Daily archives: July 30, 2006

Iraq war families win hearing: Legality of invasion to be considered in court

From The Herald (27.07.06)

THE families of four young soldiers killed in Iraq were yesterday granted permission to challenge the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into why the UK took part in the war.

But senior appeal court judges who overturned a previous ruling blocking the right to a judicial review over the legality of the conflict also warned it was unlikely that the move “has a real prospect of success”.

The judges added that there were “formidable hurdles in the way of the applicants”, who include Rose Gentle, the Glasgow housewife-turned-campaigner who lost her 19-year-old son Gordon in a roadside bomb attack in Basra in 2004. Lawyers for the government claim it would be “an unwarranted shift of power” for the courts to make pronouncements on the right of an elected government to go to war.

Despite this, Sir Anthony Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Judge and Lord Justice Dyson, ruled that it was “at least arguable that the question of whether the invasion was lawful ‘ or reasonably thought to be lawful ‘ as a matter of international law is worthy of investigation.”


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The Crown’s copyright con

By Becky Hogge in OpenDemocacry

As the UK government abuses copyright law to stifle free speech and obstruct freedom of information, the case of Craig Murray reveals how the impulse of power to control dissent is crushing democratic rights anew.

It is nearly two decades since the British government tried to ban Spycatcher, and you would expect them to have learned their lesson. After throwing ?2 million in legal expenses after the biography of former MI5 operative Peter Wright, her majesty’s government was forced to admit defeat in October 1988, leaving ministers red-faced and Wright seriously in the black, thanks to the free publicity afforded his book by his repeated trips to courts across the globe. Eighteen years on, it’s the turn of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to have a go. But this time they have a new weapon in their armoury – the vagaries of the British copyright system.

The book in question is Murder in Samarkand, the memoirs of former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. In it, Murray exposes the human rights abuses of Islam Karimov’s regime and details how, during his stay in Tashkent, he came to realise that the “War on Terror”, in which Uzbekistan played ally to the US and UK, was essentially a hypocrisy. The book charts Murray’s confrontation with his superiors at the FCO, his allegations of intelligence obtained under torture, the FCO’s rebuttal of his fears, and their alleged attempts to drive him out of office.

Murray held off publishing Murder in Samarkand for many months as he exchanged letters with the FCO’s Richard Stagg on his intention to publish the book. Although Murray made cuts from the original text, the FCO still threatened legal action were he to publish, on the grounds that the book remained defamatory, inappropriate, misleading and a breach of trust. Stagg also warned that a case against the memoirs might be pursued under copyright law.


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Murder in Samarkand: The Curmudgeon Review

It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it.

By Philip Challinor in The Curmudgeon

It begins with an expression of amazement by a member of the British embassy staff in Uzbekistan. The source of his amazement is the fact that the British ambassador to Uzbekistan has any interest in what might be happening in that part of Uzbekistan which lies outside the gates of his residence. Craig Murray’s predecessors, and presumably successors, displayed no such interest.

As Murray discovered to his cost, this was not incompetence or negligence on their part. Uzbekistan, under the dissident-boiling regime of Islam Karimov, was a designated vital ally in the War Against the Abstract Noun and therefore an automatic recipient of the Bush administration’s seal of approval as a burgeoning democracy. Accordingly, it was the British ambassador’s patriotic duty to sit on his hands, make appropriate noises at social functions, and congratulate the regime on its nonexistent reforms while Karimov’s goons raped as many people and pulled out as many fingernails as they dashed well pleased.

Although a promising diplomat with experience in Nigeria, Ghana and Poland, Murray was unpatriotic enough to allow his personal distaste for torture and totalitarianism to get in the way of his professional judgement. The Foreign Office offered him the gentleman’s way out: a chance to resign rather than be kicked out on charges so incompetently fabricated they were an insult to the craft of trumping-up. Murray compares it to the good old-fashioned Britishness of being given a revolver and expected to do the decent thing; instead of which “I picked it up and started shooting at the bastards”. Truly, our values are not what they once were.

Starting with his witnessing of a dissident “trial”, which was largely a platform for the judge to make bad jokes about Muslims before passing sentence, Murray recounts his professional and personal adventures and vicissitudes from his arrival in Tashkent to his formal suspension from duty and resignation from the diplomatic service. It is clear that he made thoroughly unscrupulous use of his ambassadorial status not only to promote British commercial and cultural interests in Uzbekistan, but also to investigate human rights abuses and even, in one instance, to encourage asylum seekers to apply to the United Kingdom for accommodation. It is heartening to report that, for a change, they were turned down quickly enough to spare the taxpayer both the expense of deporting them and the tedium of reading about them in the Daily Mail.

Naturally, the Foreign Office did all it could to rein in Murray’s excesses. Their efforts to keep him from making a fool of himself led naturally to the ruin of his health, both physical and mental; and naturally, having nothing to hide, the Government has censored his book, delayed its publication and done its best to suppress the correspondence (released under the Freedom of Information Act) which substantiates Murray’s claims. Fortunately, these documents have been mirrored elsewhere, so it is still possible to gain some idea of the Government’s honesty, innocence and pristine attachment to principle.

Like many enemies of truth and decency, Murray exerts a certain dangerous charm. Despite the often harrowing subject matter, his book is always readable, never boring and sometimes hilarious. It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it; and you certainly will not sleep better if you believe it, even though it does include a tip on how best to drink vodka with the KGB. Doubtless this is why the Government has done so much to protect us from it.

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