Monthly archives: December 2007

UN Slams US Human Rights Record During the ‘War on Terror’

In an extremely critical report, Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, documents findings from his mission to the US in May.

The full report (pdf) can be downloaded from:

It provides a comprehensive critique of the US administration and its failure to tackle terrorism within existing and adequate legal frameworks. Some of the key findings and recommendations are highlighted below:

– The UN Special Rapporteur concludes that the international fight against terrorism is not a “war” in the true sense of the word, and reminds the United States that even during an armed conflict triggering the application of international humanitarian law, international human rights law continues to apply.

– concludes that the categorization of detainees as “unlawful enemy combatants” is a term of convenience without legal effect. He expresses grave concern about the inability of detainees to seek full judicial review of determinations and loss of habeas corpus rights

– urges continued and determined action towards the expressed wish of the United States to move towards closure of Guantanamo Bay

– notes that the Government’s justification for military commissions is incorrect as a matter of fact because ordinary courts martial have had the jurisdiction to try violations of the laws of armed conflict

– the report addresses the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects, and their detention in “classified locations”, and the accountability of those responsible for conducting interrogation by techniques amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

– urges the United States to ensure that all its officials and agencies comply with international standards, including article 7 of ICCPR, the Convention against Torture and, in the context of an armed conflict, common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

– urges the Government to take transparent steps to ensure that the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” is completely discontinued and is not conducted in the future, and that CIA interrogation techniques are regulated in line with the position expressed above in respect of the Army Field Manual.

– urges the Government to restrict definitions of “international terrorism”, “domestic terrorism” and “material support to terrorist organizations” in a way that is precise

– urges all States not to act in a manner which might be seen as advocating the use of race and religion for the identification of persons as terrorists.

View with comments

The British Presence in Basra – Costs and Consequences?

With the British forces in Iraq having officially ‘handed over‘ Basra Province yesterday, the debate over whether we jumped or were pushed out has resurfaced. This graph tends to suggest that there were, at the least, compelling tactical reasons to leave, independent of any ‘progress’ on the ground.

The links above come from a site originally set up as the London Friends of Craig Murray blog. This site, set up by a group of, err.., friends in London, supported Craig’s election campaign in Blackburn back in 2005. This year it has morphed in to a dedicated casualty monitoring project, aiming to track the human cost of Blair’s wars to Iraqis, Afghans, and British forces.

The original blog has now moved to a new home at

View with comments

Consultation on the right to demonstrate

A consultation has been initiated by the UK Home Office on the rights to demonstrate near Parliament.

The consultation paper Managing Protest around Parliament stems from a Governance of Britain green paper in which the government committed to consulting on the sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act covering demonstrations near Parliament.

This consultation takes another look at sections 132-138 of that act, and explores whether there is another way to address the situation that would both uphold the right to protest while also giving police the powers they need to keep the peace.

Time is running out for expressing an opinion so if you are concerned about this issue get involved.

The report ‘ Managing Protest around Parliament’ can be read here

The consultation closes on 17 January 2008.

View with comments

Pushing Forward the Torture Agenda

The US administration is pushing forward in its attempts to make torture acceptable. Yesterday, John Kiriakou, a retired CIA agent, received widespread coverage when admitting that water-boarding was probably torture, and then went on to defend its use.

This is of course only one of the unspecified torture techniques authorised in an executive order signed by President Bush in July 2007. The order stated that the CIA was allowed to conduct a special “program of detention and interrogation”.

However, the CIA is under some pressure, with its head, Gen Michael Hayden, testifying to two key congressional intelligence committees about the deliberate destruction of two video tapes of interrogations carried out in 2002. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union had this to say:

“The destruction of these tapes suggests an utter disregard for the rule of law. It was plainly a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence that could have been used to hold CIA agents accountable for the torture of prisoners. Both Congress and the courts have repeatedly demanded that this evidence be turned over, but apparently the CIA believes that its agents are above the law.”

The destruction of these tapes appears to be part of an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing executive authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

The ACLU is in the midst of a legal challenge calling for the release of three documents issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that are believed to have authorized the CIA to use extremely harsh interrogation methods. The memos, which were written in May of 2005, were not included in the government’s response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all documents pertaining to the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The government also withheld the documents from key senators during a congressional inquiry.

Update: The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a motion asking a federal judge to hold the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in contempt, charging that the agency flouted a court order when it destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the harsh interrogation of prisoners in its custody.

View with comments

Groundhog Day

I fear I have entered a time warp. Gordon Brown is in Basra announcing that we are going to reduce our troops pointlessly occupying its airport to 2,500. He hasn’t been there and made that announcement for almost three months, since he tried to steal the thunder of the Conservative party conference. Indeed that is at least seven different times this announcement has been made over eight months.

We have also taken Musa Qala from the Taliban. That is the fourth time “coalition forces” have done that since 2001. I wonder if we’ll do it again next year?

