were responsible for shooting dead 79 people, most of them civilians. No soldiers faced court proceedings for any of these killings.