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Question/Comment
12 April:   I would like to think that, before we support a faction engaged in a revolutionary movement, we know enough about it to ensure that it is better than the regime it is hoped will be replaced. Otherwise, it is a case of "better the devil you know". Islamic fundamentalism is a real threat. It brooks no compromise with western values. Its purpose is pure and simple: victory for a most repressive and retrograde creed. Its followers in this country are intent on replacing domestic laws with Sharia. A pretty far-fetched idea at present, I agree, but as more and more young people become converts and are radicalised, the threat grows ever stronger. Some of the most ardent radicals are white converts who seem to view the choice as an effective way to rebel against society's values. The failure of this and the previous government and police forces to fight the radicals effectively, whether through misplaced optimism or fear or whatever else, is a major worry. The failure of government to understand and address the concerns of ordinary people has led to a BNP mayor being elected in Lancashire and a rift being created and deepened with ordinary law abiding Muslims who have as much antipathy to radical Islamists as anyone else. Yet, the uninitiated will group them together with the radicals purely on the basis of their faith and place of worship.
In supporting the rebel cause in Libya, Mr Cameron and M Sarkozy must be sure that they are not allowing in radical fundamentalists to replace Gaddafi, as much as they despise him. The SACEUR has already sounded a warning about the flavour of some of the rebels. The US has carefully distanced itself from the coalition effort, perhaps because of the information it has of the infiltration of fundamentalist fighters into the rebel camp. Perhaps it is because it does not want to be seen to create a precedent out of Libya, when there is so much brewing in other parts of the Middle East, where US interests are a little keener. All the same, our understandable concerns for the safety of civilians threatened by Gaddafi's forces, and our lawful duty to protect them, as defined by UNSCR 1973, should not be complemented by a rush to unwittingly back another Ayatollah Khomeini waiting in the wings. Therefore, NATO must scrupulously implement the NFZ and not engage in the fighting other than for mandated purposes. While it did not shoot down the rebel aircraft recently caught breaching the NFZ, (unlike the French pilot's response to a regime training aircraft that had already landed and which was destroyed, presumably along with its pilot), it must not show favour to one side or the other. Its duty is to protect civilians. One wonders what it will do if the rebels were to attack Sirte, where the civilians are sympathetic to Gaddafi.
Of course, the war in Libya has been a bit of a life-saver for the navy and air force. No doubt, the Chiefs of Staff will be eager to press on for as long as necessary, to underline the argument that the SDSR got it so wrong. I hope that is not the case and that we are not taking sides because of that and thereby helping to install a "government" about which we know relatively little and which may eventually pose a bigger threat to the stability of the world than the regime it replaces. The Israelis are reported to favour the argument of "better the devil you know" in relation to Syria. Perhaps we should think about that in the case of Libya. Or is it too late?  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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8 April:   Nobody really believes that NATO is neutral. They are there to help the rebels by providing air cover and wiping out Gaddafi's forces and equipment under the pretext of protecting civilians. The trouble is that the regime is changing tactics and outwitting them, while Nato has started killing the rebels thinking they're Gaddafis men. You couldn't make it up.   Thinners
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8 April:   Nato did apologise. See the BBC report at this link.   Baz
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Yes, they did. They had a change of heart when they were criticised by, among others, William Hague.       Aspals
8 April:   Of course it's taking sides. That's why the rebels were so hacked off that Nato attacked them in recent days when they took over abandoned regime equipment. The rebels obviously think it's OK for them to have heavy equipment to attack Gaddafi forces but not the other way round. Bit strange really that the use of heavy equipment by the regime is seen as a danger to civilians but not when the rebels use it. Or perhaps Nato is really being even handed and smashing heavy equipment wherever it finds it as a potential threat to safety of civilians. But I don't think so. They admitted it was a mistake which in my book is the same as an admission that they support the rebels and are taking their side.   Baz
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Today's Telegraph update points out that "NATO defends airstrike that killed five rebels" and that the "Alliance will not apologise for deaths". It goes on to say, "Some observers are speculating that both what the NATO spokesman said and what he did not say suggests that the deaths yesterday are now being used to remind the rebels that the alliance's aircraft are not its private air force." .       Aspals
6 April:   If NATO continues to pound Gaddafi's forces that are fighting rebels, it looks like taking sides. I can't imagine the deliberate targeting of civilians, cos that would be pointless anyway. Why shoot at civilians when you can use your ammo to shoot at those shooting at you. Unfortunately civilians in war zones do tend to get hurt and killed. We killed enough of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. So there's a difference between that and deliberately targeting them, like happened in Ivory Coast. Without the clearest evidence that civilians are being deliberately targeted as opposed to collaterally hit in the fight against rebels, that shouldn't be a reason for NATO to send in top cover for the rebels. Would they do it the other way round if the rebels were attacking eg Sirte which is a Gaddafi stronghold.   Thinners
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3 April:   Thank goodness the situation in Libya lokks like it will be resolved peacefully and the killing will stop. I hope that one spin off will be the exile of Gaddafi and his family or better still handing him over to the international court.   Briony 
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2 April:   As I said before I think Scipio is spot on. With genocide and mass killing happening in Ivory Coast it is testatment to the hypocrasy of UN politics. Nobody gives a damn about Ivory Coast, so the UN force does not call in air strikes to hit those killing civilians. Yet the hatred for Gaddafi by people such as Cameron who is having his George Bush moment, throws the power of the UN and Nato against Gaddafi's regime who threatened to attack civilians, and bombed his military severely and even is prepared to stretch the UN mandate to breaking point by arming rebels we know nothing about and what they actually stand for, taking sides and supporting regime change. So desperate was he to get rid of Gaddafi. Now the papers say Musa Kusa is a bad man but could be a force for good. I wonder if they say that about all mass murderers. Cameron's drive against Libya and in particular Gaddafi is hard to explain when there were equally serious situations in other Arab countries and an even worse problem in Ivory Coast. Why was Libya the priority?