All just became clear. Sky News gave out the headline “As Gordon Brown touched down in Afghanistan, NATO announced they had just taken a strategic Taliban headquarters.” We bombed the town – that’s the way to win hearts and minds. If we kill enough Afghan civilians they’ll love us eventually, no doubt. I expect we’ll manage to hold the town at least until Gordon has left, so that was worth several deaths, including of at least one British soldier.

View with comments

Foreign Office Performance

An extremely busy media day yesterday as given in the entries below, with Nadira in the Sunday Times (which has had a wonderful reaction) and a review (albeit hostile) of my book in the New York Times, while an article by me appeared in the Mail on Sunday, on our Embassies’ apparent inability to help people abroad. You can find that here

I am pleased to say the comments so far all agree with me!

I thought I’d post the original longer version:

Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi are to be wholeheartedly thanked and congratulated for their effort of unconventional diplomacy, which succeeded in persuading Sudan’s obnoxious government to release Gillian Gibbons. But what about conventional diplomacy, our Ambassador and his Embassy, maintained in Khartoum with a British staff much larger than that available to General Gordon. Why could conventional diplomacy and the Foreign Office not obtain her release?

Through many crises affecting Britons abroad ?” including the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the tragic case of Ken Bigley ?” the question of the Foreign Office’s performance keeps coming in for criticism. So much so, that the question is now being raised, by Lord Wallace among others, as to whether Britons abroad should be able to expect the protection of their Embassy. The arguments run that there are more countries than their used to be, some 15 million Britons living abroad and huge numbers travelling, including to pretty well every once obscure corner. Is it time for the FCO to stop pretending to offer consular protection?

There is no doubt that the picture is not good. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, British citizens had been evacuated to the horror and squalor of the Superdome stadium, where thousands of people were crowded among what the BBC described as “knee-high piles of faeces”. After the roads in to New Orleans had become again passable, a British Consulate convoy set out to pick them up. Reaching a checkpoint, they were told they were not allowed to enter without a permit from the Governor of Louisiana. Our intrepid diplomats turned back.

Ten minutes later the Australian consul had arrived. Told he had to turn back, he replied “Are you going to shoot me?” and drove through the roadblock, the Southern Cross flying proudly from his bonnet. . The Australians got out their own people and some of ours. When the British finally arrived at the stadium two days later, having gone through the paper hoops like good little bureaucrats, they found they had almost no-one left to rescue, most of the Britons having been helped out by journalists.

It is an attitude I sadly recognise from my own twenty years in the Diplomatic Service, which is nowadays characterised by lack of initiative, dedication to bureaucracy, clock-watching and an excessive aversion to the slightest personal risk. That of course extended beyond consular activity.

In Tashkent I was under instruction never to travel anywhere, except in an ex-Northern Ireland Police Land Rover bolted over with plate armour, leaving just window slits. That would have made it impossible to mix freely with the local people and move around without fuss. Nor was I supposed to travel into the mountainous border regions, which were the very place we needed to know what is happening.

Of course I ignored these instructions. The FCO constantly burbles on about its “Duty of Care” to its employees, which is much more important than their effective performance of their job. But can we really expect diplomats to live with the risk level of accountants?

I would be the last to argue that British people abroad are always deserving. I am writing from Ghana where two sixteen year old British girls, Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya, await sentencing for attempting to smuggle six kilos of cocaine. I can see no doubt that they are guilty, and that they received a fair trial. I once tried to go to the aid at midnight of a British citizen who had been arrested in Poznan, Poland. He was accused of sexual assault on a girl in the Poznan Hotel.

He worked for a big name merchant bank in London. After speaking to the Polish police and persuading them to release his arms, which were handcuffed behind his back, I asked him what had happened. He replied:

“Listen here you little shit. I earn more than a month than you’ll see in a lifetime. Now get me out of here, or I’ll make sure it’s the end of your career.”

I motioned to the police to lock him up again. Sadly I believe he did eventually succeed in buying his way out of prosecution.

So I have absolutely no starry-eyed view of some of the reasons British citizens get in trouble abroad. But equally I have no doubt about rejecting the idea that we should not regard consular protection as an absolute priority. The first duty of any state is the protection of its citizens. That is why they accept its authority and pay their taxes. The FCO needs to accept that, and to raise its game in this regard. Everywhere in the World we need to make sure British citizens are well treated and free from abuse, given a fair trial where appropriate, and receive patient assistance for genuine need.

Sadly the culture of British Embassies has to become ever more isolated and inward looking. That is not just my perception. The Conservative Party’s Ben Rogers this week published an excellent article on the Conservative Home website entitled “The Foreign Office has a what can I not do for you today culture.” It gives numerous examples of flagrantly unhelpful behaviour by our Embassies, he characterises the FCO attitude as “reactive, unimaginative, uncreative, unidealistic, inflexible, rigidity”.

