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Question/Comment
13 March:   Pete does have a point. The claim in today's papers that Gaddafi's army will kill half a million people has no basis at all. It is a wild exaggerated claim by losing rebels that has the obvious purpose to stir up a response in support of the rebels. As such, it hardly helps the rebel cause as it makes one suspicious of the truth of anything they say. Having said that, I happen to agree with Briony that we should do something and, to take Anthony's point, just because we got things wrong over Cyprus is no reason not to do the right thing now.   Pegasus
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The UN Charter (much like the Geneva Conventions) may need updating to reflect the changing world we live in and to confer a power of intervention in humanitarian crisis. However, to do that would really undermine the authority of the UN unless the key decisions were made by the UN and, if that were the case, what would be the point of change? What definitely needs to happen, I would suggest, is the development of a more flexible mechanism for making important decisions in the Security Council that will enable a rapid response to an urgent crisis. If that is likely to meet with an unreasonable veto, eg for political reasons, then an alternative would be to convene an emergency meeting of the Assembly and allow a vote to be taken with a given percentage majority being required from those members present at the vote. Then, any nation that was not there could not complain about the outcome. A percentage majority would overcome any necessary number of states to be present for a quorum, although one would always hope that in major crises nations will be concerned enough to want to turn up for key debates.        Aspals
13 March:   I find it quite interesting that the UK's response to what is happening in Libya, a country with which it has no real ties, is so different to its response of more than 36 years ago to the invasion of Cyprus, a small country that was a former colony and with which it had, and still has, basing rights. Back in 1974, when a force of over 30,000 Turkish troops invaded this tiny island and displaced the population, subsequently changing the demography by importing mainland Turks to live in the occupied territory, all in breach of international law, the UK and US supported the aggressor. 36 years later, and with numerous ECtHR judgments against them, the Turks remain in illegal occupation and even have the temerity to continue to seek EU membership when they are in illegal occupation of the territory of an EU member state and in violation of international law. And what is the UK's reaction? To encourage Turkey's membership. So, I would suggest there is a marked degree of hypocrisy in the foreign policy of this government and, whatever the merits of the present case, a certain amount of grand standing by the PM for personal kudos as a strong leader.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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13 March:   Criminals who are the perpetrators of violence cannot invoke self defence unless the response is manifestly out of proportion to the level of threat. They are the wrongdoers. Self defence is what the so-called rebels are relying on, as the victims of years of abuse and human rights violations committed against them by that evil man and it is our moral duty to help them.   Briony
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13 March:   after saying they didnt want any help the rebels now want it cos theyre losing and now trying to alarm us by saying that thousands will die if gadaffi wins. things wouldnt be any different if it was the other way round no libyan soldier would be safe.    pete  [Ed: Link added]
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If war crimes are committed then those responsible must be brought to justice, no matter which side of the combat divide they are on. No War Criminal is a "good guy".        Aspals
12 March:   Nice thought Bryony but we have to stick with the law I think. If the UN sanctions it then OK but we can't just take things into our own hands. That's the thing about sovereignty. All this is happening inside Libya's borders and hasn't been an attack on its neighbours or the EU or the States. If you support the rebels, surely you must agree the right of the Libyan government and its supporters to defend themselves.   Tess
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11 March:   There is a moral obligation on civilised nations to lift those oppressed by dictators out of tyranny. The UN and EU have both been shown to be inadequate and, dare one say it, irrelevant, with the Russians threatening a boycott in the UN and many EU nations failing to support a unified approach by the EU. Only a few weeks ago families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing were reliving the horrors and pain of that terrorist atrocity when the perpetrator was freed from Scottish jail in dubious circumstances, and returned to Libya. That was a powerful reminder of the sort of man Gaddafi is that he could order the deaths of so many innocent people. We should support those struggling for their freedom and stand up for justice. Gadaffi is an evil and objectionable little man. Mr Cameron is right to want to take some form of military action.   Briony
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11 March:   Anthony's comment about the problems associated with helping out rebel opposition groups fighting Middle East dictatorships is a good one. If you help out one rebel group that just happens to the enemy of your enemy and so, as the saying goes, your friend, you set a precedent for the furture. So when a rebellion starts against a dictatorship that you are on friendly terms with and who do you loads of favours for, such as the Saudis, your caught on the horns of a dilemma. The US is right to stand back for fear of the consequences. Cameron and the ConDems haven't thought that far ahead. Even Sarkozy is having a crazy moment, wanting to go it alone against Gaddafi. They've probably got the troops ships and airplanes.  Will
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Latest reports on Twitter say that there are clashes in Bahrain between protesters and police.        Aspals
11 March:   The present crisis in Libya is one that has produced different responses from the nations. The US, who some here thought would be more hawkish, have been more measured, while Britain and France are eager to jump in with their armed forces (such as they are in Britain, after SDSR) and intervene. Some (Mr Portillo being one) would even wish to do so without a UN resolution.
The Allied operation in the Gulf, in 2001, had more legitimacy than the present mooted operation against Libya. I say this because there is an argument that the earlier resolutions justified military action without going back to the UN. This was even the view of the Attorney General at the time, in one of his advice minutes. The Foreign Office lawyers took a contrary view. In any event, the intervention in Iraq has been an ongoing source of criticism and recrimination in the UK, with some accusing our erstwhile politicians of war crimes for waging war on Iraq and claiming that we should have sought UN backing. But, in relation to Libya, there is no existing UN resolution to argue as still applicable. We therefore need to look for lawful justification. Libya has not attacked its neighbours. Colonel Gaddafi is fighting a civil war to retain control of his country and to fend off rebel forces. As much as one might detest him, we do not have carte blanche to rid the world of nasty men per se. Otherwise the world might have taken a different view of some of the African leaders - or even some other regimes in the world that our governments have friendly relations with and used military might to depose them.