Mr Cameron needs to concentrate on the problems his government is creating back home with its iniquitous policies that hit every poor family the hardest instead of trying to distract us by his Libyan campaign. They are disastrous foreign and domestic policies from this rich career politician who has no experience of life in the real world. He rattles his sabre and risks the lives of British military when he at the same time is cutting their numbers to a dangerously low level and sacking people when still serving on active duty, impacting their morale. He's as big a con artist as the man he replaced. None of today's western leaders have any experience of being on the receiving end of government foreign policy decisions unlike the politicians of the post war times.   Baz
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Thanks to Equitas for his help in pointing out an error we made in respect of a file in the database. All is now resolved. We are grateful to him.       Aspals
31 March:   The regime in Tripoli is cracking. The defection of the Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is a sure sign that Gaddafi has problems in the senior ranks. It is surely just a matter of time before it all collapses around him and the country will be rid of this horrible man.   Briony 
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30 March:   If Britain and the US arm the rebels and justify doing so by employing some tortuous interpretation of the UNSCRs, then they have undermined their credibility and their moral stance. Breaking the law (represented in the UN resolutions) is never a good basis for asserting moral and legal authority. The fact that they are seeking to twist the words of the UNSCRs and read into them authorisations that palpably do not exist and were never in the reasonable contemplations of any of those in the UNSC voting on them, demonstrates that they know that to seek a lawful basis, by going back to the UNSC for a new resolution removing the embargo, they will be voted down, possibly for reasons that follow.
If they succeed in lawfully - or unlawfully - arming the rebels, one can imagine that Gaddafi will find a means of being re-armed also - perhaps the Russians or Chinese will then twist the wording of the UNSCRs to read-in a non-existent permission to do so. What will then result will be a long drawn out and even bloodier civil war, escalated due to yet another misguided western policy.
One thing that one finds quite worrying is the absence of Arab nations (other than the token presence of Qatar, with a population of 840,000) to give some legitimacy to what is happening. The head of the Arab League, speaking on Newsnight last night, was concerned about the extent of the coalition bombing.
Gaddafi has his supporters and the Interim National Council has its supporters. Each side has to realise that they are not going to persuade the other over to its point of view. Peace talks aimed at dividing the country into east and west now seem like the only viable option for a pragmatic, speedy and peaceful resolution to the crisis. The fighting has achieved all it is going to achieve. If the west insists upon prolonging it, then it can only be because it wants the death of Gaddafi and regime change, even if it costs more Libyan lives.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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30 March:   we got to press on and get gadafi out quick. let the lawyers sort it out afterwards. the un can make it allright and legal by passing a resolution dealing with naiton building.    pete 
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29 March:   In reply to Briony's comment, I still disagree that it is lawful to target and kill Gaddafi. We are not at war with Libya. That was the view of the US, too, last week. They may now have changed their minds as they have done so today over arming the rebels. They are using some rather extreme mental gymnastics, and say that the arming of rebels would not breach the arms embargo in UNSCR 1970 as that was superseded by UNSCR 1973. I wonder what the Russians, Germans and Chinese think of that argument. It is an example of what we have been talking about here - the manipulating of the resolution by stretching it well beyond its legal parameters. There is no authority to breach the arms embargo which was put in place in clear language in the first resolution (1970), taking up 5 paragraphs. If that is to be swept aside, there must be clear language in the superseding resolution, and there is none.
However broadly worded the resolution ( 1973) might be, it is clear in what it principally authorises: a no-fly zone and protection of civilians from attack, freezing of assets, a ban on flights, and, guess what, enforcement of the arms embargo (it modifies the earlier resolution in terms of what should be done to enforce the embargo. It does not remove it or authorise weapons shipments to anyone). Mrs Clinton was clearly wrong about this.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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29 March:   As an update just thought you'd be interested to know that the Arab League presence today was without Saudi, Tunisia, Algeria or Egypt. The leader of AL said that they wanted the coalition to stick to the UN resolution. He didn't comment on the absence of the named countries. I got the impression that the Arab League is being used to give a veneer of respectability to what the west is doing to Ghaddafi and his troops. It's only tiny Qatar tha is contributing any aircraft, a total of 4 out of the 400 or so being used by the western allies. I agree Scipio's point that this problem should have been left to the Arabs to sort out. Instead, theres hardly one to be seen.   Baz
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29 March:   Contrary to what Anthony and others say, the consensus among internaitonal lawyers is that targeting Gaddafi is lawful. This is the Guardian link. They also explain that the UN resolution is very broadly worded so there is some flexiblity. They do agree with Anthony that regime change is not allowed.   Briony 
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29 March:   One cannot help but feel cynical that the current PM's enthusiasm for a fight albeit he has virtually destroyed the RAF and navy through the madness of defence cuts, is due to the general antipathy to Gaddafi, especially in the wake of the Scottish-Westminster-Libya deal over al-Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber, his domestic policies at home which are the most austere in living memory, his need to appear the strong man alongside President Sarkozy of France, and his belief in the need to lay to rest the ghost of Iraq. He has as at today 48% of the population against him over intervention in Libya. This is not a popular war, it isn't our war, and if there is any genuine concern about the lives of civilians then it is only right that Arab states sort out the problem. It is a mystery why the west always thinks it has the moral right to intervene. We should have left this to the Arabs. Why haven't the west pressed them to do more? If we wanted to take a moral stance, the crisis in Côte D'Yvoire started before Libya and experienced actual as opposed to threatened genocide. France knew all about it and raised the matter at the UN. Up to one million people have fled the country due to the brutal and genocidal civil war - here is the link. Libya doesn't compare with this. The French weren't persuasive enough in spite of the massacres to get the UN to do anything other than impose an international travel ban and freeze certain assets by government officials, even though the country was a former colony. So it's puzzling why Libya is a priority.