A recently retired senior diplomat, Carne Ross, in his book “Independent Diplomat” says the FCO has “A culture of amorality”. I would put the same point another way ?” most FCO employees just don’t care. This came home to me most strongly in the FCO when I failed to persuade an officer in our Embassy in Switzerland to leave a dinner party and open up the Embassy at night to quickly issue an emergency passport to a mother whose daughter was in intensive care in Manchester after a car crash. The passport was given the next day, and the woman reached the hospital less than an hour after her daughter died.

This negative culture is reinforced by the government. FCO management continuously emphasise the EU working time directive and discourage staff from working outside office hours. Just as with the NHS, a massive and ever-increasing proportion of FCO resources are sacrificed to internal administration. This has reached ludicrous levels as New Labour is ever more in thrall to the cult of managerialism, and determined to stamp out local initiative.

The FCO has about a dozen key objectives. Every member of staff in an Embassy has to work out what percentage of their working time is devoted to achieving each objective. If you have a member of support staff, who works for several officers, they have an incredibly complex calculation, depending on the percentage of their time dedicated to each officer they support, related to the differing percentages each of those officers spend on each objective. This is a Yes Minister nightmare which is hard to understand, let alone do.

But that is only the start. You then have to calculate the amount of floor space of the Embassy dedicated to each objective, by working out what percentage of which areas are used by which staff, and what percentage of those staff are used for each objective.

This incredible exercise can paralyse an Embassy for weeks, and is just one of many such management exercises. No wonder they don’t have time to help British citizens.

Nor are our resources in the right place. The European Union contains massively more British diplomats than any other region. Despite the fact that the government claims to be emphasising Asia and Africa, the percentage of diplomatic resources deployed in those areas has fallen steadily over the last ten years.

We maintain massive Embassies in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and throughout the EU, situated in vast expensive palaces. Yet the function of these Embassies has greatly shrunk with the advent of the EU, which has subsumed much of the traditional diplomatic function.

Twenty years ago, if we wanted to discuss widgets with the Austrians, our ministry of widgets would have sent a message to the FCO, who would have sent a message instructing the Embassy First Secretary in charge of widgets to go into the Austrian Foreign Ministry and talk with their widget man. The Austrian foreign ministry would then send a report to their ministry of widgets.

Nowadays, the British and Austrian ministry of widget experts will have a close working relationship, and meet in meetings in Brussels at least once a month. In between, they email and phone each other. Not only would they never think any more of communicating via Embassies and Foreign Ministries, they have fallen out of the habit of even copying in the FCO on what is happening.

You can substitute the word widget with fish, aviation, food safety, regional development or pretty well any field of government, and that analysis will remain true. The large bulk of the function of our Embassies in EU countries has vanished. And yet those Embassies have grown, not shrunk, and contain a disproportionate number of our most senior diplomats.

I don’t imagine we will ever convince the FCO that more of our top diplomats need to be in the World’s troublespots, rather than in places with good opera and easy access to Cannes and Aspen. British embassies suffer a whole battery of malaises ?” an uncaring culture, social isolation from British communities, excessive management workload and irrational distribution of resources ?” which make them of little and decreasing use to the British abroad, be they businessmen or citizens in trouble. It will take a fundamental shift of institutional culture to change this.

View with comments

Nadira’s Story

Good interview with Nadira in the Sunday Times today. It is brilliant that she now gets to tell her own story, and it certainly opens up a huge raft of questions.

Apparently there are some great photos in the newspaper, which they haven’t put on the net.

From The Sunday TimesDecember 9, 2007

Ambassador’s belly dancer stages her life

The theatre show recounts Nadira Alieva’s life as a child drug runner and how she was raped twice

Christina Lamb

THE belly-dancing mistress of Britain’s controversial former ambassador to Uzbekistan is to perform her life story on the London stage in an attempt to change her image.

The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer, which opens in January at the Arcola theatre in Hackney, tells the story of Nadira Alieva, the Uzbek dancer who captured the heart of Craig Murray, causing him to leave his wife and two children.

But instead of the comfortable life in the West he promised, she became the target of a smear campaign started after Murray criticised the British government for using intelligence obtained by torture in Uzbekistan.

“The government was using me as a cheap way of discrediting Craig,” she said. “I was described as a bimbo, a prostitute, ‘stupidly beautiful’ by journalists. In fact I have a degree. I was supporting my family.”

Not only was the relationship between the 22-year-old dancer and portly 48-year-old diplomat splashed across the tabloids but Murray lost his job and the couple ended up in a cramped rented flat in Shepherd’s Bush. So poor were they that Alieva started lap-dancing at Spearmint Rhino in London’s Tottenham Court Road, a haunt for City traders entertaining clients.

Now 26, she was a bundle of excitement as she opened the door to the flat where she and Murray have lived for three years. The tiny living room was a jumble of books on world affairs and Britney Spears CDs, and the sofas were old. “It’s not like an ambassador’s residence,” she shrugged. “Sometimes I say to Craig, ‘You should have just kept quiet.’ He would have been ambassador in Denmark.”