As a member of the UN, the UK (and other nations) must bring its actions within the provisions of the Charter. Without UN authorisation or an invoking of the self defence provisions, it is difficult to see how we can find legitimacy in that course. There is no "humanitarian intervention" concept with the UN Charter. I believe the late Lord Bingham was also of this view. Therefore, how can we say there is greater legitimacy to intervene in Libya than there was in Iraq? We must not forget, either, that the rebels have not asked for foreign troops to assist them. France's recognition of the rebels as the official government is a nice gesture, but completely meaningless.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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10 March:   what scipio said. lawyers will always find a justification for military action if one is needed. internaitonal law is ajoke its the law of the most powerful  pete
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8 March:   George Bush and Tony Blair have moved on, the USA has a new leader and the UK has a new leader. They now have to prove that they are capable of tough action to follow the tough talk. So we now face the possibility of yet more military involvement, meddling in other people's affairs although where we are going to get our troops from is another matter. If the UN decides the need for humanitarian intervention, then that's fine, provided it is not taken as an excuse for war mongering when the US contrives a confrontational situation with Gaddafi's troops so that they then have the excuse they are itching for to get involved and get rid of him. Personally I would rather he went and went quickly, but that must be done in compliance with international law. The other thing to think about is what will replace Gadaffi if he does go. Will it be a truly democratic government or a Muslim fundamentalist one.
Saudi Arabia will be watching these events very closely to see how the west reacts. After the revolution in Egypt when Mubarak, a former friend of the US, was stabbed in the back by them, they will know that as soon as the situation becomes volatile in their own country they will not be able to count on any support from the US or UK. Fairweather friends.  Scipio (sorry for wrongly attributing this initially. Now corrected Aspals ).
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7 March:   Referring to Thinners, I was referring to the jurisdiction of the ICC. I agree that intervention in the territory of another state has to be sanctioned by the UN or fall under self defence. Can't see Libya attacking anywhere else at the moment so fail to understand how it is that NATO is making contingency plans unless it is for humanitarian purposes under a UN banner.   Tess
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5 March:   What Tess says is related to the ICC not to grounds for intervention. Only the UN can authorise it (although NATO stuck 2 fingers up to them in Kosovo).   Thinners
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5 March:   Tess may be right but since when did the law get in the way of political muscle? Pete is right that the international law is brushed aside when it suits. The UN Charter is quite clear from what I can tell. Today's daft article in the Mail suggests we are sending troops and spies to land in Libya. Imagine that the other way round. We'd regard that as pretty serious invasion of our sovereignty wouldn't we, but it's a great example of cak handedness on behalf of our government if it's true. Of course they've got to find the troops, air force and navy to support any operation. Let's just hope that the Argies aren't reading about our defence cuts. I wouldn't fancy living in the Falkland Islands right now.  Baz
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4 March:   The ICC statute says the court has jurisdiction for 4 crimes: (a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; and (d) The crime of aggression (not yet adopted).
In the case of Libya, the attacks on civilians would be regarded as falling within either or both of the first two groups and in the case of an non-international conflict, which is what is happening in Libya, violations of common article 3, the third category of war crimes.
Any military action has to be within the authority provided by the UN Charter and acting without a UN Security Council resolution would be a breach.   Tess
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3 March:   the need for lawful authority didnt stop intervention in kosovo without un authority and that was an internal fight. nato chose to involve themselves.  pete
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3 March:   All of this talk of intervention and no fly zones makes me wonder where the lawful support comes from to do them? We might not like Gaddafi but his country is going through a civil war and he is entitled to hold his state together no matter how much other countries might not like it. Am I right?  Thinners
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2 March:   The defence cuts haven't got anything to do with strategic thinking, it's just the government implementing the latest limb of its policy of Christian persecution. After all the forces have more church-goers in them than the rest of the country.  Baz
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2 March:   David Cameron is stumbling around in the dark. School cadet force experience aint a substitute for the real thing Mr C. You really don't know what you're doing.  Thinners
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2 March:   The news stories today show how pathetic David Cameron and his government are at handling military problems. Cutting 11,000 troops and telling them while they're fighting a war is so daft that it would be funny if it wasn't so dangerous. How does he expect combat troops to focus on fighting a war when they will be fretting over the possibility of losing there job. Then he announces a withdrawal which is great news to the Taliban and any other potential enemy that if you just hang on for long enough Britain will lose the stomach for a fight, probably because its too broke to sustain an operation that it talked big about in the first place. Tell me Mr Cameron what are our soldiers fighting and dying for? Then he talks big about Libya and a no fly zone when he is cutting the airforce, but none of the other countries even the US think its a good idea yet. Cameron and the ConDems are useless and clueless about the armed forces, like conservative governments before them. Anyone who thinks the Tories are forces friendly needs their head examining. I will NEVER vote Tory again.  Will
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Well said, Will. We can also mention the volte face over Service pensions. Telling people, on joining up, that they will earn a pension according to the RPI and then, when they've earned it after serving their country and retire from the forces, reneging on that promise and the expectation it created is an unspeakable betrayal. Yet Mr Cameron and his government hardly seem to have batted an eyelid as they wield their axe in their war against the three Services.        Aspals
22 February:   no escpae from this eurocrap. see todays telegraph. none of the politicians will take us out of the euro court. we'll just get more and more daft decisions that we have to go along with. cameron and his legal man should have known that when they were making such a big fuss.  pete
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21 February:   I have just seen the reply to my post - is it possible to notify replies above the posted comment so that we know there is a response? To come back to Aspals questions about who the RMP would report to, I would propose either the Met Police Commissioner or some newly created civilian body.
On the debate about the ECtHR I thought Lord Woolf was right when he said this morning on the Today programme that there was a choice between staying party to the Convention or leaving it. A middle way with a British Bill of Rights will not work and would be confusing to judges. They will just have to follow the Convention, whatever the UK Bill might say. I can't see us withdrawing form the Convention so, as Anthony says, it's all hot air.   Tess
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It is difficult to do as you suggest Tess, unless my responses are posted as such, rather than comments at the end of a posting, which I prefer (as now). As cumbersome as it is, can I ask that you just check your postings to see whether there is an Aspals comment. If a comment is made, there is only one unique to each posting.
The idea of a sort of Ombudsman for the RMP is an interesting one. I supose we shall just have to wait and see whether a challenge is mounted to the new system. Personally, I think the independent police oversight provisions are sufficient to avoid improper interference with investigations, although I would rather have seen the statute refer to "interference" simpliciter.
