Monday, 31 July 2017

Blocking Tony Blair’s prosecution for Iraq War ‘an attack on democracy’

Blocking Tony Blair’s prosecution for Iraq War ‘an attack on democracy’
The High Court’s refusal to prosecute Tony Blair over the war he launched in Iraq while prime minister is “an attack on democracy” and grants Britain’s leaders “complete immunity,” campaigners say.
Iraqi general Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat accused the former Labour leader of committing a ‘crime of aggression’ by invading Iraq in 2003 to overthrow former President Saddam Hussein. The general wanted to see the prosecution of Blair and two other key ministers of the time – Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general.
The men currently have immunity from criminal charges over the war after a 2016 ruling said attempting to bring any prosecution would involve revealing details kept under the Official Secrets Act.
Al Rabbat’s lawyers asked London’s High Court for permission to seek judicial review in an attempt to get the Supreme Court, now the highest court in the land, to overturn a ruling by the House of Lords in 2006 that there is no such crime as the ‘crime of aggression’ under the law of England and Wales.
Lord Chief Justice Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Mr. Justice Ouseley dismissed the general’s application on Monday, saying there was “no prospect” of the case succeeding. They held that there could be no prosecution as there was no such ‘crime of aggression’ under English law.
Imran Khan, who represented Rabbat, said his client was “extremely disappointed.”
This is not justice,” he said.
“The invasion and subsequent occupation resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of individuals, as well as the displacement of over four million others including General Al Rabbat, who has had to seek sanctuary and refuge in another country,” he told HuffPost UK.
“Iraq has been left decimated and in a state of chronic instability. Despite all of this, and the clear findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, which laid bare the conduct of those that should be held to account, the High Court has confirmed that there is to be no accountability.”
He added that “those responsible are to remain unpunished,” and that the judgment gave the British government “de facto domestic immunity.”
The 2.6 million-word Chilcot report, which examined the first eight years of the war, said Britain chose to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003 before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted, alongside former US President George W. Bush, whom Blair had already pledged to support.
It added that the UK’s involvement in Iraq was based on a false pretext that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The report found that Blair had misled the British public.
Blair’s arguments for going to war were “based on flawed intelligence and assessments” that “were not challenged [and] should have been,” the report said.
The report also detailed the private deals Blair made with Bush ahead of the invasion. Blair promised Bush “I will be with you, whatever” long before the British public was told that he had set out on a path that inevitably led to British involvement in the conflict eight months later.

Blair protected by establishment 

The Stop The War Coalition’s national officer Chris Nineham says the latest judgment is part of a “concerted and coordinated effort by most of the establishment to protect Blair.”
He said there had been a series of attempts to prosecute Blair, which have all been blocked.
“Cynicism about this controversial judgement will be widespread. Most of all because it will be seen as part of a concerted and coordinated effort by most of the establishment to protect Blair and to stop the damning findings of the Chilcot report from being turned into effective action against him.”
“The Chilcot report did in fact show that Blair systematically misled the British people, backed illegal regime change and knowingly prosecuted an unnecessary war. The conduct of the British establishment since the Chilcot Report has exposed a huge contempt for basic justice and democracy.”
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said the High Court decision is “hugely disappointing” and means justice has been “left undone.” She said last year’s Chilcot report showed Blair had “no respect for cabinet procedure,” parliament or international law.
“Iraq was devastated by the war Blair led Britain into, millions of innocent Iraqis were killed, British soldiers were killed, and terrorism has spread across the Middle East.
“Chilcot revealed the evidence that must now be used to bring Tony Blair to justice. Only when justice is served can we prevent disasters like the Iraq War from happening again.”
The Iraq War caused the death of 179 British servicemen and women, and cost the UK economy an estimated £9.6 billion (US$12.6 billion). It is widely held to have caused the bloody sectarian conflict that brought about the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
According to Iraq Body Count, at least 160,400 Iraqi civilians died during the war.