In the small sitting room are framed certificates for drama courses he paid for her to take. These gave Alieva the confidence to tell her side of the story through a one-woman show with voiceovers from Murray. It’s a story that opens a window onto one of the most repressive regimes in central Asia, recounting her life as a child drug runner and the two rapes that she endured, and culminating with her dancing in a nightclub in Tashkent when Murray walked in.

With her lithe body and exotic looks emphasised by long-laced leather boots, trilby and wide toothy smile, it is easy to see what attracted him. “Her body invited sex while her eyes screamed ‘save me’,” he later wrote.

Alieva is equally candid about what she saw in him. “All us girls in the club hoped to marry foreigners and escape,” she said.

Her story starts in a small town called Djizzak near Samarkand. Her parents were actors and often out of work. “We weren’t just hungry but starving,” she recalled. The little money the children earned from collecting plastic bottles for recycling or hawking chocolate in the streets was not enough and her father sank into depression. From vodka he moved onto heroin.

“One day he would be happy, saying the world is beautiful; the next he would turn into a monster and beat us,” she said. At the age of 11 she was his heroin mule. “We would travel to a village near the border with Afghanistan where Afghans would bring opium in exchange for food. Because I was a little girl the police wouldn’t check me.”

At 15, Alieva nearly killed herself one night but her seven-year-old brother talked her out of it. “That night I made a deal with God,” said Alieva. “Make me someone, take me out of this place, then I will believe in your existence.” Shortly afterwards she astonished everyone by getting into Tashkent University on a scholarship to study English, the only person from her town to do so. On graduating she began working as an English teacher but her £8-a-month salary barely covered the rent.

Instead she got a job as secretary to a man who ran two petrol stations but who, at the end of the second week, raped her.

She quit. But the money she scraped tutoring English and cleaning was not enough. One day her brother fainted. When she took him to the doctor, they were told he was suffering malnutrition. The next day she was walking past a nightclub and saw an advert saying “dancers needed”. “It was basically a brothel,” she said. But she was earning £150 a month.

Then, one April night in 2003, Murray walked in. “It was my turn to dance and I could see this man, very English-looking, with a half-smile, looking at me,” she said. “He wasn’t sporty-looking or handsome and I wasn’t interested. I just wanted my tip. But the manager said you mustn’t refuse him, he’s the richest man in the place.”

After chatting for a while, Murray suggested that she quit the club and become his mistress. “I told him, ‘You’re not the first to offer’, and I left.” The next time Murray returned to the club, it was Alieva’s day off so he gave another girl £50 for her phone number. Flattered, she agreed to a date. Although she knew Murray was married, they were soon an item. “I’d gone out with diplomats before but Craig was different,” she said. “He’d take me to official dinners and parties and introduce me to people. People were shocked as they knew I was a dancer but he didn’t care.”

But after they had been seeing each other for four months, he went to London with his wife and did not return. “I’d started to feel something for him because of his generosity and gentleness, then, voom, he disappeared,” said Alieva. “Five months without a word. I thought, right, that’s it with men.”

In fact Murray was defending himself against allegations of corruption, alcoholism and exchanging visas for sex, part of a dirty-tricks campaign prompted by a speech he had made the previous year in which he had condemned the systematic use of torture in Uzbek prisons, highlighting a case of two men being boiled to death. So stressed was he that he ended up in a psychiatric ward.

While Murray was away, Alieva was raped again, by an off-duty policeman. Finally, in January 2004, Murray returned. He told Alieva that he had left his wife and wanted to marry her. “My heart was cold,” she said. “But he was alone in the residence and he was unwell so I felt sorry and moved in.”

They had lived together for four months when they came to England on holiday and Murray was suspended and then diagnosed with a heart complaint and given six months to live. Unbeknown to Murray, she decided to dance again to support him and ended up at Spearmint Rhino.

“It was awful,” she said. “They expect you to strip naked for £20. I got more than that in Uzbekistan for wearing a bikini.

And I had to pay the club £80 a night to dance.”

Murray became suspicious at her late-night disappearances and looked at websites she had used. “He stormed into the club to see me flirting with a man and said, ‘Dance for me, I’ll pay you’,” she said. “He’d borrowed money from a friend. He paid the £80 so I could go home. It was the first time I saw his tears.”

Alieva told him he had been so busy with his problems he had neglected her. So when he was cleared by the Foreign Office and given a £250,000 payoff, he paid for her to study drama at Rose Bruford college, in Kent, from which she graduated in July, then for summer courses in Shakespeare and Restoration theatre.

It was discovered Murray’s heart complaint had been misdiagnosed and he was not about to die. After a failed run for parliament in 2005, today Murray scrapes a living giving speeches. He is now in Ghana trying to set up a deal selling electricity.