Lastly, Lord Woolf is of course right. We're either in or out. There is no half-way house. No government will have the stomach to take us out of the Convention - and the Council of Europe knows that. All the same, the recent squall will have shown that we don't like being told what to do by foreign judges who have no inkling of what the British Common law system is about, nor about our high calibre judiciary. If they did have that understanding, they would tread more warily before overturning our judicial decisions and riding rough-shod over our Parliament. As I said a few years back, membership of the ECHR will inevitably mean that the Common law is diluted by continental civil law concepts: Le Code Napoleon. Wellington will be turning in his grave!        Aspals
20 February:   The government aren't going to sort out the European Court of Human Rights. The posturing by Parliament - great political drama and made the point that we were upset by what the court decided on the question of prisoners' votes - actually will not change the price of bread: we will comply with the judgment, as Ken Clarke says we will. The vote in Parliament - a massive 10:1 rejection of the ECtHR decision - was a non-binding vote on a cross-party motion. It is also clear from what he says that there will be no withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights. So, one might ask, what is the point of a Bill of Rights? If we remain party to the ECHR, Convention rights will override a mere domestic bill of rights, as all victims have a right to seek a ruling from the ECtHR, by virtue of Article 34, which "The High Contracting Parties undertake not to hinder in any way...". The only caveat is that all domestic remedies are first exhausted (article 35).
Of course, what Mr Clarke says and what Parliament has said are two quite different things. But, I would be very surprised if the government withdrew from the Court. He quoted the PM as saying we will comply with the law - and we remember Mr Cameron's performance on the issue a few days earlier, giving Tories a free vote in Parliament. Like Baz said, lots of smoke and mirrors. Or, as the bard once wrote, in the Scottish play, the PM's words are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The view of Lord Hoffman is quite different, in that "there are means by which, with sufficient support from other states in the Council of Europe, we can repatriate our law of human rights. It is worth a try." But Ken Clarke, an implacable Europhile, has different ideas. So, what started as a concerted move to rid ourselves of the ECtHR and its highly questionable judgments that interfere in the domestic affairs of its member states in a manner far in excess of its authority (especially on matters of national security) may, at best, see some reigning in of the excesses of the court. At worst, it will end a damp squib. If it works I hazard that it will not be long before mission creep starts once more and we have public indignation again. Then, I suppose, we will be making the same points all over again.
One thing which I think has also emerged from the curent furore is that there is genuine concern about the way in which the judges of the ECtHR are considered to be exceeding their authority and the manner in which they are interpreting Convention rights. Another genuine concern relates to the suitability of some judges and, importantly, the selection process to determine who sits on a particular case.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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20 February:   The goverment are going to sort out the European court, which means they won't withdraw from it which is what we should do. The whole thing is smoke and mirrors to get us to believe that they mean busines but they don't really. The only answer is to get out of the court and leave human rights to our courts.   Baz
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You are actually correct, Baz. Ken Clarke said today, there was no question of Britain withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. He then went on to repeat "Only the Greek colonels have ever repudiated the convention on human rights."       Aspals
19 February:   The case for withdrawal from the European Human Rights court looks like its gathering speed after the daft decision made about prisoner voting and the silly remark by the head of the court comparing the UK approach with the Colonels dictatorship in Greece.
At last the government shenanigans over pensions are exposed. Today's Daily Mail reports that pensioners have been cheated out of £80 billion by the government, mainly the last lot. Looking at what the present government plan to do they are no better. They now hope to cheat the squaddies and war widows by ratting on the military covenant. As for making it law, it wont prevent them from stuffing the services when it suits them while at the same time letting the bankers who ruined the country take huge bonuses and move profits off shore. Typical Tories, punish the poor and less well off and of course hammer the civil service and armed forces who can't strike.  Thinners
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19 February:   Apologies for not replying before. I still do not see a denial by Aspals that the RMP are under the chain of command. From what I have read about the army and RAF position before the latest changes, the heads of the proscution offices were outside of the chain of command and reported to the DPP/Attorney general. The civilian director of the SPA does the same from what I can tell. Nobody reported to the Defence Council which is the the top of the army and air force and navy isn't it? If it is then isn't that the pinnacle of the chain of command? To be independent the police have to report to someone outside the three services.  Tess
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So, who would you have the Service police report to? The Home Secretary? The Commissioner of the Met Police? I don't think there is an equivalent to the Attorney General (who oversees the SPA). The fact that there is a statutory mechanism to oversee the independence of investigations should flush out any problems over command influence, perceived or real.       Aspals
15 February:   Aspals looks like he is conceding that the military police are not outside the chain of command. If they are not, then the possibility of interference is still there. What happens to military police on operations? Whose command are they under? Who decides what they investigate? Where do they live, with members of the unit they are investigating? I agree that the fact that the SoS can call in the Inspectorate to inquire into investigations is at first sight inappropriate, but it looks like this is additional to the Inspectorate's mandatory report on the effectiveness and independence of each service police force.
It might be difficult for the civilian police to investigate in war zones, but that does not mean they can't do it. Personally I can't see any difference in the application of investigation principles. The advantage is that they are separate from the military and would not be susceptible to command influence or the subtle peer pressure of investigating the unit which was providing them with accommodation. That can;t be a pleasant thing to do. So I am still not convinced the changes go far enough.   Tess
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I think the changes go a long way towards ensuring that investigations are independent. The proposed inspection regime will be able to address the concerns that Tess raises. I agree with her that the SoS power to order an inspection and report is additional for any of the three purposes listed in the draft clause. With that independent inspection in place, there is every reason why the military police will want to make sure they fend off any improper attempts to influence them when investigating. In reply to Tess' comment about the application of investigation principles, she makes a good point. But the principles she speaks of are to be applied within a service context, with its own language, structures and lifestyle. Knowing your way around the chain of command and understanding the military ethos can make the investigation more effective. That is something that military police understand and civilian police do not, even assuming one can find civilian police willing to venture into a combat zone - they would not do that in the Roberts case even after the criticism of the initial military police investigation (the shortcomings of which, interestingly enough, were highlighted by another military police officer, the OC SIB in Germany). We need military police - and military prosecutors - to undertake these tasks. If Tess thinks they are not ideally suited for these jobs, I suggest they are better suited than the civilian alternatives.       Aspals
13 February:   if any politician said it was raining i'd need to go outside and check so who believes anything they say about the military covenant until they honour the pensions commitment. a loss of two pc on my pension each year isnt something i can afford.  pete
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13 February:   Thank you for publishing a link to the Armed Forces Bill. I am delighted to see that there is a provision to introduce civilian prosecutors and am pleased that at last the move toward civilianising the prosecution authority is progressing again. But I think the Bill does not go far enough and should really take the prosecutors out of service hands entirely rather than the piecemeal approach being taken of civilianising another aspect of prosecution with each new Bill. I just wish they had the guts to grasp the nettle. At this rate of change it will take another 30 years before prosecutions of criminal and serious disicpline offences become really independent.