Imperial delusions about Venezuela

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened Venezuela with economic sanctions if the government proceeds with a vote to elect a National Constituent Assembly, ANC, to rewrite the country’s Constitution.
Venezuela is not about to rewrite the U.S. Constitution or some other country’s constitution. That clarification is necessary because the Trump administration and other governments (Canada, Mexico, Colombia and others) seem to have collectively appointed themselves as members of the Supreme Court of Venezuela.
It should also be noted that Venezuelan opposition leaders have effectively been imposing economic sanctions on their own country for quite some time.
Since winning control over the National Assembly in 2015, Henry Ramos and Julio Borges (who have each served as presidents of the legislative body) have boasted about blocking Venezuela’s access to foreign loans. According to the opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, 55 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of that opposition tactic and only 31.7 percent approve.
As for the sanctions Trump has commissioned, 65 percent are opposed and only 26 percent are in favor. Unsurprisingly, people living through a major economic crisis tend not to be in favor of deliberately making it worse. All of this is taking the numbers of an opposition–aligned pollster at face value. Public hostility towards economic sanctions, whether imposed by Trump or by opposition leaders, is probably even more widespread than what Datanalisis has reported.
These figures are known to many corporate journalists in Venezuela, but good luck finding them mentioned, never mind appropriately highlighted. What you will very often find reported is a Datanalisis finding that 67 percent “disagree” with electing a ANC. I disagree myself. I think it was a bad idea.
It doesn’t follow that electing one is unconstitutional, much less grounds for foreign intervention. Datanalisis also reported that 39 percent think the opposition should participate in the ANC elections. Once again, good luck finding that figure mentioned in the media.
In 1999, Venezuelans voted in a referendum to elect a ANC. The method for electing the body was part of what voters approved. After the Constitution was drafted, it was then approved by voters in a referendum and therefore entered into law. In 2000, presidential and National Assembly elections were held under the new Constitution.
This extremely democratic process was constantly smeared in the international media over the years by claiming that former President Hugo Chavez “rewrote the constitution.” The 1999 Constitution was briefly annulled during the short-lived Pedro Carmona dictatorship, which was backed by the opposition’s core leadership of today (Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez, Julio Borges, Henry Ramos and many others). That dictatorship was also backed by the U.S government and major international media, like the New York Times, who gushed over Carmona.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has alienated some Chavistas by not following the same process as in 1999 – specifically the initiating referendum where voters are asked to approve both the general idea of electing a ANC and the general method for electing one. In fact, the Constitution is very far from clear that an initiating referendum is required, or even a final referendum on the Constitution that is drafted.
However, Maduro has committed to holding a referendum on the constitution that is drafted by the ANC. This is extremely important and routinely ignored in media coverage about the nationwide process. Hopefully one of the proposed changes to Venezuela’s Constitution will be to make to make it crystal clear (as is article 444 of Ecuador’s Constitution) that an initiating referendum is required to convene a ANC, as well as a final referendum on what it drafts.
At any rate, the idea that foreign governments have the right to impose an interpretation of Venezuela’s Constitution is ludicrous. Presumably U.S. citizens would say the same if Venezuela ordered the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United.
Voting in the ANC will be voluntary and through secret ballot. The international press has sought to discredit the vote in a few ways. One is to claim that electoral sectors have been designed ensure the government a majority. Torino Capital, no fan of the government, did an analysis which concluded that the opposition could win control of the ANC with 58 percent of the votes.
The media also reported a figure of about 7 million participating in an informal plebiscite against the ANC, without noting that there are 20 million eligible voters in Venezuela, or mentioning that millions turned out for a dry run of the ANC.
As always, the media has hyped claims that public sector workers are being pressured to vote. The media has been vastly less interested in opposition threats to forcibly impede people from voting. During Chavismo’s worst defeat in December of 2015, 5.6 million people voted socialist. There are only 2.8 million public sector workers in Venezuela, roughly 20 percent of the workforce. Moreover, just taking by Datanalisis polls at face value, about 4 million voters approve of Maduro’s performance.
The mother of Orlando Figuera, a young man who died after being stabbed and burned alive by opposition protesters, was fired from her job as a domestic servant shortly after giving a TV interview in which she denounced the opposition. How widespread is this kind of discrimination in a country where millions work for employers who hate the government?
Don’t wait for the international media to investigate. They’ve had decade and a half to do it. They could care less.
The media has referred to the broad powers the ANC to dissolve other branches of government. That is true, but other branches are not automatically dissolved because a ANC is elected. Nor is it clear that its decisions to do so would stand if voters reject the Constitution in the referendum Maduro has committed to holding.
Maduro is also emphatically committed to holding presidential elections in 2018.
For the past fifteen years, the tactic of labelling Venezuela a “dictatorship” has been central to whitewashing a violent and undemocratic opposition leadership. Even during relatively calm years between 2004-2012, when the opposition was much more divided between those who wanted to oust the government by force and those who preferred an electoral path, hundreds of Chavista peasant activists were assassinated by gunmen strongly linked to wealthy landowners.
Whether it takes power through votes or through a coup, the possibility that the opposition will attempt large-scale massacres of Chavistas is very real, as is the possibility of armed resistance by grassroots Chavista activists and supportive elements of the military. International pressure on Venezuela’s opposition leaders (basically exposing what they are all about) is urgently required.
The U.S. empire consists of allied governments, like Canada, private media companies and prominent NGOs, which all share its delusion that it is entitled to decide which government is a “dictatorship” that “must go.” It is a truly formidable and lethal system of misinformation. Leftists should always do more to challenge the U.S. empire on Venezuela during the Chavista era, and to challenge imperialism in general.
We really need to step up now.