At the height of the troubles in Ireland in the 70s the British government was adamant that everyone kept their noses out of our "internal affairs". What a shame we don't apply the same thinking to the internal affairs of other countries.   Scipio 
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29 March:   The Foreign Office announced on Twitter, this afternoon, "#LibyaConf Participants reaffirmed strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity & national unity of Libya." Strange words when they are violating just about every aspect of Libyan sovereignty. It always strikes me as odd when UNSCRs or politicians make statements such as this. The coalition's actions in Libya render those words utterly meaningless, even more so now that it was announced today that air strikes go on until there is a Gaddafi climbdown (while respecting the same resolution that says regime change is unauthorised). Another blatant contradiction was the announcement this morning that the US is considering arming the rebels. Not only is this in breach of the arms embargo in 1970 of 2011, which they will have to get removed at the UN, but it is also in breach of UNSCR 1973 which does not authorise participation with one side or the other.
If the coalition is going to just do its own thing rather than abide by the actual authorities in the resolution (although it is constantly saying it is abiding by it), then the UN Security Council is little more than a rubber stamp for the actions of the 10 member states who voted for this, thereby giving the breach of Libya's sovereignty some lawful basis. It does not reflect well, though, on the institution of the UN when major decisions are made in this way and the breaching of sovereignty is authorised in what is an internal matter. It begs the questions why is nothing being done about Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia where there has been the most brutal repression of demonstrators.
Saying we cannot fight all of these battles at once just does not wash as the situation in the Ivory Coast arose before Libya (some 4 months ago ) where civilians have and still are losing there lives in fighting and thousands are cut off from humanitarian aid. Where was the Security Council then? Where is it now? UK and USA do not appear to have been interested in getting involved.
I repeat that I am not an apologist for Gaddafi. Neither am I alone in questioning the lawfulness of what is happening. Professor Nicholas Grief, director of legal studies at the University of Kent, said it was possible there could be an attempt to bring the matter before the international court of justice. Russia says the coalition is breaching international law and Professor Philppe Sands QC is worried about the preemptive strikes on Gaddafi's military. In his view "Pre-emption is a major problem because it is seen as a slippery slope, and rightly so."
If the UN wants to get rid of Gaddafi, then they should produce a resolution that authorises it. The problem is that many states are very uneasy at the idea of creating a precedent legitimising such a step.  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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29 March:   Despots like Colonel Gaddaffi have no place in the modern world and should be removed from office. He has repressed his people and denied freedom of speech and other human rights. A woman was recently raped in Tripoli by his henchmen and then bundled away in front of the world's press for complaining which shows the sort of place Libya is under his rule. We should arm the rebels and use all the means that the UN have authorised us to do to get rid of the man and speed up the liberation of the country.   Briony 
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29 March:   The BBC wesite reported the Americans are now saying they might arm the rebels. Shows what they think of UN resolutions introducing an arms embargo.   Tuppy
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29 March:   Of course the bombings have gone beyond the mandate. We always knew they would. Mission creep is inevitable when initial attacks don't achieve the objective. The public statements by various leaders that regime change was not what we were about was repeated so often it actually convinces us of the opposite. What is the point of having a UN if nations do their own thing and interpret the resolution in a way that meets their own agendas?
The rebels would never have got as far as they have without coalition suport giving air cover to their ops. The trouble is we don't know who the rebels are, what their goals are and what their post conflict plan is. Are they an unconscious vehicle for radical islam?  Will
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You raise some important doubts, Will. Indeed, yesterday's piece in the Guardian was concerned with whether Coalition bombing may be in breach of UN resolution's legal limits. Professor Shaw QC argued against it, and argued about the elasticity of the resolution and how far it could be stretched. This is more than a bit worrying because UN resolutions which allow intervention into a sovereign state that does not threaten another sovereign state should not be interpreted loosely but narrowly. Russia and China feel the same, too. The Arab League is also concerned about recent events. There was no evidence of genocide or attempted genocide in Libya, despite all the rhetoric (and we remember how powerful rhetoric can be, when we recall Kosovo). We must act within international law. The authority given to us was to help protect civilians, not to take sides and wage war on Gaddafi, no matter how despicable a figure he is, nor to provide assistance to the rebels by giving air cover to allow them to make significant advances. Indeed, as Gaddafi is highly unlikely to present any threat to the people of his home town of Sirte, the battle will be between rival forces, so their is no justification whatsoever for the coalition to bomb government forces. The air force is propbably quite eager to flex its muscle and show its worth and highlight the folly of SDSR. But whetever we do must remain within the letter of the law as set down by the UNSCR 1973       Aspals
28 March:   The Today programme on Radio 4 this morning carried a report that the rebels believe NATO is flying top cover for them and there is a tacit understanding that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's statement that NATO will attack all forces attacking civilians, including rebels, really means that they will only attack Gaddafi's forces. There is some force to support that understanding. The use of NATO air power has cleared the way for rebels, who otherwise would not have had the ability to make the progress they have and make significant advances. Is that policy in line with the UN mandate, or is it evidence of NATO taking sides? The NATO attacks on Gaddafi's home town are another cause of concern. How do attacks on his home town, filled with his supporters, protect the civilian population when they are loyal to Gaddafi? They have merely served to assist the rebel advance by destroying weapons that government forces might have used in defence of the town from the advancing rebels. Tripoli, another Gaddafi stronghold, was also hit with air strikes again last night. These are even clearer breaches of the UNSCR resolution. What NATO is doing is attacking Gaddafi's forces and equipment wherever they can be found. That is a breach of the resolution. In other words, NATO is acting unlawfully. Lord Ashdown expressed his concerns that NATO might be straying outside the mandate and be seen to be siding with the rebels. Indeed, if NATO seeks a lawful basis to justify what it is doing, its member states must go back to the UN to obtain it, not take the law into its own hands.