His account was published in his book Murder in Samarkand. But his self-confessed whisky-loving womanising ways undermine what was supposed to be an expose of the brutal dictatorship of Islam Karimov and Anglo-American collusion. The book is being turned into a movie with Murray played by Steve Coogan. There is talk of Alieva being played by Angelina Jolie. But for the time being she has her own story to tell.

View with comments

New York Times Savages Dirty Diplomacy

The NYT does not seem very impressed by Dirty Diplomacy:


Published: December 9, 2007

A diplomatic posting to Tashkent may not sound glamorous, but it has been an important assignment in recent years. Craig Murray, who served as British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, explains in “Dirty Diplomacy” how the country has played a crucial role in the war on terror. Thousands of American troops have been stationed at the Karshi Khanabad air base, known as K2, and in 2002 American officials approved $140 million in aid for Uzbekistan. Murray found himself caught between geopolitical considerations ?” the strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and the United States and Britain ?” and his concern for the people living under a despotic leader. In his memoir, he incorporates political argument as well as personal reflection.

In 2002, Murray is a chubby 43-year-old Scot prone to wearing kilts. He will make a big impression on people. A Turkish diplomat says: “You are different. You just refuse to play by their rules. You tell them to their face what you think. You know, you would be surprised at some of the people in this town who admire you.” A former Tory member of Parliament calls him “fearless.” A former Australian foreign minister says he is known to be “the best-informed ambassador in Tashkent.” Girls like him, too. The hot-looking women in his posse ?” barmaids, belly dancers, a piano student, a Tatar nanny ?” are continually jumping up, giggling, grinning “fetchingly” and looking at him “with wide eyes,” bosoms heaving. It helps, Murray says in a passage about his “sexually predatory” lifestyle in places like Central Europe and Africa, where he lived previously, that he has more money than “anyone whom they might normally meet.” To his credit, he respects boundaries. When an Uzbek dancer refuses to sit at his table in a nightclub, a government official offers to “compel” her to join them. Murray demurs. “A true British gentleman,” the official says.

Clearly, the bar is not high. Nevertheless, Murray has standards: he believes torture is wrong, and he speaks out against it. He finds disturbing evidence of abuse in Uzbekistan: a University of Glasgow pathology report shows one man “died of immersion in boiling liquid” after being seized by the authorities. Post-mortem photos of an 18-year-old Samarkand resident reveal similar marks: “The right hand looked like cooked chicken.” In addition, Murray writes, “one technique was widespread throughout the country ?” they would strap on a gas mask and then block the filters. I presume that the advantage of this was that it would suffocate without bruising.”

Uzbek officials seemed to use coercive techniques routinely during investigations, he says, yet there was little outcry from the Americans or the British. The executive director of Freedom House, a Washington-based organization that monitors political rights and civil liberties, tells him in 2003 that the group has decided to back off from its efforts to spotlight human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. The shift in policy occurred, she explains, because some Republican board members (in Murray’s words) “expressed concern that Freedom House was failing to keep in sight the need to promote freedom in the widest sense, by giving full support to U.S. and coalition forces.” Meanwhile, British officials insisted that information from coercive interrogations was valuable and that relying on it did not violate the United Nations Convention Against Torture. “That is my view of the legal position,” a Foreign Office legal adviser tells Murray in London. “I make no comment on the morality of the case.”

Murray is furious ?” and continues to investigate abuses, interviewing an 84-year-old woman who was “beaten mercilessly with clubs” and meeting with human rights activists. One of them tells him she repeatedly tried to visit her son after he was sentenced to death. Finally, she was taken to a waiting room. “Then she heard a single shot,” he writes. “The guard returned and told her, ‘You won’t see him now, we’ve just shot him in the head.’ ” These stories are interwoven with accounts of a tumultuous extramarital affair (Murray’s mistress was staying with a G.I. in a Sheraton, where, he tells us bitterly, she made “a determined attempt on the world oral sex record”) and dubious anthropological findings: “In Uzbekistan bread itself is treated as holy. … You must not swear or argue in the presence of bread.” And: “British journalists are decent people with perhaps the strongest ethical code of conduct of any profession.”

Unfortunately, the book is a mess. It elicits two reactions: First, it’s great that someone is telling the truth about Uzbekistan. Second, it’s too bad the someone is Murray, who seems to give the same weight to girlfriend troubles as to arbitrary arrest and detention. Still, he manages to present startling facts about Uzbekistan: More than 99 percent of its trials end in conviction. At least 7,000 people are in prison for religious and political beliefs. This grim reality could be altered, he says, if Westerners worked for systemic reform.

Murray eventually faced charges of sexual misconduct and wrongdoing ?” stemming from a campaign against him that seems politically motivated ?” and was fired. For some, it was a foregone conclusion: during an investigation of “murder and violence against small farmers” in “a pretty little town,” Murray met with the manager of a collective farm. “I don’t suppose you will come back,” the manager says. “Nobody ever does. Tomorrow evening you will go away, and I will still be in control here. That is what matters.”

