Un Rendez-vous

2009/10/27

The concept of fairness was “constantly evolving”, he added

They would say that, wouldn’t they?

Any evidence of MI5 and MI6 involvement in the rendition and torture of Britons now seeking damages must be heard behind closed doors, the government told the high court today.

In a move with profound implications for how the security and intelligence agencies can be held to account, ministers want the evidence to be withheld from the victims of illegal activities and their lawyers.

It is the first time the government has asked the courts to rule that evidence should be kept secret in a civil case involving claims for damages. “I entirely accept [it] is a departure” from the normal course of such litigation, Jonathan Crow QC, for the agencies, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the attorney general, told Mr Justice Silber.

He said that although such a “closed” procedure had never before been adopted in a civil claim for damages, there was no reason in principle why it should not be used if it was necessary for what he called “the just disposal of the case”.

The concept of fairness was “constantly evolving”, he added. An alternative would be to “strike out” the claim launched by seven former detainees.

The seven are Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg, and Martin Mubanga. All are British citizens or residents who were held at Guantánamo Bay.

The government wants the evidence of what MI5, MI6 and other officials knew of the torture or mistreatment, and in particular what the CIA told them, to be shown in secret to special advocates appointed by the attorney general, Lady Scotland.

Move to withhold evidence in torture collusion claim

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2009/10/13

Mr Carter-Ruck, meet Barbra Streisand

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 13:28

Good job keeping that a secret, boys.

The existence of a previously secret injunction against the media by oil traders Trafigura can now be revealed.

Within the past hour Trafigura’s legal firm, Carter-Ruck, has withdrawn its opposition to the Guardian reporting proceedings in parliament that revealed its existence.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly put down a question yesterday to the justice secretary, Jack Straw. It asked about the injunction obtained by “Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton Report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura”.

The Guardian was due to appear at the High Court at 2pm to challenge Carter-Ruck’s behaviour, but the firm has dropped its claim that to report parliament would be in contempt of court.

Here is the full text of Farrelly’s question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.”

At Westminster earlier today urgent questions were tabled by the Liberal Democrats in an attempt to get an emergency debate about the injunction.

Bloggers were active this morning in speculating about what lay behind the ban on the Guardian reporting parliamentary questions. Proposals being circulated online included plans for a protest outside the offices of Carter-Ruck.

The ban on reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds appeared to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today’s published Commons order papers contained Farrelly’s question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian was initially prevented from identifying the MP who had asked the question, what the question was, which minister might answer it, or where the question was to be found.

Gag on Guardian reporting MP’s Trafigura question lifted

2009/09/18

Die Linke

Filed under: anti-war, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 00:38

Who would have thought that the Germans would be against a doomed war in Afghanistan or — gasp! — wealth redistribution?

Against a backdrop of multicoloured pre-fabricated housing blocks, a tanning salon and a travel agent offering last-minute deals to the Baltic coast, Frank Spieth handed out red balloons, pens and advice in equal measure.

The concerns of those who approached his campaign bus in Erfurt, the former communist east of Germany, were primarily local: a woman fighting for compensation from a hospital after contracting MRSA, another seeking a ramp access to her building, a man complaining about the state of windows in the city’s schools, which he said needed replacing even before the fall of the wall 20 years ago.

But in little more than a week, when Germans vote for a new parliament, Spieth and his allies are hoping to make a national impact.

His anti-capitalist, pro-social justice Die Linke is striking a chord with an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, espousing causes – such as inequality, reunification issues and, crucially, the war in Afghanistan – that are finding a receptive audience in both east and west.

“Our voters are representative of millions of Germans who feel cut off from the political process and they could have a significant impact on Germany’s political landscape,” said 62-year-old Spieth, who left the Social Democratic party (SPD) in 2003 after 37 years in protest at its restructuring of the social welfare state.

While Die Linke’s rivals have mercilessly attacked it for its radical wealth redistribution plans and its links to the defunct communist regime, its message is clearly getting through.

“The promises [of the mainstream parties] to us about the blossoming landscapes which would follow after unification are mere speech bubbles,” said 68-year old Erika Seebach, the MRSA sufferer, in Erfurt. “While some might accuse Die Linke of populism, they get things on to the agenda that really matter.”

Polls gives the party about 14%, but after huge gains recently made in key regional elections at the end of August, where it won 21% in the western state of Saarland, Die Linke is being seen as the party that could shake up the political landscape in the 27 September vote.

The policies of bigger parties, including the chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and its junior Social Democrat partner, are now seen to be disturbingly similar in comparison.

“Generally there are only a few themes that particularly distinguish most of the parties,” according to Renate Köcher, joint head of the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy. “It’s only really Die Linke that stands out, in particular for their critical position regarding the German economy and societal order.”

Spieth embodies the verve and drive of many in Die Linke. The party, founded just two years ago is, he admits, “a motley crew of democratic socialists, social democrats, communists, Christians, you name it”.

Broadly speaking it consists of disillusioned easterners, former members of the ruling communists, and disaffected members of the centre-left SPD.

Die Linke is promising to redress the rich-poor divide by pumping €200bn (£178bn) a year into job creation and financing a gigantic public spending programme, a plan opponents dismiss as unworkable.

Its anti-capitalist stance has raised its profile at a time when expressing such views has become increasingly fashionable, though it has failed to cash in on the economic crisis as growth resumes in Europe’s largest economy.

But it came into its own in the aftermath of a recent Nato air strike, ordered by the German military, in northern Afghanistan. The attack triggered a fierce debate about pulling German forces out of Afghanistan. Die Linke is the only party in parliament that is calling for the immediate withdrawal of German troops. As many as 80% of people in Germany are against the Afghan mission.

“It’s got people talking about the war, which the other parties had wanted to exclude from the discussion, and that can only be a good thing for us,” said Oskar Lafontaine, a former SPD finance minister and one of Die Linke’s most prominent leaders.

“The majority of people are against this war due to our own appalling experiences in two world wars but if we don’t keep this issue on the agenda, no one will,” he told the Guardian at an anti-war rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

As he went on stage there were roars of approval as he punched the air and with sweat dripping down his shirt, proclaimed: “We’re proud to be anti-war. As Willy Brandt said there should never be war on German soil ever again. That should be the message for now and the future.”Christoph Hein, a leading German novelist from Leipzig, who as a pacifist said he was a Die Linke supporter, albeit a reluctant one, put the rise in its popularity down to the increase in floating voters.

“The days when people voted for one party are over. People feel deceived by the other parties, but at least they feel Die Linke speaks their language, and this war issue is a good example of that.”If there is one factor holding the party back, it is the claim that it is a home for the “loony left”.

Die Linke party wins German votes by standing out from crowd

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