Is it a coincidence that, as the Telegraph reports at 0826, the "price of oil has edged downward as the rebels, now in control of the key oil producing areas of eastern Libya, make tentative plans to restore production. Brent crude is down 26 cents at $115.33 a barrel."
Update at 21.30: There is now concern among legal experts that the Coalition bombing may be in breach of UN resolution's legal limits. In contrast, Professor Malcolm Shaw QC thinks the coalition forces were still operating within the bounds of legality.  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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27 March:   If Libya wasn't a threat to world peace before the bombing it sure is now that the uN and Nato internationalised what is going on in country.   Baz
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27 March:   The withdrawal of Government forces to the west might suggest that Gaddafi is ceding the east of the country and will look to defend the western half, thereby constituting de facto partition. Just a guess. The worst fighting might be yet to come. Looks like we could have NATO troops on the ground if the coalition really wants to get rid of him - but that will require an up-dated mandate from the UN. We should persuade Arab nations to take a more active part.  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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27 March:   There isn't anything in the UNSCR about regime change or fighting a war to help rebels. I thought that the Observer had a very good piece by Abdelkader Benali arguing why the west's intervention was wrong. Here is the link. I wont' repeat what is said but one of the points made was European countries which until weeks ago had far-reaching economical, political and social ties with Gaddafi's regime are trying to convince the Libyans they are coming in their defence.
We are right to be worried about mission creep and the bombing and killing of government military wherever they are. This craving for blood by western leaders, especially Cameron and Sarkozy is a useful tool to distract public opinion from the mess that their domestic policies are in respectively. As we've gone in to Libya without any evidence of genocide, why didn't we intervene in Ivory Coast where there is actual genocide? This is an Arab problem and I agree that they should sort it out, not crusading western governments.  Tess 
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26 March:   Attacking Gaddafi's forces and equipment wherever they are is is a clever way of getting round the arms embargo that prevents shipments to any of the forces inside Libya. With the coalition doing all the attacking, there is less need to arm the rebels with more sophisticated kit, we just get rid of the sophisticated kit Gaddafi has and kill some of his troops too to even things up a bit.   Thinners
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26 March:   So we are now trying for regime change which I can't find mentioned in any form in the UNSCR, but aren't planning for the aftermath,. We get rid of Gaddafi and then assume that the rebels will introduce democracy and not radical Islam but it is diffficult to find any evidence to support our confidence in this belief. Democracy is not an Arab tradition. Most Arab countries are run by dictatorships. Are we going to topple them all? We don't have the resources to take on problems in Syria, or the Yemen. Our armed forces have been decimated so drastically that we are incapable of defending ourselve or our dominions (if the Argies were to invade the Falklands again, we would be powerless to do anything about it) and are reduced to the level of being reinforcement troops for the US. People on Aspals have criticised this government's inexperience in military matters, and it is blindingly obvious that those holding the purse strings lack any understanding of the military, and they continue to commit our armed forces in ways that show their ignorance. The forces are the nation's insurance policy. To reduce your insurance in times of highest risk is just too stupid for words. But to compound matters by deliberately taking on more risk is suicidal - but it's not politicians who will die as a result of those decisions.   Scipio 
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Just to comment on one point: The Falklands is a self-governing British Overseas Territory. However, this does not detract from the point of your posting.
