The BBC Today programme haven’t asked me to appear, but have used a quote from me on their website on the tuition fees debate. That is as close as I’ve been allowed to get to coverage by the BBC in the last twelve months. Presumably it will disappear shortly, but while it’s there:
Mark Egan, clerk to the committee, has sent an assurance that the emails to the Joint Human Rights Commission were in fact read, at least by the secretariat. Thanks to the correspondent who passed this on:
Thank you for your email to Andrew Dismore MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Mr Dismore has asked me to reply.
The Committee staff received over 500 emails relating to Craig Murray’s request to give oral evidence to the Committee. All were read by the staff – I read many of them myself – and the Committee was informed of the number of emails we received and the nature of them.
The emails were deleted on Friday because Mr Dismore had replied to Mr Murray and indicated that people who had emailed the Committee should read his reply, and we needed to free up space in our inbox. We were not able to respond to each email individually because of the number we received.
Most of the emails were read using Outlook’s preview facility, which is why they were technically “unread” according to Outlook. Those which were opened properly were converted back to “unread” so that we could more easily count the total number we had received.
I hope this fully explains how we handled the Murray emails and deals with your suggestion of discourtesy.
Mark Egan, Commons Clerk, JCHR
I accept Mark Egan’s word on this. It remains the fact however that the Committee has still not agreed to hear my evidence.
Mark Egan should be receivng the signed top copy by registered post today. This bears repeating at every possible occasion: this is the signed statement I have sent to the Joint Committee and on which I wish to testify.
WITNESS STATEMENT TO THE PARLIAMENTARY JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
My name is Craig Murray. I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004.
I had joined the Diplomatic Service in 1984 and became a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Senior Management Structure in 1998. I had held a variety of posts including Deputy High Commissioner, Accra (1998 to 2001) and First Secretary Political and Economic, Warsaw (1994 to 1997).
I had also been head of the FCO section of the Embargo Surveillance Sector leading up to and during the first Gulf War, monitoring and interdicting Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement. In consequence I had obtained security clearances even higher than those routinely given to all executive members of the Diplomatic Service. I had extensive experience throughout my career of dealing with intelligence material and the intelligence services.
It was made plain to me in briefing in London before initial departure for Tashkent that Uzbekistan was a key ally in the War on Terror and to be treated as such. It was particularly important to the USA who valued its security cooperation and its provision of a major US airbase at Karshi-Khanabad.
As Ambassador in Uzbekistan I regularly received intelligence material released by MI6. This material was given to MI6 by the CIA, mostly originating from their Tashkent station. It was normally issued to me telegraphically by MI6 at the same time it was issued to UK ministers and officials in London.
From the start of my time as Ambassador, I was also receiving a continual stream of information about widespread torture of suspected political or religious dissidents in Tashkent. This was taking place on a phenomenal scale. In early 2003 a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the preparation of which my Embassy much assisted, described torture in Uzbekistan as “routine and systemic”.
The horror and staggering extent of torture in Uzbekistan is well documented and I have been informed by the Chair is not in the purview of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. But what follows goes directly to the question of UK non-compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.
In gathering evidence from victims of torture, we built a consistent picture of the narrative which the torturers were seeking to validate from confessions under torture. They sought confessions which linked domestic opposition to President Karimov with Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden; they sought to exaggerate the strength of the terrorist threat in Central Asia. People arrested on all sorts of pretexts ?” (I recall one involved in a dispute over ownership of a garage plot) suddenly found themselves tortured into confessing to membership of both the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Al-Qaida. They were also made to confess to attending Al-Qaida training camps in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In an echo of Stalin’s security services from which the Uzbek SNB had an unbroken institutional descent, they were given long lists of names of people they had to confess were also in IMU and Al-Qaida.
It became obvious to me after just a few weeks that the CIA material from Uzbekistan was giving precisely the same narrative being extracted by the Uzbek torturers ?” and that the CIA “intelligence” was giving information far from the truth.
I was immediately concerned that British ministers and officials were being unknowingly exposed to material derived from torture, and therefore were acting illegally.
I asked my Deputy, Karen Moran, to call on a senior member of the US Embassy and tell him I was concerned that the CIA intelligence was probably derived from torture by the Uzbek security services. Karen Moran reported back to me that the US Embassy had replied that it probably did come from torture, but in the War on Terror they did not view that as a problem.