I am really pleased to see that the military police are to be made independent for the purpose of investigations but I still don't think the Bill goes far enough. There has to be removal from the chain of command as was the case with the army and air force prosecutors. The Bill doesn't mention this at all apart from a reference to reporting to the Defence Council. That is the pinnacle of the armed forces. It should make its position clear. As Lord Phillips intimated earlier this week, when he commented that the Supreme Court's very independence was threatened by the funding arrangements currently in place, independence must be more than cosmetic. If we are to have any faith that police investigations will be carried out properly, reporting, funding, and career management should be outside the control of the army. The Bill doesn't explain this to be the case. It's a missed opportunity.   Tess
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Unlike Tess, I think the use of civilian prosecutors (if by that one means the employment full time of such lawyers rather than the occasional use of counsel from chambers) is a sad and regressive step for military discipline. I have to say that this is the army's own fault, as they were only too eager to ignore warnings given at the time of the 2006 Bill of the consequences of some of the things being contemplated then. It looks like some of those chickens are coming home to roost. As for the military police, it is vitally important that they remain a military force, as no civilian police force would deploy to police some of the dangerous parts of the world that RMP go to. Nor would civilian police have an understanding of the military nuances of an operational theatre. I agree that the Bill could have made clearer the independence of the RMP. However, there is oversight by the Defence Council and statutory protection from "improper interference" in the conduct of investigations, which includes, "in particular, any attempt by a person who is not a service policeman to direct an investigation which is being carried out by the force." All the same, I am not sure that "independence" entertains any interference in investigations, be it "improper" or otherwise. More particularly, the system is subject to inspection by HMIC and, when the SoS so requires, they will report on the independence and effectiveness of investigations carried out by a particular service police force. I think this should have been a routine requirement rather than leaving it to the discretion of the SoS. But, having said that, the system is a lot better.        Aspals
13 February:   Liam Fox is now saying the Military Covenant will become law and there will be a "duty upon the secretary of state to bring a report to parliament on an annual basis so that we can be explicit about how well the government is doing on its side of the bargain on the military covenant." Fine words but like everything else goverments say, it's what they do that matters. Cutting allowances and pensions at the same time they say they support the convenant is a big disconnect. Typical politico speak and makes it difficult to trust a thing they say.   Baz
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12 February:   It's encouraging to see the government and parliament standing up to the European human rights court over the matter of prisoners' voting rights on the ground that it's an unjustified meddling in our sovereign affairs. It's just a shame that they didn't do the same over the extradition cases that make us obligated to keeping dangerous foreign terrorists in the UK. Looks a bit like picking and choosing what laws to obey and what parliament regards as a breach of our sovereignty. Strange that they should make a stand on the question of prisoners rights but ignore the much more serious problem of deporting undesirables.  Scipio
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10 February:   I've just read news report of the response by Liam Fox about his views on the military covenant. There's a lot of words and airy fairy intentions, but nothing concrete. He hasn't answered the point Anthony made about the government welshing on promises to servicemen especially those who earned their pensions on the basis of RPI being payable. That hardly equates caring for the nations servicemen and veterans.  Baz
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10 February:   I have continued to support the campaign to restore RPI as the basis for pension increase. The Service Personnel and Veteran's Agency has responded with the usual theme of acknowledging the debt of gratitude owed by the nation to Servicemen but then repeated the government intent. So, today I wrote to my MP. This is what I said: 
"I think the underlying feeling is that the change from RPI to CPI is very much a callous betrayal by the government, more so in respect of the many servicemen who were told on joining that their pensions were linked to RPI and who, on leaving their Service, after having earned their pensions, find that that the government has reneged on the expectation created and perpetuated for their entire service. It exploits the fact that servicemen have no contract of employment and is an unspeakable abuse of that fact. It is one of the most dishonourable examples of administrative abuse of power one can imagine."
The response from MoD has been disappointing - there has been none. Moreover, I can understand why when one reads in today's Telegraph that Ms Ursula Brennan, the ministry's permanent under-secretary, described troops as public sector workers. Coming from such a senior figure, it displayed the most appalling lack of understanding about the demands of Service life that one is left questioning her suitability for the job. It adds to the sense of frustration and will be devastating to morale of those still serving, especially those in the front line in Afghanistan, whose lives are at risk in the service of their country. It demonstrates that whatever government might say as an inducement to Servicemen, their words ring hollow.
We look to our politicians, especially our government, to support its armed forces and to honour its pledges to them. If it fails to do that, the Military Covenant is utterly meaningless - some are already drawing that conclusion. The big question is, I suppose, "Does the government really care?"