I have found an interesting website, called the Middle East Forum, which carries an article by Saliba Sarsar entitled, "
Quantifying Arab Democracy". In the author's analysis of 17 Arab states, not one head of state was elected totally democratically (although 2 almost were: Algeria and Yemen) and with 14 that totally denied media freedom and three that allowed some. The data goes back to 2005, but it is quite fascinating to consider in the context of the debate about Libya and the move towards democracy. It is not a familiar concept in the Arab world. Indeed, what does democracy mean to the Arab world? Western style democracy or something else? Freedom for women to vote? Freedom from persecution for homosexual men and women? Human rights? The author's view is that "Arabs are stuck in autocracy and have far to go before any Arab country achieves democracy."       Aspals
26 March:   The pilot and aircraft were no threat at all. They were on the ground. We aren't at war with Libya, offcially, so why are the French killing anyone not attacking the rebels.  Briony 
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The attack you mention was probably lawful as the aircraft had breached the No-Fly Zone provisions of the UNSCR 1973. We do not know the intelligence given to the pilot about eg whether the aircraft had been used to attack civilians or whether there was a belief it would be used to attack civilians. It was at an airbase close to a city under attack, so could be used in support of ops against the rebels. Having said that, and taking your point that the coalition is not at war, just because it might be lawful does not mean we have to do it. The destruction of all of the military materiel of government forces, purely on the basis that it might be used against rebels, especially equipment located some distance from rebel forces, seems to be an extreme measure and looks like a deliberate policy to support the rebels and to deny government forces even the ability to defend themselves and civilian supporters. Military equipment actually used in or advancing to attacks on civilians is a legitimate target under the UNSCR ("to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack"). Those words do not seem to provide unequivocal authority for attacks on equipment and personnel located away from areas of fighting although, from a military perspective, it makes good sense in a war to attack such equipment and thereby denude your enemy's capability. But that is when we are at war. The big question is, bearing in mind that this is an Arab problem, what is the Arab League doing about the situation in Libya and why is it that only a small country like Qatar is sending aircraft to support the NFZ? Where are the others? I suppose Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria have enough on their plates at present squashing pro-democracy rebellions in their own countries.        Aspals
24 March:   he shouldnt have breached the nfz. its war. break the rules get slotted    pete 
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24 March:   I see in today's Aspals news that the French have attacked an old Libyan training aeroplane after it had landed and destroyed it on the ground. I assume the pilot was killed, although the press report is silent on his fate. As the Libyan aircraft was not a threat to the French and there is no evidence that it had been used for hostile activities against civilians or rebels, this looks like a criminal act and the pilot should be tried for murder if he killed the Libyan pilot. This is precisely what I was anxious about in my last message to Aspals.  Briony  [Link Added]
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23 March (sent 22nd):   Of course the general is right in his interpretation of the security council document. It is all well and good for gung ho inexperienced politicians to try to extend the scope of the legal authority, but those who carry out the orders would be the ones to possibly find themselves before a court charged with war crimes.   Briony
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Interestingly enough, the Daily Mail carries a story that there are US tensions with Britain as U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates rebuked the UK government over the suggestion that Colonel Gaddafi could be assassinated. He suggested they stick to the mandate. So, it seems that they regard the general's approach as the proper one, too. The Americans are worried about "mission creep" and Turkey feels a NATO operation which goes outside this framework cannot be legitimised.        Aspals
22 March:   The chinless members of this millionaire business club looslely called a government are of course right about the legality of killing Gaddafi. Their experience and expertise in targeting matters and military law is far superior to General Richards who is, after all just a soldier who has years of service in milops and who happens ot be head of the armed forces. What does he know about war fighting and the laws of war? I feel safe in the knowledge that we have our military advice coming from wealthy toffs with schol cadet force experience under their belt. I bet that taught them a thing or two about life at the sharp end.   Thinners
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22 March:   Helping Libyan rebels by bombing the crap out of Gaddafi and giving them air cover while they stage a ground campaign that makes us party to a conflict and legitimate targets too. Fighting another war when the government has cut the military budget, manning and equipment shows that the ConDems got SDSR totally WRONG. The ineptitude of ConDems actually puts our country in risk.   Vic
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The Telegraph Letters page for 23 March publishes some interesting views of correspondents, under the headline "The biggest threat to Western freedom is our antagonistic policy in the Arab world". There is concern that if we succeed in toppling Gaddafi we will create a vacuum that may be filled by a militant Islamist regime hostile to the West and its interests.   [Added on 26 March]        Aspals
21 March:   We've already got mission creep. We've gone from protecting the civilian population to siding with the rebels and attacking Gaddafi's forces on the grounds, I guess, that they potentially pose a threat to someone. Just a good excuse to bomb the hell out of him and get rid of him and his regime. Does anyone believe Liam Fox when he said regime change was not an objective or believe Cameron when he said that to parliament today?   Will
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21 March:   Now Fox and Hague are saying Gaddafi is a possible target. That is not in the UN resolution. Extreme case of mission creep? What next, ground troops?   Baz
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20 March:   pretty obvious this is about regime change but good ide cos gaddafis an evil bastard, and its legal to get him cos the un said so. just a surprise gaddafi isnt a targeted hit, take him out and its all over.    pete 
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20 March:   In a war like this, how do you distinguish between combatant and non combatant when the civilian population are both? Pictures in one newspaper showed a woman in headscarf standing between parked cars firing what looked like a machine gun. That surely amounts to taking part in hostilities. Yet when she puts down that weapon when the TV cameras of the foreign press arrives, she is just another oppressed Libyan civilian suffering under Gaddafi's regime. If the UN force doesn't apply the principle of protection of civilians to those who are pro Gaddafi and protect them from attack by insurgents, then there are double standards and the aim is really to topple Gaddafi. By the way, I saw Liam Fox on the politics show. He wriggled when he was asked about the real purpose of the attacks are regime change.   Baz
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20 March:   The way the allies are going about their business with Libya, and the statements made on television this lunchtime by Liam Fox, show that the real intention of the government and its partners is to get rid of Gaddafi rather than safeguarding the rebels who, I presume, are rebels because they are engaged in violent action against Gaddafi's forces. As long as they were winning the west was happy. Now the tables are turned it's time to salvage the hidden agenda of regime change. We can remember that this was the phrase that was avoided by Blair over Iraq. Why? Because it is illegal.
The UN resolution does legitimise the allies' actions but it does so by acting outside the scope of the charter, which is to govern international relations not internal matters, which are within the sovereign borders of a state. This is new and dare one say it dangerous territory politically.
The legitimising of regime change (albeit a number of different epithets have been used in its stead) is the most extreme example of meddling in a state's internal affairs. How, in the context of Iraq, it was regarded as illegal but now, owing to the will of 2/3 of the Security Council, it is regarded as legitimate, is worrying. One accepts that the phrase "regime change" is not used, but a rose by any other name...