This seems to be an accurate observation ?” and it is heart-rending.

Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at The American Prospect, is a frequent contributor to the Book Review and the author of “Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.”

Sadly the liberal intelligentsia in the States tends to be dull and balls-achingly politically correct, so what Harry Barnes sees as

his typical blend of seriousness and enjoyment.

is to the worthy Tara McKelvey “a mess”. If you are involved in politics in the US, you must never admit your home life is less than perfect. Interestingly, it is a long-term theme of Tara’s reviews to complain that memoirs contain too much mess and focus on the personal life of the memorialist.

I wonder if her desire for life to be clean, sanitised, depersonalised and not “A mess” results from some underlying psychological problem? Or maybe she’s just very boring.

View with comments


Samina Malik should not be glamorised. The information we have on her is partial, but plainly in at least one aspect she is a stupid young woman with some desperately unpleasant fantasies. She was given to writing poetry that sickeningly depicted political violence, and delighted in it. She indulged her fantasies on the internet.

I disapprove, strongly, of the “Lyrical terrorist”, but disapprobation of society should not entail criminality. Thoughts should not be crimes, and there is no evidence at all that she had any intention of actually committing violence. I am pleased she has not got a further custodial sentence, but we should not forget that she already spent five months in jail. That is wrong, just as I believe it was wrong for Austria to jail David Irving for his equally misguided views. If you persecute an idea, you strengthen its attraction to some, and unpleasant thoughts of marginal attraction acquire the glamour of grievance.

There is not much difference between those who have seriously penalised Malik for her thoughts, and those who would persecute a school teacher for the naming of a Teddy. Those of us who believe in freedom must uphold it – everywhere.

View with comments

Give the Truth For Christmas!

Never Were Truer Words Spoken:

Anyway, buy the book. If for no other reason than Murray deserves some form of income after the way he has been fucked over by his employer, the British government.

That quote is from a very good review by somebody re-reading the book after having visited Uzbekistan. I especially like the bit where he commends me for not pretending to be likeable! I have been saying in interviews that I dislike autobiographies which always appear to be written by people who are perfect themselves but quick to point out the faults in others. Our friend in Csikszereda has found a pithier way to say the same thing.

He is right about my needing the money, too. Christmas is upon us, and you might like to think of those who would benefit from knowing the truths contained in Murder in Samarkand about the world we live in. Give the truth for Christmas!

View with comments

The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer, Arcola Theatre, 8 January to 2 February


Nadira will be performing in a one woman show to tell her extraordinary and often very harrowing story. This is entirely her point of view, and her perspective is often very different to mine. She reveals some things about me I would perhaps not have voluntered myself, but then that’s freedom of speech! She is now deep in rehearsals, and I really do think this will be an extraordinary theatrical experience.

In 2004 Craig Murray, then British Ambassador for Uzbekistan, made two life changing decisions: he spoke out against the U.K Government using intelligence gained under torture by states such as Uzbekistan and he left his wife and children for a belly dancer he’d met in a nightclub in Tashkent. The first led to Murray being suspended from service and lauded as a hero by many for his continued fight against human rights abuses and in particular Western moral hypocrisy. The second was used to undermine his credibility by his detractors in the media.

This is the extraordinary true story of the life of Craig’s mistress Nadira, dismissed in the British press as a dumb bimbo, she fought tooth and nail to survive in a undemocratic, misogynist regime that practices systematic torture on its citizens. Raped twice, and scraping a living by working as a teacher, drugs runner and belly dancer, Nadira has now completed a foundation course in acting at Rose Bruford and graduated last summer from the Drama Studio. With the help of partner Craig she wishes to tell of her own journey from the slums to the Ambassadorial palace of Uzbekistan and finally a rented flat in Shepherd’s Bush

To book tickets:

There is a facebook group here:

View with comments

Ikhtiyor Hamroev

Amnesty International have put out the following urgent appeal in the case of Ikhtiyor Hamroev. This means a lot to me because Ikhtiyor came out with his father Bakhtiyor to save me from a potentially extremely dangerous situtation when our Land Rover crashed on the ice in minus 30 degrees centigrade (Murder in Samarkand pages 140 to 143). The Hamroev family have suffered five years of continual assaults since.

Torture/health concern/possible prisoner of conscience


Ikhtior Khamroev (m), aged 22, student

Ikhtior Khamroev, who has been in jail since September 2006, was

reportedly severely beaten on 29 November. Sources inside the

prison have told his father that Ikhtior had also received stab

wounds to the abdomen, but was locked in a punishment cell rather

than taken to hospital. He is believed to have been detained

because of the activities of his father, a prominent human rights

defender, and may have been beaten to punish his father for his

recent anti-government statements.