If you agree with these sentiments, then please sign the petition and lobby your MP and the MoD to reconsider this proposal, reminding them that "They Work For You".   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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8 February:   Scary account in today's Mail from Dominic Raab about the number of cases in the ECHR and the cost to UK.  Thinners
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7 February:   Anthony didn't answer all Roger's criticism. But from what I understand of what he (Anthony) was saying, the analogy was appropriate because the judges are the ones in the "driving seat" when it comes to making that choice between society as a whole and the individual terrorist on trial. It is worrying that judges in extradition cases applying human rights law and precedent place a higher value on the rights of an individual than the rights of the rest of us who are the victims. Quite a contrast to our criminal courts where the emphasis tends more towards protecting victims of crime by punishing those responsible and removing them from society.  Tess
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Thank you Tess. I did miss out making a full response and I agree with your assessment.        Aspals
6 February:   simple solution pull out of europe and everything connected.  pete
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6 February:   I agree that Jack Straw's and Sadique Kahn's remarks are risible for the reason Pete gave. The very idea that anyone should support the inequalities being brought about, paradoxically, by the HR Act deserves to be condemned. Minority rights have become more important than the rights of the majority thanks to over liberal attitudes of public officials and some judges. As a simile for communism, George Orwell summed it up in Animal Farm when he said that "All ... are equal, but some ... are more equal than others." Immigrant minorities must live within the law of this country and respect its heritage, customs and traditions. If that is not acceptable then they are free to go elsewhere. For anyone who does not think that the growing divide which multiculturalism engendered, is a problem, they need to take a reality check. The last thing we want in this country is for community to be set against community. It is irresponsible of politicians to criticise Mr Cameron for what he said. Everyone else knows there's a problem.
On a slightly different note, Dominic Raab MP has given some food for thought over his concerns that the European Court is exceeding its authority over the question of prisoner votes. He makes the point that they are not like the Supreme Court in the USA and able to override national parliaments. These are concerns shared by some of our senior judges (eg Lord Hoffman and the Lord Chief Justice). Moreover if, as seems quite likely, our sovereign parliament (which makes the law) rejects the move to enact legislation giving effect to the judgment, there will be quite a crisis. Should we withdraw from the Convention? If not, should we consider detailed derogations? As they say, we live in interesting times.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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6 February:   straw and kahn got a nerve. it was their lot that got us into this mess of multiculturalism. when in rome do as the romans then ther wont be any problem.   pete
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5 February:   In reply to Roger, if I do come across as disdainful of our judiciary it is not intended. I am, however, frustrated by the decisions of some and the reluctance to take a firmer line than they do (which is clearly possible and compatible with human rights principles). Yesterday's evening edition of the Daily Mail carried an article that one of the German lände was banning the burka. As Thinners pointed out, France and Belgium have done this, too. This is a classic garment that epitomises a withdrawal from our society, a rejection of our values and way of life and, in some cases, it acts as a screen to hide the otherwise visible signs of physical abuse. It is distasteful because it reduces the wearer to the status of a male chattel and, personally, I find it very difficult to accept the view which is sometimes put forward, that it is liberating. It is anything but! Moreover, it has no religious basis to support it. The fact that more and more immigrants are choosing to emphasise their separate identity by wearing particular clothes, or adhere to practices which are repellant to our society in the way they treat women, is a sign that so-called multiculturalism has been a negative policy. The last government must take the blame for that. Instead of encouraging people to come together and identify as British, it has had the opposite effect. Worse still, it has provided a vehicle for breeders of hate to influence impressionable young men and persuade them to do things in the name of religion that, when discovered, are shocking to everyone, including friends and members of their families who thought they knew them well and who hitherto had regarded them as upstanding members of society.
David Cameron is trying to stop the rot. I wish him every success. Lady Warsi did not constructively contribute to this important debate when she made her comments in Leicester recently. She was playing to a sympathetic audience and making an assertion for which she had no supporting evidence at all. It makes one wonder, then why she said it. Perhaps the clue is in the venue and the fact that she addressed a large Muslim audience. She is a politician after all, but it was a disappointing thing to do by someone who is as bright as she is.
In his speech, Mr Cameron will tell Muslims that they must subscribe to mainstream values and what it means to be British. Significantly, "groups that fail to promote British values will no longer receive public money or be able to engage with the state." He does not have a moment to lose in this quest if he is to prevent current resentment and distrust from escalating. Having said that, the human rights culture has fed the negative aspects of multiculturalism where there has been an over-indulgence in minority rights which is not reciprocated for the majority. The noble ideal of the ECHR has been interpreted sometimes to an absurd extent. British society is a tolerant society and has provided a home to many law abiding immigrants, whatever their faith, who have come here and embraced our way of life. We must not allow the nation's identity and proud heritage to be destroyed by those who clearly wish to stand outside our society instead of fitting in. In this regard, ethnic community leaders and elders have their part to play, as do the rest of us, including the judges.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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4 February:   I enjoyed Anthony's classic moral dilemma but I'm not sure it is strictly analogous to what is being discussed. In the examples he gave we are in the driving seat and personally have to make the choices between evils. That is not the case with terrorists where the decisions are made by judges. From the tone of comment here it is likely that option 1 would be the choice as resulting in the least casualties. Followers of Auguste Compte would never really contemplate option 3. Incidentally, I do not share Anthony's disdain of our judges. There are always members of a profession who might say or do controversial things, and the law is no exception but as a body the judiciary has some of the finest legal minds in the world.  Roger
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4 February:   One of the German states has banned the burka. Funny that the Germans who are also covered by the human rights convention, just like the UK have no problems in taking this step, like the French and Belgians did. I've always thought it strange that immigrants should arrive here and refuse to adopt our ways. Insisting on doing things their way is both arrogant and rude. Just imagine a guest in your house refusing to follow your rules and insiting it was their human right to do as they please even in your house. I also think that anyone who deliberately wears clothing that marks them out as different is making a clear statement that they do not like us and do not want to be like us. So why do they come here? Maybe our soft touch social and housing system has something to do with it and we musnt forget the fact that once they're here we can't get rid of them if they break the law.  Thinners
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4 February:   The Daily Mail shows that its not just foreign terrorists. Their story is that MI6 has warned that Britain is facing an unstoppable wave of home-grown suicide bombers. Even if the judges allowed deporting foreign terrorists, what can we do with "British" terrorists/ Are we now paying the price of a slack immigration policy?  Baz