The idea that the UN was acting to protect the rebels and civilian population from attack rather side-steps the fact that we do not know whether the rebels and their supporters actually form a sizeable group. Even if there were 10,000 rebels, out of a total population or 6.5 million people, they hardly represent a sizeable proportion of the population (0.15%). Nor do we know the proportion of the population that does support Gaddafi. The fact that we acted so quickly and apparently on the basis of so little evidence is a matter on which, no doubt, there will be future discussion. The panic seems to have been on the basis of press reports from in-country journalists (and we well know how misleading they can be, as we saw in Kosovo) and members of the rebel leadership. But people are now dying as a result of allied action from bombing raids and the UK is boasting that its attacks upon a small country are a success and UK officials are reported as saying they are "entirely comfortable" with the outcome of air strikes on Libya. This has all the trappings of a messy and ill-thought out policy, which is going to last many years and cost many lives, given legitimacy through a UN vote which looks as if it breaches its own principles. Indeed, Cameron first said that Libya posed a threat to world peace. Well, please explain how. The fighting was and still is, at present, internal. No one apart from the French and Brits was eager to get involved. If it gets internationalised, it will be due to what has happened to enforce a NFZ which, one expects, will also include rebel aircraft.
The military action by French aircraft crews has already drawn criticism from Russia and started to exploit the fragile support of Arab states, with the head of the Arab League already criticising them. Hardly surprising when fellow Arabs and Muslims are dying on the receiving end of western bombers seeking to help bring about a change in the political landscape to herald in some form of democracy - a concept that does not sit easily with Arab values. Indeed, it is not even clear if the rebels in Libya are being supported and encouraged internally by Islamic extremists who would like to use any western supported democracy as a vehicle for introducing conservative Islam. That would effectively mean a fundamentalist state very close to centres of Western governments, and one which the west brought about.
If there was genuine and attested evidence of atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity eg genocide, then the world would be morally bound to act. But there is a lack of any evidence that this is happening or that there is sufficient cause justifying any pre-emptive action. If, on the other hand, the death of any civilian in a civil war is justification for intervention by foreign forces, then we had better start increasing fourfold every aspect of our armed forces and get them ready for action in Bahrain, Saudi and the Yemen.  Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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20 March:   We re going to have to see what happens when Gaddafi's men start shooting down US and other nations aircraft, and is the decision not to put troops on the ground changes. Nothing unitesa country more than having a foreign invader. This could even alienate sections of the rebels who see themselves as Libyans first and do not like to see fellow Libyans being slaughtered by foreigners.   Tuppy
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20 March:   The UN has attacked Gaddafi's forces. Let us hope that this will bring about a quick victory for the opposition and that Colonel Gaddafi is pushed from power sooner rather than later. I can't help but think about those poor people caught up in the middle of all this fighting.   Briony
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19 March:   I'm just curious but how do the UN enforce the resolution and attack Gaddafi's tanks when they are mingling among the people the UN is supposed to protect? If his forces are in Banghazi, then the resolution is difficult ot implement. And what about attacks by rebels on Gaddafi's forces. Is the resolution to prevent self defence and therefore approve of the massacre of Gaddafi's troops, perhaps even aided by UN planes.   Will
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18 March:   This catastrophe engineered by the UN in a half baked attempt to get rid of Gaddafi is just going to end up partitioning Libya. It is extremely naive if the US thinks that the rebels, if they win with the backing of the UN, will not want to exact the same sort of revenge on pro government forces as they think government forces will exact on the rebels. This UNSCR will increase the feeling of isolation of Libya and strengthen feelings of nationalism. To all intents and purposes there is a civil war going on in that country. We should have kept out of it.   Tuppy
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In the case of The Prosecutor -v- Tadic, an armed conflict was defined as existing "whenever there is a resort to armed force between States or protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State." That definition appears to fit the situation in Libya.        Aspals
18 March:   The reason we could not intervene in Zimbabwe was that there was no rebellion in place. So it isn't a fair comparison, but it is strange that the rebels aren't asking the civilian residents to leave so that the fight can be between combatants. It kind of sounds like they want human shields to protect them from Gaddafi and then to complain of war crimes if anyone gets killed and exploit it for their own ends. Don't like the idea of that.
The UNSCR 1973 is all about protecting the civilian population from attack. All available means can be used. I wonder if that includes pre emptive strikes.  Pegasus
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18 March:   At last the international community has spoken out and decided to do something. I disagree with Anthony and Tuppy and think that the decision is completely within the principles of the UN charter. We could not stand by and have another Srebrenica massacre. Gaddafi is threatening to kill the occupants of the last town resisting him. That would be a genocide and we must prevent it from happening. We would be very poorly judged by history if we did nothing.
Added at 14.45:  Gaddafi has now backed down and declared a ceasefire. So the UN resolution has proved its value.   Briony
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Just to quickly make some observations on your comment, Briony. Srebrenica took place when there was already a UN resolution extant and 400 Dutch ground troops were in country, at the location, and failed to prevent what was happening. That event took place against the background of ethnic conflict between Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosnians. That is quite a different situation to the present, where we have no physical military presence inside Libya and the internecine rebellion is between Muslim citizens of Libya. The second point is that 5 nations abstained in last night's vote (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation). That is a third of the Security Council. Of the remainder, there were the hawks (US, UK and France) and of course, Bosnia (which is where the Srebrenica atrocity took place). Lebanon is the only Arab member of the SC at present. On the point of the threat to kill the people of Benghazi, it would indeed be a crime against humanity/war crime if he carried it out. But giving the population an opportunity to leave before any attack (which is what he seems to be doing) would enable him to mount a subsequent lawful attack against the rebels. The UN has shown that it is siding with the rebels (for obvious reasons, bearing in mind the terrible things Gaddafi has done in the past), but its actions in policing the internal situation in Libya seem to go beyond the extent of the provisions of the Charter, which is focused on threats to international peace. Attacking tanks, airfields and troops inside Libya looks very much like an act of war, albeit sanctioned by a UNSCR, and that is internationalising the internal conflict. If any attacks are only authorised in the even of attacks directly upon the civilian population, rather than armed rebels, then that would be a more understandable approach. One might also ask why the rebels are not themselves safeguarding the civilian population by encouraging them to leave the city, so that the conflict can take place directly between armed groups.
