Yesterday 123 people were arrested for demonstrating in St Petersburg and Moscow. They were demonstrating against Putin’s unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of assembly. I have a high opiniion of Mikhail Gorbachev, whose over the top eightieth birthday celebrations were deserved. The truth is that Putin has rolled back almost entirely the personal and political freedoms which Gorbachev initiated. Mary Dejevsky has no problem with this, just as she has no problems puffing the Karimov family. It quite astonishes me that a person holding her opinions is accepted, indeed lionised, in the British media. Mutatis mutandi you could subsititute Putin and Russia for Hitler and Germany in this article throughout.
Yes, we don’t understand why modern Russians love Putin. Nor did we understand why Nazi Germans loved Hitler. And a good thing too.
Talking of eightieth birthdays, it is also this week the eightieth birthday of Dan Ellsberg, who was last week arrested while protesting about the detention conditions of Bradley Manning. The Sam Adams Associates decided to each send Dan, one of our members, a personal congratulatory message. This was mine:
I was sitting in a bar in Kumasi, Ghana, a couple of weeks ago. The bar TV was on Sky News, and a photo flashed up of a distinguished looking gentleman being forcibly led away by an over-armoured policeman.
“Good Lord, that’s Dan!” I said.
“Do you know him?” asked the barman.
“Yes, he’s a friend of mine” I replied. And I felt enormously proud.
I still do.
Your one lifetime has been worth many thousands. Here’s to the next twenty years of telling the truth.
It is quite astonishing that, while we are at war ostensibly to stop abuses of human rights in Libya, the government is pushing legislation to protect the Pinochets of this world – and the Emir of Bahrain, Karimov and all our other allies – from prosecution here for their tortures, rapes, maimings and killings. That this was done by a government including Liberal Democrats beggars belief. There is a good letter in the Guardian:
• We urge MPs to reject clause 152 of the police reform bill tomorrow. Official British statements abroad about our democratic values and commitment to international law are meaningless when our MPs are voting for a clause that would make it considerably more difficult to secure the arrest, in England and Wales, of those suspected of war crimes. We expect our MPs as elected representatives to reject any political interference with the courts and to respect their impartiality.
Our leaders are out of step on this issue: a new ICM poll shows that only 7% of voters would back plans to make it easier for those suspected of war crimes to visit the UK. When citizens are risking their lives protesting for human rights, democratic freedoms, and an independent judiciary in their countries – and especially now Britain’s role in supporting dictatorships is under the spotlight – this is no time to make it harder to arrest suspected war criminals here in the UK.
Robert Del Naja
Professor Quentin Skinner
Baroness Jenny Tonge
Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Salman Abu Sitta
Finally, there is an extremely important exchange of articles between George Monbiot and Henry Porter which, if you ignore the personal status battle, makes some truly vital points about Nick Clegg’s failure to deliver on his pledges to roll back New Labour’s assault on personal liberty in the UK. Here are Monbiot and Porter.
It has also become clear that there has been no change in UK collusion with torture abroad. The government has still never said that it will not receive and use intelligence gained by torture abroad, and it will not say so. The much vaunted inquiry promised by Clegg into UK complicity in torture still shows no sign of happening, will be extremely circumscribed in its scope, conducted by the personally compromised commissioner for the intelligence services, and take place largely in secret.
Meanwhile what happened to that other coalition agreement mainstay, a House of Lords wholly elected, by proportional representation? It appears to have been entirely forgotten.