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4 February:   As interesting as the discussion about marriage is, I think we might be straying from the point of Anthony's post, which was concerned with the difficulties faced in extraditing terrorists, due to the manner of interpretation of the Human Rights Act and Convention. Many people I have spoken to about this are really worried that the government is powerless because it gets overruled by the courts, whether they are our own or by the ECtHR. The point discussed here about the binding decision making ability of the ECtHR in cases involving our national security is one which does trouble a lot of people, myself included. It looks odd that a panel of judges who, apart from one, has no connection at all with this country can make decisions that ultimately affect our ability to rid our country of dangerous undesirable aliens. This is troubling. 1000 years of the common law, which we exported to the mightiest nation on earth, and many other countries besides, has been made servant to the Code Napoleon. We need to claw back power to control our security by better education of the judiciary.   Roger
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As they say, Roger, there's none so blind as those who will not see. Just about everyone else gets it, save for the judiciary.        Aspals
4 February:   The point I would make, though Briony, is that there should be a difference. The removal of the distinction between the hitherto legally and morally recognised family unit, with rights and responsibilities (oops, I mentioned "responsibilities"), is one founded upon the institution of marriage which, itself, has a religious origin. But even for the secular, there is the option of a civil ceremony. The eradication of differences between the state of marriage and the state of cohabitation is a reflection of the decreased significance of religion in the lives of society today. I would have thought that, for a person of faith there would be no argument. The fact that there is a growing number that believe, even among our judges, that the institution is no longer special, is an indication of secularism and a general decay in traditional religious and moral standards. It is no wonder that more conservative Muslims regard our society as damaged.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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4 February:   The point the judges are making is that the existence of the institution of marriage is irrellevant to the impact upon the people involved in a relationship breakdown who have similar types of relationships except that one is called marriage and the other cohabitation. Morally there is no distinction in their situations and judges should do right by the parties involved. It would be more damaging to society in the long run not to make sure that any separation is done as fairly as possible with financial assets appropriately divided.   Briony
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4 February:   the answer to anthony's question is obvious. our judges would expect you to drive into the wall and kill evryone onboard.  pete
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4 February:   In tackling extreme situations, extreme measures are sometimes lawful in the name of survival. Let me give an example. You are driving along in a bus through a busy street and a mother steps out ahead of you, carrying her baby. You put your foot on the brake but it does not work. Do you (a) carry on and potentially kill the mother and baby, (b) steer to the left and kill 10 pedestrians or steer right and slam your bus into a brick wall, killing yourself and the 30 people who are your passengers? This Kant-Bentham dilemma is relevant I suggest to the point we are considering in balancing the rights of a terrorist against the rights of the rest of society. The courts seem to prefer option (c). Does anyone agree with them?  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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4 February:   The courts should do the balancing act but they don't. Terorrists always get their vote.   Thinners
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4 February:   It seems that I am not alone in the view that things have gone to far in respect of eg family values. This article in the Telegraph makes a similar point. The way I see it is, if couples want long-term relationships that attract legal rights, then marriage is the institution that achieves this for them and, importantly, for the children of their union. Letting moral values slip, in the insidious way that Parliament and our courts have contrived to do over the years, is damaging to society as a whole, in the long term. The Human Rights Act has been interpreted in ways it was never meant to. Children can no longer be disciplined effectively in school, leading to a crisis in the classroom and, more worryingly, future generations of human rights touting adults that refuse to recognise authority and insist upon "their rights" rather than considering their duties to society as a whole.
But this is a more general malaise of the human rights culture, where noble ideals have been dragged in the mud by over-zealous and self-centred individuals, aided by judges who wear "Human Rights" as a sort of badge. Protecting the "oppressed" is not at any price.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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4 February:   I am not sure if Anthony is trying to provoke a reaction deliberately, but there is so much in his message that I disagree with. First of all, in upholding our values eg human rights, judges apply the law to protect those at risk. They must be satisfied that returning someone to their home country will not put them at risk of torture or inhuman treatment. Second, the fact that the courts wupport the rights of people in long term relationships, where they may have children together, is a good thing. Not to do that would place those children at risk. Additionally, each partner should share material wealth particularly where it has been gained during their relaitonship. I don't say that marriage is not the correct way to bring up a family, but the courts have to recognise the realities of society where many people feel that marriage is not for them or is not relevant to their relaitonship. It doesn't make it any less loving. When that relationship breaks down, fairplay means that assets are shared fairly and that children looked after.   Briony
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4 February:   Tess makes some excellent points. I particularly like the distinction she draws between the general practice of a State and the undertakings in respect of a particular individual. I would suggest that the problem lies not so much with the law but the way it is interpreted. The defence of human rights of those likely to be oppressed is a laudable and noble objective in a civilised world. The problem is that judges have given over-liberal interpretations to these laws to the point that their decisions achieve rather absurd and bizarre - some might even say, dangerous - consequences. They are also in practice overturning the will of Parliament - something which, in our legal system at any rate, is not their function (unlike the USA). Some of our judges have demonstrated, in the name of human rights, their contempt for the government's efforts in the fight against terrorism. They have crushed the "control principle" concerning the exchange of intelligence between nations (an incredibly naive and dangerous act, that actually puts lives at risk) and, also in the name of human rights, placed the rights of an individual terrorist on a higher plain that those of the rest of society. The so-called balancing act, which they are supposed to undertake in cases of conflicting rights, is a thing of the past in such cases. The even greater concern, however, relates to judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which purport to affect our national security. Matters of national security are not matters of concern for the ECtHR. While article 3 of the Convention (Prohibition of torture) is an absolute right (see Chahal-v-UK), the system of government assurances that individuals will not be tortured on return, which the courts are ignoring, is strangling the sovereign agreements between governments which regulate affairs between them. Even though it arrives at such a decision on a questionable basis, as pointed out by Tess, the court is essentially saying that the assurance of a particular government is worth nothing. That is very troubling and is the dangerous exercise of power. The courts of the UK and ECHR are setting themselves above the will of sovereign parliaments. But, even removing the ECtHR from the equation, if that were possible, would not solve the problems of the attitudes of our own judges whose disdain of the establishment was further demonstrated by recent statements to the press by Lord Justice Wall, the President of the Family Division, that cohabiting couples who split up should have legal rights to a possible share of property and money, even though there is no contractual basis between them. Many may ask what, then, is the point of marriage? Some may reply, "none" and may not rue what is happening to our society. But the persistent chipping away at the establishment and traditional moral and religious values, by our own courts, which also support religious discrimination against Christians exercising their genuinely held beliefs (the wearing of a crucifix at work, the refusal of unmarried couples sharing a bed in a guest house, the refusal to conduct civil ceremonies between homosexuals, the dismissal of a nurse for offering to pray for a sick patient) shows that our society is on the brink of meltdown. Supported by a Parliament lacking moral compass, they have now taken to overriding God's laws. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that they have no compunction about doing the same thing to laws made by man.