He is the son of Bakhtior Khamroev, the head of the Dzhizzakh

section of the independent non-registered Human Rights Society of

Uzbekistan. He was detained in August 2006 on a reportedly

fabricated charge of “hooliganism” following a street fight with

other youths. His father has said he was provoked and acted in

self-defence. He was sentenced to three years in prison the

following month, and is now held in a prison camp in the Dzhizzakh

Region village of Chikurgan. He was severely beaten by prison

staff in December 2006 and refused appropriate medical treatment

for his injuries and other health problems. However, following

sustained international pressure his conditions of detention

improved noticeably: he was no longer ill-treated, received

medical treatment when necessary and was allowed regular visits by

his family.

His family were hoping that Ikhtior might be released early under

a December 2007 presidential amnesty, but when his mother visited

him on 29 November he told her that his sentence had been extended

by seven months for alleged “disciplinary offences”. He feared the

authorities would use this as a pretext to disqualify him from the


Sources inside the prison camp told Bakhtior Khamroev when he

visited on 1 December that during the night of 29 November Ikhtior

had been taken by prison guards to a punishment cell where he was

badly beaten, to force him to admit to further disciplinary

offences, which would almost certainly bar him from early release.

According to the same sources Ikhtior stabbed himself in the

abdomen in protest. It is not clear how he would have had a knife.

He was apparently refused appropriate medical treatment, and

locked in a punishment cell. The prison director has refused to

allow his parents to visit him, and has given them no details of

where he is held or his medical condition.

Since Ikhtior has been in prison, Bakhtior Khamroev had been less

outspoken in his criticism of the authorities’ human rights

record, so as not to worsen his son’s treatment. However he did

criticise them publicly at an international conference on human

rights defenders in the Irish capital, Dublin, at the end of

November, and so it is possible that Ikhtior was beaten to punish

his father. Bakhtior Khamroev made his speech just days after the

UN Committee against Torture concluded that torture and impunity

remained routine in Uzbekistan and criticized the authorities for

their harsh treatment of human rights defenders.

Bakhrom Khamroev has told human rights activists that the

authorities have stepped up their surveillance of him and his

family and that all his movements are closely monitored. .


The situation for human rights defenders in Uzbekistan has

deteriorated during 2007, and the authorities have further

restricted their freedom of speech, assembly and movement in the

run-up to the December presidential elections. In the first four

months of 2007 two human rights defenders and an opposition

political activist were sentenced to long prison terms on what

appeared to be politically-motivated charges. Those human rights

activists not forced into exile and not in detention were

routinely monitored by uniformed or plainclothes police, called in

to their local police stations for questioning, placed under house

arrest or otherwise prevented from attending meetings with foreign

diplomats, or from taking part in peaceful demonstrations. Human

rights defenders reported being threatened by members of the

security forces for carrying out legitimate activities; several

reported being beaten and detained by police or people they

thought were working for the security services.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as

possible, in Russian, Uzbek, English or your own language:

– expressing concern at reports that Ikhtior Khamroev was severely

beaten on 29 November and that the prison authorities have refused

him the medical treatment he needs;

– urging the authorities to disclose Ikhtior Khamroev’s

whereabouts immediately;

– urging them to ensure that he receives all the medical treatment

he requires and is allowed visits from his family;

– calling on the authorities to promptly investigate the

allegations of ill-treatment and bring those responsible to


APPEALS TO: (Time difference = GMT + 5 hrs / BST + 4 hrs)

President, Islam KARIMOV

Presidential Residence, ul. Uzbekistanskaya, 43, g. Tashkent, UZBEKISTAN

Fax: 00998 71 139 53 25,

Email: [email protected]

[Salutation: Dear President Karimov]

Head of the Prison Service, Abdukarim SHODIEV

Ministry of Internal Affairs

UZBYM MVD Respubliki Uzbekistan,25, Ferganskoye shosse, 700005 g. Tashkent,UZBEKISTAN

Fax: 00998 71 133 89 34

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

[Salutation: Dear Minister]

PLEASE SEND COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO: His Excellency Mr Tukhtapulat Riskiev, Embassy of the

Republic of Uzbekistan, 41 Holland Park, London W11 3RP.

Fax: 020 7229 7029

Email: [email protected]



Director of prison camp where Ikhtior Khamroev is held


KIN UYa 64/78, p Chimkurgan, Zafarzhan district, Dzhizzakh region,


[Salutation: Dear Director]

Head of the Dzhizzakh Regional Department of Internal Affairs

Zhaloliddin AKBAEV

ul. Narimanova 30, 708000 g. Dzhizzakh. Dzhizzakh region,


Fax: 00998 72 226 03 02;

[Salutation: Dear Zhaloliddin Akbaev]

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Please do not send appeals after

16 January 2008.


View with comments

Good Riddance to Andy Hayman

You read it here first:

Just like Tony Blair and WMD, the same applies to Ian Blair and Andy Hayman:

– Never take the word of a proven lying bastard.