Lastly, the point made by Tuppy is relevant. How do nations decide when they are going to act against a dictator? Mugabe has been killing his own people in Zimbabwe for years. The white western nations failed to intervene. As we discuss Libya, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are engaged in lethal use of force to repress dissent within their own borders. The west is largely silent. Will we be drawn into any further involvement there, now that the UN has decided that its remit goes so far as to authorise war-like actions against government forces fighting an internal conflict? Or, is it more likely that the situation will escalate as a result of letting the hawks have their day? If Gaddafi carries out his threat to shoot down foreign civil and military aircraft, what then? What if he shoots down an aircraft attempting to attack his tanks?        Aspals
17 March:   What hypocrisy over Libya. While we get ready to wage war (which it could well end up as) we turn a blind eye to what is going on in Bahrain, in Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe. We pick our dictators to topple. What are we going to achieve? The situation is all but defeat for the rebels. They're only left in Benghazi. So the west is basically going to defend one city. If the UN authorised attacks on Libyan military targets, then it has authorised war. Does anyone think that Gadaffi's forces won't fight back and try to shoot down attacking planes. That looks like an armed conflict if it happens. Although the Lebanese have given support to a no fly zone, who really believes they are going to be in the thick of the fight.  Tuppy
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The vote was 10 for the resolution, with 5 abstentions.        Aspals
17 March:   To update my last posting, the BBC reports tonight that the UN has now passed the resolution supporting action against Gaddafi. I then looked at the UN Security Council web page entitled "Under the Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are" which listed its remit in the international arena, mainly related to threats to international peace. There is nothing stated there about any interventionist authority when nations are fighting civil wars. That is the situation which then comes under the remit of the Prosecutor at the ICC when crimes are committed that fall within his jurisdiction. The legal authority, such as it is (Russia and China abstained in the Security Council) comes from a coterie of 15 nations, being 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent (which this year includes Bosnia and Herzogovina). What is important, though is to be able to relate the decisions made by the UNSC to the provisions of the Charter that governs it. If these provisions are not extensive enough then it is open to member states to put that right and amend the Charter.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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17 March:   Resolution 1970 does authorise under Chapter Vll strong measures to dissuade human rights abuses and to involve the ICC in investigating and prosecuting war crimes. Tess pointed out the jurisdiction of the Court in that it has the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, being genocide, crimes against humanity, War crimes and the Crime of Aggression (yet to be adopted). If such offences are found to have been committed in Libya, they could be made the subject of charges under the Rome Statute. Indeed, the imposition of the arms embargo in paras 9 - 14 of the Resolution might be seen as a step towards denying further means of terrorising the population.
What is important to note is that there is no suggestion that there is a threat to international peace nor is there any authorisation of intervention in violation of Libya's sovereignty. On the contrary, the Resolution reaffirms "its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" and is "Mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations." There is absolutely no mention of the fact that the events in Libya are a threat to international peace.
Now before anyone suggests that I am in any way an apologist for what is happening, let me say that I am not. If anything I am a purist who likes to see actions in accordance with the law. While international law is ultimately determined by the will of the international community, the UN Charter is the universal code that governs the international actions of nations. Humanitarian intervention is not a ground recognised by the Charter. If the international community wishes to include such a provision, then the Charter should be updated.   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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17 March:   I have just seen that there will be air strikes against Libya (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/17/libya-no-fly-zone-united-nations) and that air strikes will be authorised against columns of tanks. To take Anthony's point about the UNSCR, there already is a UNSCR for Libya. See 1970 of 2011, which expresses itself as acting under Chapter Vll. So the UNSC did not doubt its authority to act.   Pegasus
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17 March:   The announcement that the US is to table a Security Council resolution in relation to Libya which will authorise not just a no-fly zone but also bombing of Libyan tanks is a surprising development. Under article 1 of the UN Charter, the UN exists "To maintain international peace and security" and to take measures "in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace". At present one is at pains to see how the situation in Libya is a threat to international peace within article 1. The problem is not international it is national ie internal. In order to justify violating Libyan sovereignty, in its airspace or territorial seas or land, eg by bombing tanks, there must be a lawful justification such as self defence. It is difficult to see how a Libyan tank can be a threat to eg a NATO aircraft other than if the NATO aircraft breaches Libyan sovereignty. Then the exercise of the right of self defence rests with Libya, not the invader. Article 2 states that "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means..." There is nothing mentioned of internal disputes. However, most importantly for these purposes, art 2§7 provides: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll. " Although this looks as a likely authority, it is within the context of international disputes, because that is what the Charter is all about. It is perhaps for this reason that there has been an eagerness on the part of France amd perhaps other states to recognise the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government.