NB:  Just seen this quote, on Twitter, from the Dalai Lama: "Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values." That just about sums it up!  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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3 February:   Even though I'm a human rights lawyer, I have to admit being worried about the extent of the decisions flowing from the ECHR which seem far-removed from common sense and fail to balance the rights of UK citizens with those of the terrorist. The point is, as Lord Carlile says in his report, that the bar is set too low and it is relatively easy for a terrorist to avoid deportation if they can show that the country they are being deported to uses torture. The deportation with assurances arrangement (essentially agreements with nations where we require reliable and credible assurances that they will not torture the deportee) is not always supported by the courts. In these cases the main reason why deportation should be refused on HR grounds is if there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that the individual will be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on return. This is not the same as saying that you can't return someone to the country of origin because they practice torture. It means that you can't return him if there are substantial grounds etc for believing that they will torture him. The DWA is basically an arrangement between states that the individual will not be tortured on return. So, producing evidence of torture being practiced in general in the country of origin slightly misses the point in my view.  Tess
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3 February:   since when has human rights laws had anything to do with common sense.  pete
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3 February:   At last someone in the know has come and said what we've been saying on Aspals for a long time. Lord Carlisle has pointed the finger quite rightly at daft decisions from the ECtHR for being responsible for preventing us from deporting foreign terrorists. They commit their evil crimes and then claim the protection of the society they tried to destroy. Of course, these European judges don't care about the rights of British people. They let their academic principles get in the way of common sense.  Thinners
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3 February:   To comment on Scipio's posting on 2 January, this government does have people in it who should know better. The minister mentioned on this blog, Andrew Robathan, is an example. He served in the Guards and the SAS. Bob Stewart is also an MP. They haven't been able to stop the chinless wonders from wreaking havoc with the Armed Forces. They should hold them to account, from within the party, for the promises they made in opposition.   Pegasus
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Maybe they will privatise the three Services. Imagine, a Group 4 Security Military Division, Navy Divsion and Air Force Division. They would then undertake UN missions and earn money at the rate of $80 per day paid to each soldier, sailor or airman. They might even turn a profit, especially if we were to remain engaged militarily to the same extent that our forces have been over the past 30 years. Servicemen's rights would then be contractual and they could sue on them, rather than rely on so-called military covenants which seem meaningless.       Aspals
2 February:   a government full of millionaires doesn't know what its like to live on the breadline. if you live in the country and have got to use a car to get anywhere cos the public transport is a laugh then you end up even worse. a difference of a few quid a week means nothing to the cleggerons they just drin one bottle of wine less a week. for the poor it can mean going without a meal or turning off heating.   pete
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2 February:   Andrew Robathan must have been squirming when he tried to explain the changes. Looks like the ConDems are going to make the change to CPI a permanent one though. What a government this has turned out to be. It clobbers the poor with VAT rises and fuel hikes and then turns on the forces that it tells everyone it supports. The military covenant is a lie. Does anyone believe it is worth anything? I haven't seen anything on ARRSE about this.  Tuppy
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1 February:   this government has a track record for shafting the services. theyre staying true to form.   pete
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27 January:   As the Sounding Board has been a bit quiet for the past fortnight, I thought to see what people think about the government proposal to change the basis of assessment of Service pensions from the Retail Price Index (which is the most familiar general purpose domestic measure of inflation in the UK) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). (An explanation can be found here).The RPI shows the extent of change in the prices of a range of goods selected as being essential items in the budget of a normal household. The CPI (sometimes referred to as the cost of living index) relates to the cost of goods and services to a typical consumer, based on the costs of the same goods and services at a base period. The main difference is that the CPI does not include any housing costs, such as the effect of mortgage rates or council tax. However, the RPI more closely follows inflation and relates more specifically to the items one needs to live. So it is a better reflection of the true cost of living. In essence, the CPI is about 1% less than the RPI. The Forces Pension Society has said that this will mean that service personnel will in some cases lose hundreds of thousands of pounds over their lifetime in pension payments (see the examples given on the petition website). It is a breach of the military covenant introduced by a government that talks big on supporting the Services while betraying those same Services with the next breath.
I have written to my MP, Alan Duncan, but have not received a helpful response. In fact, I was sent what looked like a template letter explaining the thinking on state pensions and private pensions. I copied my letter to both Dr Liam Fox, the SoS for Defence and Andrew Robathan, the Veterans minister, but have received nothing from them. Not even an acknowledgment. Indeed, when one reads the remarks by Mr Robathan about the cuts to the Services, one cannot help feeling particularly disappointed, bearing in mind he should know a thing or two about Service life, being a former Coldstream Guards officer and having served 15 years in the Army, commanding an SAS troop for two years. At the MoD, he has the Welfare and Veterans portfolio. His response quoted in the Mirror on 21 November 2010 was to the effect, "Given the economic wreckage left behind by Labour, tough decisions have had to be made. This impact is being felt across all public sector pension schemes." This glibly ignored (a) the special circumstances of Service life and (b) the military covenant. It is, in effect, another betrayal. The Royal British Legion is running a campaign calling on the government to honour the military covenant.