People who are prepared to engage in lies in one sphere are generally not trustworthy in any. So Hayman’s fighting of terrorism from exotic holiday resorts with young female police officers, paid for by you and me, and his improper contacts with the investigation into the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes, are no surprise at all.

Doubtless they’ll quickly find another uniformed propagandist to take his place.

View with comments

John Milligan – Another Dodgy Donor


The News of the World has the dirt on another dodgy Labour donor, John Milligan, who has made a very good return on his Labour donations from planning applications made possible by New Labour when they ran the Scottish Executive.

As readers of this blog know, Milligan got more rewards for his Labour donations, including the Chairmanship of the court of Dundee University, where I am Rector. Milligan, together with Sir Alan Langlands, tried to use the University blatantly to influence the election in the marginal Dundee West constituency. Had they succeeded, Labour not the SNP would now be in office in Holyrood.

This was, of course, not the first prestigious post that Milligan had got from New Labour. Here is an appointment of Milligan by that well known criminal and liar Wendy Alexander:

It is perhaps not the most obvious of the problems we face, but there is a very real danger to the whole philosophy and basis of higher education, from having it under the increasing control of philistine Nulab control freaks. Please have a look at my recent Rectorial Installation address:

View with comments

Just Throw Cheques

In the interests of public welfare, I post no photo of Wendy Alexander. If you thought Alisher Usmanov was ugly, you should see Wendy Alexander. Strangely, she is actually photogenic, in that her stunning, almost superhuman level of repulsiveness in the flesh does not really come through in photos, where she just looks plain ugly.

Anyway, the leader of the Nulab minority in the Scottish parliament has been caught not only with her own dodgy donations, but blatantly lying about them. A stream of documents leaked from her private records include a signed personal letter of thanks to a donor she claimed never to have heard of. Best of all is a document from her husband’s computer listing donors in one column and their false identities in the next.

The Nulab strategy at the moment is to use their control of the BBC in Scotland, the Scotsman, Daily Record and most of the other Scottish media to prevent anyone learning the facts of the case. The Sunday Herald has done a very good job to try to break through that.

The Procurator Fiscal in Scotland is not quite as well buttoned up by New Labour as the Met and, especially, the Crown Prosecution Service are in England. So Ugly Wendy may yet be the first senior NuLab figure to go to jail. I do hope so.

I am not in general prejudiced against ugly people. It does not inevitably follow that their ugliness is a metaphoric reflection of their inner disposition. But in Wendy’s case, it is. If you are very ugly, dear reader, please don’t be offended, I mean you no harm.

Anyway, I strongly urge MSPs to carry cheques with them and to wave them at Wendy every time she stands up to speak in Holyrood.

View with comments



This gentleman is Bennie Abrahams, father of David Abrahams aka David Martin, Labour’s “property developer” peculiar donor, whose ability to get planning permission for major developments in areas next to the A1 where development is banned, is of course in no way related to his secret donations to New Labour.

Bennie Abrahams was a Labour Councillor in Newcastle for decades including throughout the 1960s, when he was one of T Dan Smith’s men in what was perhaps the most famously corrupt local government in British history, with the Poulson scandal only a chip off the tip of a very large iceberg. David inherited most of his massive property portfolio from the beautiful Bennie whose relationship with T Dan Smith was unlikely to have been unhelpful to the development of those property interests.

It is particularly interesting to me as I met T Dan Smith, as a small child, in our house in Peterlee. I am not sure if I also met Poulson. My father had a gaming business, Cam Automatics of Seaham Harbour, operating in Newcastle and throughout the North East, and he had to “keep happy” the Labour Party bigwigs who controlled all the various licensing bodies, including Newcastle City Council. He told me that Get Carter was an absolutely accurate portrayal of the atmosphere of those times, of the complex interlinking between all types of organised crime and local government, and of the levels of violence often involved.

It may have a smoother face now, but I learnt in standing for election in Blackburn that the corruption, both financial and procedural, arising from long term Labour domination of councils is as hard-nosed and vicious as ever. Scotland has countered this by introducing proportional representation for local elections, effectively eliminating one party mini-states. England is of course a comparatively benighted country.

As our political parties have become ever more monolithic, with huge staffs and huge advertising budgets, they have also all become less popular, with party memberships and voting turnout both tumbling. These two developments are linked. The major political parties are no longer groups of people working for a common belief, but large corporations attempting to get their hands on the levers of power for the enormous personal benefit this brings to those who control them. The local campaign and efforts of local people in a constituency, on the whole, is now drowned out by the massive national advertising and coverage of huge, expensively glitzy rallies.

The answer is to cap donations, from companies, individuals and trade unions, at £10,000 a year, and for parties simply to shed their armies of spinners and researchers, and dispense with control of every billboard in the country at election time. A candidate in a constituency election has “strict liability* for offences like bribery and treating. He has no defence of ignorance if someone from his campaign does it. Similarly any donation offences should be of strict liability, with Party Leader, Chairman and Treasurer all liable to three years imprisonment for any offence.

View with comments