Kafka 2016 229

To my astonishment, the FCO Official Spokesman has just confirmed to me that the FCO stands by Phillip Hammond’s statement that the members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are lay persons, and not lawyers. Even though every single one of them is an extremely distinguished lawyer.

I confess I am utterly astonished. I know there is nothing more dull than an old buffer like me droning on about falling standards in public life. But when I was in the FCO, the vast majority of colleagues would have refused to advance what is a total and outright lie, about which it cannot be argued there is an area of interpretation, doubt or nuance.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office officially states that the members of the UN Working Group are all lay people, and not lawyers. Given a chance to retract, they confirm to me that this is their official position.

I repeat again the cvs of all the Working Group.

Sètondji Adjovi (Benin, Second Vice-Chair) Adjovi, an academic and practitioner specialising in international criminal procedure and judicial reform, worked at the International Criminal Court and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda before his appointment to the UN WGAD.

Mads Andenas (Norway, Chair and member until mid-2015) Chair of UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention until mid-2015. Has previously held positions as Director of the Centre of European Law at King’s College, University of London and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London. Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Oslo.

Mr. José Guevara (Mexico, First Vice-Chair) Guevara is a legal academic and practitioner who focuses on Human Rights Protection and International Criminal Law. Prior to joining the WGAD, worked in the NGO sector, Mexico City’s Ombudsman’s office and in government in the area of human rights. Guevara is the recipient of the Open Society Foundation’s New Executives Fund leading the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights.

Seong-Phil Hong (Chair-Rapporteur, Republic of Korea) An expert member of the Asian Council of Jurists of the Asia Pacific Forum and legal academic, Seong-Phil Hong has specialised in the case for reparations regarding Japan’s Enforced Sex Slavery during the Second World War and accountability for human rights violations by the North Korean regime.

Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine) A legal academic and practitioner whose expertise lies in international criminal justice and procedure. Tochilovsky was part of the Preparatory Committee and Commission that drafted the guidelines on criminal procedure for the International Criminal Court.

I honestly don’t know what to say, or to think, any more. When you have a government which believes it does not even have to pretend that its words and actions have even the remotest relationship to truth, I cannot conceive how society can continue to function in any direction other than fascist.

229 thoughts on “Kafka 2016

1 2 3 8
  • Ben-Outraged by the Cannabigots

    It’s getting harder for lawyers to trumpet that noble profession. Since Shakespeare’s day rotten apples dominate the legal profession so the self-loathing has broken the surface. Not that there aren’t competent attorneys who have integrity. There just aren’t enough to make a difference.

  • John Goss

    “I cannot conceive how society can continue to function in any direction other than fascist.”

    Me neither. The writing’s on the wall and you do not need to be the prophet Daniel to interpret it.

  • Mark Golding

    Agreed – authoritarian, totalitarian tyrants hold authority in British society today and tomorrow. Meanwhile we console ourselves watching X-Factor…

  • eddie-g

    I was under the impression that “official spokesman” for government departments these days are generally parachuted in by the governing party, they aren’t career civil servants.

    That doesn’t excuse lying, or defending a blatant lie, but it might explain the behaviour a bit better.

  • craig Post author


    The head of the department will be parachuted in. But there are loads under them who are career civil servants. The convention is that whichever one you talk to, they are credited as “the official spokesman”. There are lots of him.

  • fedup

    Welcome to the “new” realities!

    In this country now people are afraid to speak out, everyone is watching their back and in this new bizarre world no one in the government or local government is prepared to give anything out, other than their first name on the phone and when asking for a reference the stock answer is remember the date and the time!!!

    You are shocked!! You would be apoplectic if you were walking in the shoes of some of the others, Muslims are no longer safe walking in the streets.

    Just ring the police and try to report a RTA and see how they treat you!

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Does this latest up-date post indicate that Craig originally suspected the Minister was being set up by the FCO?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    And that he was and those who set him up are now being made to pay for it?

  • Nuada

    Well, they’re not British, so do they count as “proper” lawyers? At least that’s the way the FCO would look at it.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    How do we know that Mads Andenas is a signatory to the Working Group’s opinion on Assange? Can’t find a list of signatories. J

  • Mark Golding

    Phillip Hammond’s elusion and contempt for the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is in a way, historical.

    Thirteen years ago to this day, Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham had printed out a secret email from Frank Koza, who headed up the “regional targets” section of the NSA, the National Security Agency, the US ‘special relationship’ partner to GCHQ. The substance of that communication was effectively ordering the intensification of espionage at the UN headquarters in New York to help persuade the Security Council to authorise war in Iraq. The aim, according to the email, was to give the United States “the edge” in negotiations for a crucial resolution to give international authorisation for the war. Many believed that, without it, the war would be illegal.

    Just like Craig here, Katharine Gun was appalled by the email in two ways. First by the seediness of the operation: she believed the clear message was that GCHQ was being asked to find personal information that would allow Britain and America to blackmail diplomats in New York. But second and more importantly, she believed GCHQ was being asked to undermine the democratic processes of the United Nations.

    For this disclosure, Gun was arrested under the Official Secrets Act and almost a year later she finally appeared at the Old Bailey to stand trial for leaking the NSA document. But, in a dramatic retreat, the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, dropped the case at the last minute and despite her prima facie breach of the secrecy laws, Gun walked free.

    Katharine’s “defence of necessity” to save thousands of human lives would have revealed Lord Goldsmith’s advice to PM Blair that the Iraq war was ILLEGAL and is the prima facie evidence that is delaying in perpetuity the findings of the Chilcot inquiry.