Self Defence is set out in article 51 where an "an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations." Consequently, it will be extremely useful to see the lawful basis for the measures proposed once there is a publicly accessible copy of the resolution. At present it looks like a recipe for another war involving western states against an arab state. Will our armed forces have the ability to take on its share of such a commitment after Iraq, Afhanistan and the blows to morale brought about by poor kit, government betrayal over pensions and now huge personnel and weapons reductions in key areas? [Corrected 26 March]   Anthony
Aspals Consultancy
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17 March:   If the victim was asleep when the defendant started having sex with her then there was a clear triable issue. So it makes the judge's remarks even more difficult to understand. They were thoroughly unjustified. I just hope it does not put other women off complaining if they were the victim of rape, even if the trial is in a biased court martial. I happen to agree with Tess that the case should have been tried in the Crown Court as the offence happened in England. It is no longer right for military courts to try serious criminal cases. They are just not up to the mark and do not instil confidence in delivering justice. One always suspected they were comprised of bigots full of stereotypical prejudices. This case has put it beyond any doubt.  Briony
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17 March:   The definition of rape and consent is in the 2003 Act. The really worrying thing about this case is that it was tried in a military court. This was an offence occurring in England and should have been tried in the Crown Court before a proper judge and jury, with women members included. I would be really interested to find out the conviction rate of sexual cases in military courts and how they compare with those in civilian courts. It is difficult to see that the victim in the case we are looking at actually got justice. Reading what the judge said, he had a low opinion of her and I wonder if that had an effect on the case, if it rubbed off on the jury.   Tess
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The statistics should be publicly available or, if not published, ascertainable through a Freedom of Information Act 2001 request.
As for the court-martial trying the offence of rape, this is now possible since the Armed Forces Act 2006. The judge advocate general is a proper judge in that he is a Circuit judge, appointed in 2006 I believe.       Aspals
16 March:   To answer Will, the girl was asleep, so it had nothing to do with consent. In the brief moments after she woke and found a man making love to her she naturally assumed it was her boyfriend who she had just had sex with and responded, until she realised the deception. It is typical of men to think that they can use trickery and lies have sex. Was there a woman on the jury?  Briony
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Having learned a little more of the facts of the case, it appears that the complainant's version was that she was asleep and the respondent did not take any steps to ascertain her consent. I am also grateful to Tess for pointing out to me the definitions of "rape" and "consent" under the 2003 Act.
Rape is defined in section 1 as intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) by penis without consent and the defendant does not reasonably believe that B consents. "Consent" is defined in section 74 where "a person consents if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice." The following section, section 75, deals with evidential presumptions, that would indicate an absence of consent. One such presumption is (2)(d), that "the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the relevant act." The fact that the defendant says she was awake is a clear dispute on the facts and is a matter for the jury to determine. They obviously were not sure beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. So they acquitted.       Aspals
16 March:   i think baz has a point. in my day it was called twos up. thats when a couple of guys decide to shag the same girl.    pete 
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16 March:   It is odd that the first bloke decides to sleep on the floor, leaving the coast clear for the defendant. But you can't blame a young healthy guy for trying his luck. If the girl responded by kissing him back then he's entitled to think she's consenting. I also think the judge was right to say what he did. His words were meant as a warning to women to avoid situations like this and the dangers of heavy drinking. If I was on the jury I could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the guy didn't really believe the girl consented.   Will
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15 March:   To briefly reply to Aspals' comment, I am not complaining about the verdict. Even though I think it is disappointing it is what I would expect from a male dominated military. The jury came to its decision on the evidence. What I find deeply offensive and patronising are the gratuitous remarks of the judge. It is as if his words were specifically targeted at the media, to make headlines. He succeeded in that while covering himself in odium. I don't think we have heard the last of it.  Briony
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15 March:   What a horrid little man the judge is to say such things. It is the sort of statement that one expects from a man. What part of the galaxy is he from, because it isn't this planet. The victim in this case had consensual sex with her partner while the defendant was in the bathroom. She had sex with someone she wanted to have sex with. There is no suggestion she gave any sign or encouragement to the defendant that he was in with a chance with her and that he was therefore welcome to get into bed with her. He just assumed it and inveigled his way into her bed and then took advantage of her. According to the news report, she woke up to find he was having sex with her. So she was asleep when he started and was not in any position to give consent. When she woke up it was quite reasonable for her to assume it was her lover. So the consent she was alleged to have given was obtained by fraud. I wonder whether the judge has any daughters of his own. I thought people like this died out years ago and had been fossilised and put on display in museums.
Working with victims of rape shows how difficult it is to get women to pluck the courage up to do make a formal complaint. Although their ordeal is less traumatic than it was in previous years due to new support measures and police attitudes, it is still traumatic, but a man would have no idea about this. This jugment shows no compassion for the victim and perpetuates the macho culture of a section of society that thinks men are superior and women nothing more than instruments for their pleasure.   Tess
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15 March:   I disagree with Briony. We live in the real world. When a girl is pissed and then gets screwed in a room where there is another bloke, then that other bloke gets into bed and she starts kissing him and having sex with him, how can it be said that is rape? She is having sex with the bloke, not by force but joining in. Why else did the first bloke get out of bed, it was to let his mate have a go.   Baz
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15 March:   At a time when rape convictions are at an all time low who is this twit of a judge who makes such bigoted remarks about a woman who complained of rape? No man has the right to exploit a woman's drunkenness. I wonder why did he think the man accused of rape had the right to assume she would agree to sex with him just because she had sex with his friend. The police are working hard to try and get victims to come forward and complain. This chauvinist judge has set the clock back. He is a disgrace to the profession. [Link added]  Briony
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There is a problem in the Services with the drink culture. Here, as I understand the facts, the woman was having sex in the room at the time when the defendant was not present. He saw his friend (who had had consensual sex) now sleeping on the floor and decided to get into bed with the complainant. However, as you rightly say, no one should exploit a woman's drunkenness. But the test is whether the defendant reasonably believed she was consenting to sex, even if that belief was mistaken. As she mistook him for the man she had just had sex with, and did not "spot the difference" until it was too late, it is clearly arguable that the defendant's belief she was consenting was genuine, even though mistaken. Accordingly the court was entitled to acquit.[updated at 19.00]       Aspals
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