In October or November of 2002 I sent the FCO a telegram classified Top Secret and addressed specifically for the attention of the Secretary of State. I argued that to receive this material from torture was:
A report today from Universities UK addresses the very real problem of underfunding in our universities, and suggests tution fees may need to double. In tandem, a BBC survey of Vice Chancellors and Principals in England and Wales finds that over half of them wish tuition fees to be at least £5,000 pa, and suggestions ranged from £4,000 to £20,000.
I feel called upon to make an ex cathedra pronouncement as Rector of the University of Dundee.
What a bunch of arseholes!
How did we reach the position where the people in charge of our institutions of higher learning are among the most stupid in the country? Only one third of them have retained half a marble. “Two thirds believed fees had not deterred applications from students from poorer families.”
That is a terrible condemnation of how remote these people are from their students in particular, and reality in general. The macho management culture that beset these isles led to these people becoming vastly overpaid and cosseted.
The Thatcherite New Labour system of a mass market for higher education, in which students pay, has never been tested in this country in a period of recession. It ran as a model only during the artificial boom of the Brown South Sea Bubble. At present it is mostly the very poor who are put off university by the levels of debt it entails. Whether demand will hold up as it becomes increasingly clear that the choice of whether to go to university will be between unemployment now, or unemployment in three or four years saddled with a huge debt, is still unclear. My money is that demand will be affected. To increase fees at the present would be a ridiculous gamble.
There is also, of course, the very real loss of social mobility. The deterrence to potential students from poorer backgrounds will worsen as the debt mountains become higher – and the number of people who have poorer backgrounds is about to rise substantially.
I regard the ending of the social mobility that came from free university education as the biggest single disaster of the Thatcher/Blair era.
The tragedy is that our universities could be fixed with under 1 per cent of the money that has been poured into the insatiable maw of corrupt financiers. Scotland’s universities need only an extra £200 miilion pa to return to financial soundness. For the UK, the figure is about £2 billion.
The failure of this stupid government to realise that universities are in fact more economically essential than the speculative wings of banks, is criminal.
The money must be found. But not from the students. And those leaders of universities who favour screwing the students further should be sacked en masse.
How the hell did they get the job in the first place?
In May 2008 Hicham Yezza, an IT technician at the University of Nottingham, was arrested, together with student Rizwaan Sabir, in a well-publicised anti-terrorist swoop. They had downloaded al-Qaida material from the US Department of Defense website as part of Sabir’s academic work on terrorism.
Disgracefully, they were reported to the police by Nottingham University. The abandonment by British universities of any idea of academic independence is one of the unsung tragedies of our recent history. Our universities have become factories for churning out ever increasing numbers of “vocationally trained” graduates into a market with far less graduate jobs than the supply. Such research as is undertaken is tightly targeted, measured and constrained in terms not of human knowledge but of such state concepts as economic and social impact.
In the panic to be seen as helpful to the government, Nottingham University turned in these two Muslims, presumably on the basis that if you were planning to commit terrorist offences, then openly studying terrorism at university would be a good cover.
Actually, as far as I can tell no recent terrorist has had a proper qualification in terrorism from a British university. Surely, given the government’s obsession with vocational training as the purpose of university education, that is something the government must seek to remedy?
The ludicrous nature of the arrests quickly became apparent even to Nottinghamshire Police, and after an unpleasant six days in cells and the permanent shredding of their reputations, the men were released. Disgracefully, there has been no public apology from Nottingham University.
Just as with the face saving alleged “discovery” of child porn on the computer of the innocent “terrorist suspect” the police shot in Leyton, lo and behold Nottinghamshire Police discovered that Yezza was a criminal after all. He was an illegal immigrant!
Yezza has now been jailed for nine months for “securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means”. As he was working and studying at Nottingham University under his own name, the deception is not apparent. But a formal jail sentence for an illegal immigrant in this country is extremely unusual. Yezza was not part of the criminal underworld and if he had applied properly his immigration status would in all probability have been able to be regularised. It is very hard to believe the judge was not motivated by the original slur of terrorism. This must go down as yet another striking example of Islamophobia in this country.
The government refuses to put a figure on the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. Academic estimates tend to put the figure around 800,000. It is generally agreed that aound 1 in 25 Londoners is an illegal immigrant. Having much professional experience with immigration and close personal links to a number of immigrant communities, I would put the overall figure much higher, at around 1.5 million. But to take even the lower estimates, can you imagine the chaos if we started to jail illegal immigrants for nine months? The singling out of Yezza is appalling victimisation.