High Court Judges Defy Reason to Protect Tony Blair

 by Craig Murray

There were a number of errors (by me) in this original posting and therefore I have decided to remove it now I have seen the judgement itself. That these errors were in large part caused by erroneous mainstream media reports is a fact, but not an excuse for my being so outraged I rushed in without checking.
In fact, the judgement does accept there is a longstanding crime of waging aggressive war as part of international law, and does not (contrary to the Guardian’s report) argue at all that the international law only came into existence recently.
It argues however that international law is only captured in UK Law when this is done specifically through an Act of Parliament. Indeed the judgement goes so far as to state:
“the clear principle that it is for Parliament to make such conduct criminal under domestic law. Parliament deliberately chose not to do so.”
This surely is problematic. The judgement states that the UK, deliberately, does not follow international law in its domestic law. So the UK is an institutionalised rogue state. Its internal arrangements allow its rulers, its armed forces and other actors to commit international crimes and flout international law with no fear of domestic repercussion as a matter of conscious choice.
It would not be beyond the wit of man to draft domestic legislation making it a crime for those acting in service of the British state to breach international law; it would not be necessary to have separate legislation enacting each piece of international law individually. Separate legislation is however possible and often done – when in the FCO I was often concerned with the enactment of treaty or other international obligations into domestic law, which is generally by secondary legislation.
When Sir Michael Wood, the FCO’s chief legal adviser, told Jack Straw it would be illegal to invade Iraq, Straw replied that there was no court that could try the case. The full significance of that did not really strike me until today. It is no accident; the UK is deliberately set up to be psychopathic entity, its elite breaking international law at will, with no fear of retribution.

‘Shameful for US to call Venezuelan elections a sham’

The US has its election irregularities and sticks its nose into the Venezuelan election as it sees South America as its backyard. Destabilizing the Maduro regime is a primary interest, says Gerald Horne, professor of history at the University of Houston.
About ten people were killed in a weekend of rioting in Venezuela as opposition activists flooded the streets protestingagainst the election of a new assembly.
People were voting Sunday on a constituent assembly which will be tasked with rewriting the constitution. However, the opposition boycotted the vote, defied a ban on public protests and denounced the election as a power grab by President Maduro.
RT: President Maduro says this election, and the new Constituent Assembly, are vital to restoring stability. Do you think that's likely to happen judging by what we've seen so far?
Gerald Horne: It is possible. But you have to keep in mind that there is a third player besides the Maduro regime and the opposition, I am speaking of Washington. It is no secret that Washington is very upset with the Maduro regime. Just today, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley denounced this vote. Washington has promised that it will slap sanctions on Venezuela as a result of the vote. Washington is very upset with Venezuela’s relationship with Cuba, in the first place, but also upset with its relationship with Moscow and Beijing. You should also know that this election and the crisis in Venezuela should be seen in a wider context.
It is no secret that over the last decade Washington had been upset with a turn to the left in South America. But now you see that last year the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office. Her predecessor Lula Da Silva who was expected to run for the presidency of Brazil next year was just convicted. And in Argentina, the Peronist leader, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is now under investigation after serving a term in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, Evo Morales in Bolivia is still in power. But Washington sees South America as its backyard. And it sees as a primary interest destabilizing the Caracas-based regime of Mr. Maduro.
RT: The opposition defied a ban on protests ahead of this election. Are they simply making matters worse and is there any chance of them backing down and accepting the result?
GH: It is difficult to see them back down in the short term because as they see it, they have the wind in their sails. They are receiving significant external support not least from Washington but also from allies in Brazil where there has been a sharp turn to the right of late. I would not foresee stopping its protests any time soon.
RT: The US ambassador to the UN has said this election would push Venezuela towards dictatorship. Is that a fair accusation?
GH: That is quite rich coming from a US representative. As it is well-known elections in the US were studded with irregularities; voters oppression, particularly in the black community, it's par for the course. And it takes a bit of gall and chutzpah for Nikki Haley to stick her nose into Venezuelan elections and charge that they’re sham when she should be attending to the shambolic elections that regularly take place in the US.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.