  • eddie-g

    Ok Craig, thanks. I was referring more to departments’ communications teams, which Blair made a habit of stuffing with his flunkies, and Cameron has continued in the same vein.

    But understand now that the official spokesman in any given situation can be anyone of many officials.

  • Republicofscotland

    So effectively Westminster can pedal any shit as the truth, and they’ll be no recriminations.

  • Tom Welsh

    It’s hardly surprising. In this, as in everything else, they are simply imitating their American masters.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    I am wondering if the FCO is taking as the formal definition of a “lawyer”, membership of a nationally or internationally recognised body of legal practitioners, such as (in the UK) membership of the Law Society or the Bar Council.

    I do not know if the members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have formal memberships in this way. This does not seem to be apparent from examination of their on line biographies. This may be the wiggle room that Hammond and the FCO are relying upon.

    Kind regards,


  • Hieroglyph

    I read those CV’s, and almost laughed. They aren’t just lawyers, they are massively clever expert lawyers, with formidable CV’s. That’s a whopper from Hammond. I would be astonished if the corporate media don’t call him on this lie, it’s too flagrant, too massive. I mean, there is bullshit, which is expected, and their is an astonishing, easily disproved whopper. Surely someone has to step up? Corbyn will, I’m sure.

    I note the normally excellent Marina Hyde already has an Assange-bashing article. Self-identifying feminists have, almost all of them, disgraced themselves over the Assange case. Most of them don’t even bother to understand the facts, before basically calling Assange a sleazy, justice-dodging rapist. I hope he sues them all into oblivion for defamation, and gives the money to the communist party.

    I will now trawl the internet, looking for someone – anyone – in the corporate media calling out Hammond. This isn’t funny, at all.

  • Don

    …and so it continues.

    A continued assault on the lay persons moral and idealistic values that culminates in their political beliefs being kicked to the kerb.

    “We know what is best for you…”

    I’m sick of it, keep it going Craig.

  • Ben-Outraged by the Cannabigots

    ” it’s too flagrant, too massive.”

    Holy Moly. Have you ever heard of a ‘loophole’? i am quite certain this is another lawyer’s legerdemain. Magicians do take an oath not to reveal their tricks. Lawyers use Latin because it’s a dead language and that makes them preeminently qualified to manipulate it. Is it a wonder our elected legislators are largely lawyers?

  • RobG

    I’ve written thousands of words about Assange over the years (I’m a supporter of him) and I’m glad to see recent events; but this is against the backdrop of the continuing degradation of ‘democracy’ in the West and the ever encroaching police state.

    People might remember that back in 2013, Assange tried to get elected to the Australian senate. Here’s a very bad limerick I wrote at the time…

    There once was a man called Assange
    Whose party became a blancmange
    They called him narcistic
    Not really realistic
    And a bugger to rhyme with ‘orange’ (French pronunciation)

    My bad poetry aside, with recent events, if Assange does manage to legally leave the Ecuadorian embassy he’ll be a dead man walking unless he can get to somewhere like Russia.

    Wikileaks didn’t stop when Assange claimed asylum almost 4 years ago. Amongst other things, wikileaks have been instrumental in revealing details of the highly secretive 3Ts trade deals that are going on at the moment…


  • John Spencer-Davis

    Mark Golding
    05/02/2016 10:31pm

    I have just watched Katherine Gun’s testimony.

    I do not think it is possible for anyone who has not been in her situation to fully appreciate the agonies of spirit that she clearly must have suffered before, during and after her decision to take the actions that she did. I think that it is an outrage upon common humanity that the UK Government – apparently, in this case, almost as a matter of routine – permits or authorises the infliction of the kind of moral dilemma she (and dozens of her colleagues, presumably) faced, upon its employees. I also wonder about the emotional effects upon her colleagues of having to go the other way, and hear lies that they know perfectly well are lies from their political masters and have to live with the knowledge that they cannot do what they are almost morally compelled to do. To know that you are unable to do what you know you should do, because you are too frightened of the consequences, must terribly deform the spirit, and the authorities should have to answer for that as well as for what Katherine Gun went through.

    It’s interesting to mentally place this incredibly brave young woman next to Blair, Straw, Goldsmith, et al, I think, and see how they measure up to her.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,


  • John Goss

    Mark Golding 5 Feb, 2016 – 9:34 pm

    Good point Mark.

    Of course today, with all the new Acts, so many spooky things are heard in secret, nobody knows what in God’s name is going on,(Owen’s Litvinenko Inquiry springs to mind) but Katherine Gun would probably not be free today. Today it is not just Kafkaesque, it is Orwellian too. Nobody knows who’s monitoring every move on your computer. I have to keep restoring the system. I suppose they know you can hear the hard-disk being scanned? I always check for a legitimate scan.

    The state of the art is much more frightening than Kafka or Orwell.

  • Hieroglyph

    Interestingly, the ministerial code of conduct was updated recently, wasn’t it? Your minister is no longer expected to abide by international law, as I recall. The UK will just ignore this ruling, as will Sweden; evidently they are unwilling to see what the US has become, and will continue to follow orders. Never ends well that.

    We need Corbyn’s Labour party to step up here. Nothing on Corbyn’s twitter yet, though that might not mean much. A considered response isn’t a bad thing, no matter what the impatient Blairites might tell you.

  • Mark Golding

    You are welcome John and thank-you. Myself, I am certain there cannot be a spiritual measure available because the quantum exists at a totally different frame of perception.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Mark Golding
    05/02/16 11:49pm

    I use the term “spirit” as a convenient and poetic shorthand for the human moral sense and emotional equilibrium. I regret to say I have little idea of what your words mean!

    Kind regards,


1 2 3 8

Comments are closed.