If you feel strongly enough about this issue, you can sign the petition which is sponsored by Tony Clatworthy. You may also want to write to your MP. If you do, and you would like some help with the sort of detail to put in, I can provide a copy of the letter I sent to my MP. However, it should only be used as a guide. Alternatively, if you would like to find out more, visit the Forces Pension Society website. Better still, join them and help them fight for a better deal for Service pensions.  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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10 January:   One of the best Blackadder episodes is in the 4th series when Edmund is sent to find the German spy and encounters the wonderful Miranda Richardson playing the part of a nurse, looking tremendous in her uniform which has a red cross on it. Oh dear. Is she now a criminal? Can the arts not depict the symbol when its use is contextual? I've never heard complaints before about the symbol being used in theatre, or about it appearing on children's uniforms.   Baz
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8 January:   Quite. I can't imagine the government or ministry of defence were unaware of the sale of these things. They've been in the shops for years. It doesn't seem to have troubled anyone before that children's costumes were sold with the red cross on. You will also see the same items for sale all over the world. This Red Cross decision smacks of jobsworth. It was a pantomime after all.   Roger
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8 January:   Oh dear, all children playing with doctors and nurses outfits could face prosecution. Whatever next?  Briony
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8 January:   I'm not sure I would prosecute a case against the panto dame. After all, de minimis no curat lex. My daughter has a nurses outfit with a red cross on the head dress and the tunic. She may escape prosecution because of her age but what of the shop that sold it? Would they be liable to prosecution? The fact that there haven't been any prosecutions for doing this proves it would be a waste of time. Even if the CPS did prosecute, I can't see any magistrate or jury convicting. I agree with Roger, the real question of abuse of the emblem is about using it to conceal military personnel or equipment, not little girls playing nurses.  Tess
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I think their argument would be that it is not an abuse of the emblem for the child to wear it on a uniform to play, but it is, technically, a misuse under the law as it stands.        Aspals
7 January:   I was amused, and slightly stunned, by the decision of the Red Cross to tell the pantomime performers in Glasgow that they could not allow one of their characters dressed as a nurse to appear wearing a red cross on her/his uniform as it was a misuse of the symbol. I am not a military lawyer but I would have thought that regarding the use to which the symbol was put as a misuse was taking it a bit too far. The Geneva Conventions operate during war, not peace, and the symbol is protected, as I understand it, to stop enemy soldiers from hiding behind it in order to pursue military rather than humanitarian objectives. The costume being worn in the panto was that of a nurse, there was no mockery of the symbol and the uniform was sported to emphasise the part the character played. There was no reference to war at all. So I can't see how that can be thought of as a misuse.  Roger
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I happen to agree that, at first sight, the decision does seem a bit harsh. The British Red Cross explains on its website that "The emblem of a red cross ... is the visible sign of protection under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. As such, it is the emblem of the armed forces' medical services and its use is controlled by governments. The British Red Cross is authorised by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence to use the emblem within specified limits. In return for this permission, we help monitor unauthorised use or misuse (whether deliberate or inadvertent) of the red cross emblem and similar symbols throughout the UK." Importantly, it is explained that the purposes of the red cross are 1. to protect sick and wounded victims of war, and those authorised to care for them; and 2. to indicate that the person or object on which the emblem is displayed is connected with the International Red Cross. The British Red Cross is the only civilian organisation authorised by the government to use the red cross emblem and name. Their unauthorised use may be a criminal offence under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (as amended). In fact, section 6 of the Act makes it an offence for any person, without the authority of the Secretary of State, to use for any purpose whatsoever the emblem of a red cross.        Aspals
7 January:   So they sat here Tess and infringe our rights. great.   pete
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7 January:   Like I said before, the Human Rights Act and Convention are fine in principle but the European Court and our courts have taken those fine principles to ridiculous extremes where they afford more rights to the criminals who do us harm than they do to the victims of those crimes.   Scipio
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6 January:   Leaving the ECHR and repealing the HRA will not actually make much difference to our legal obligations in respect of protecting people from torture or refusing to provide asylum, as we are bound by other treaties. The problem, if that's what it is, lies with the judges who are sympathetic to applications made on HR grounds by foreign terrorists. But I do have to agree that it looks a bit daft when you can't get rid of any foreign terrorist or criminal by returning them to their country of origin because it infringes their rights.   Tess
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6 January:   Lord Carey and Lord Woolf spoke recently about persecution of Christians who wish to follow the tenets of their faith but are discriminated against for doing so by human rights judges yet those same judges are less likely to penalise adherents to other religions from following their faiths eg sikh children carrying knives or wearing bangles or muslim women wearing face coverings. the way I see it you only have human rights if you belong to a minority. this is a dangerous path to tread and is leading us to ethnic and religious separation and might lend up in terrible violence.   pete
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It is a terrifying thought, Pete, and I hope you are wrong. Perhaps our judges need to follow the words of a very wise Rasta musician I met several years ago and concentrate on what unites us rather than what divides us. Decisions, however well intentioned, that deepen divisions in our society can produce unwanted and harmful consequences. The experiment in multiculturalism that the Blair government attempted met a miserable demise when it was eventually recognised as a failure and that it was divisive, but it was a policy that helped develop ideas that are now difficult to change. Once you give perceived privileges to a section of the community, it is very difficult to take them away again.        Aspals
6 January:   The story in today's news about Chinese stealth planes just shows what powers of prophecy Aspals bloggers have. Baz mentions about our decline in military might coinciding with China's increase. The good old ConDems are doing more damage to our country than any enemy has ever done before. They need to get a grip. Bin the Human Rights Act, get out of the European Union and forge a closer alliance with countries that share our strategic view of the world and who we can trust. The Human Rights lobby has gone too far and we need to start taking back control over our own destiny.   Will
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6 January:   yeh Scipio and pigs might fly. happy new year.   pete
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2 January:   General Dannatt's column in today's Telegraph echoes concerns voiced frequently on Aspals that "the risk, however, is of ... hope being undermined by a precipitate reduction in our troop levels for domestic political reasons."
This pathetic excuse for a government, made up of public school toffs and millionaires has shown through several of its policy decisions how out of touch with reality it is. We need politicians who have done their bit for their country by serving in its military. Perhaps then they'll finally get the message that sending troops to war is not a game and that they bear a direct responsibility for lives lost through under-resourcing of "boots on the ground" and the kit needed to equip them properly. That does sound like an article 2 issue to me.   Scipio
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