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Lord Steyn: a legal luminary who upheld the rights of the powerless

 

Lord Steyn in 2005: a man of forthright opinion apparently untroubled by self doubt

The following 2004 broadside was fired by Lord Steyn, described in his Times obituary as an “Outspoken law lord whose liberal views became a thorn in the side of the Blair government, especially over Iraq and Guantanamo Bay”, following Lord Hoffmann’s suggestion that the courts should not interfere with certain Government decisions.

“Courts must never abdicate their duty to protect citizens from the abuse of power by governments . . .The United States government has already created a hellhole of utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay by committing such abuse.”

Lord Steyn was born and bred in Cape Town and was one of the few native Afrikaaners who fiercely opposed apartheid. He won a Rhodes scholarship to read English at University College, Oxford and after being called to the bar and sitting as senior counsel in South Africa’s supreme court emigrated to Britain in 1973 to start on the bottom rung of the legal ladder.

Though English was not his native language, his Afrikaans accent remained thick and his ‘delivery’ in court was hesitant, he was admired for his clear arguments and his skill in cross-examination. Having served as the presiding judge on the Northern Circuit, Steyn moved to the Court of Appeal in 1992. He was made a life peer in 1995.

A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Telegraph 2016)

In 2003 he accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of using “weasel words” to justify his policy on asylum seekers. Five months later, Steyn branded the US regime at Guantanamo Bay “a monstrous failure of justice” and declared that the system of trial by military tribunal was no more than a “kangaroo court” that “makes a mockery of justice”.

The unkett then blocked his appointment to a House of Lords judicial committee

The senior law lord, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, was asked not to include Steyn on the nine-judge panel to decide on the legality of detaining foreign terror suspects without trial – the first time a government had ever sought and obtained an alteration in the composition of the House of Lords’ judicial committee.

His other achievements include:

  • being one of the judges who ruled by a 3-2 majority that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was not entitled to claim sovereign immunity from prosecution;
  • reproving Lord Irvine of Lairg, the lord chancellor who sought ‘an unfettered right to impose rule changes on the legal profession; “He is a member of the executive carrying out the party political agenda of the Labour administration. He is a politician. To entrust to a cabinet minister the power to control the legal profession would be an exorbitant inroad on the constitutional principle of the separation of powers”;
  • claiming, when Britain introduced executive detention without trial in 2001, that the UK opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights was not justified “in the present circumstances”.
  • arguing, as chairman of Justice, the human rights group, that the Iraq War was unlawful and said that, “in its search for a justification in law for war, the government was driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel”;
  • dismissing Tony Blair’s suggestion, just months after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, that the war had not made London a more dangerous place as a “fairytale”.

A champion of the Human Rights Act 1998, he retired satisfied that it had already “transformed our country into a rights-based democracy”. Hmm . . .

Anthony Lester, QC, wrote: “He has woven the Human Rights Act into the fabric of our legal system. He has a terrier-like tenacity and the courage of a lion. He’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to replace.” Agreed.

 

 

 

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Owen Smith: the corporate candidate

Owen Smith is on record as being pro-choice aka privatisation in the health sector. Having worked at the heart of America’s corporate world, he is acceptable to right-wing Labour and Conservatives.

owen smith

 

However, public support for the principled Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, continues to rise: more than 55,000 people have paid £25 to vote in the Labour leadership cpntest this week, with most expected to be Mr Corbyn’s backers and tens of thousands more are expected to sign up today before the deadline. 

 JC rally post referendumRally: post referendum support for Corbyn

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company, Owen Smith endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers. He moved on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015 before becoming Labour MP for the safe seat of Pontypridd in 2010.

During his time as a Pfizer lobbyist, Mr Smith helped the drugs company to strike an exclusive distribution agreement with UniChem, the wholesaling arm of Alliance-Boots, examined by the Office of Fair Trading, whose chief executive warned that such agreements “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Owen Smith’s choice was to join Pfizer and Amgen, American firms whose products have been charged with significantly harming health.

Jeremy Corbyn’s choice was to work for union members, for international human rights, for good public services, for his constituents, for nuclear disarmament, for just defence: against the war on Iraq and apartheid in South Africa and Israel-Palestine.

Your choice?

 

 

 

Nelson Mandela: Clinton, Obama, Bush, Blair, Cameron, tributes of shameful hypocrisy

george bush etc felicity

Felicity Arbuthnot opens:

Nelson Mandela’s life included violence and controversy but he “walked the walk” paying the price of twenty seven years in jail for the racial equality he fought for South Africa. For all the country’s complexities, imperfections and astonishing betrayals, the concept of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission surely averted a cycle of vengeance which would have dwarfed the country’s continuing turbulence.

In death, however, he has uniquely highlighted the monumental paucity of integrity, intelligence, introspection and vision of a swathe of Western politicians.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the session reminding all: 

“We must never forget the evil of apartheid and its effect on every day life . . .”

He might ponder on his words when he, his Foreign Secretary or party members next jet off on a Conservative Friends of Israel junket to that apartheid state, which behaves as he described, additionally seizing lands, demolishing homes . . .

President Obama’s address was a masterpiece of oiled humbug:

” … while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us . . . We can choose to live in… a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice … ”

The previous day, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen. Two days later, seventeen people in a convoy heading for a wedding party were killed, ten instantly, seven dying shortly afterwards and in differing reports, between five and twenty two remain seriously injured. The President, it is reported, personally signs off on these obscenities, weekly.

On hearing of the death of Mandela, Bill Clinton tweeted: “I will never forget my friend Madiba.” 

An instant response was: “Then why was he on the US Terrorist Watch List during your Presidency?” 

George W. Bush said: “President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time … our world is better off because of his example”

But Nelson Mandela condemned George Bush as: “. . . a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” (30th January 2003.)

For Tony Blair, the Memorial was, as ever, a business opportunity . . .

(added) before the ceremony he said: “Nelson Mandela was someone who brought out the best in people”

But it is reported that Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Tony Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a tirade against him in a phone call to Peter Hain, who was a government minister. Hain said Mandela was “breathing fire” down the line in protest at the 2003 military action. The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the minister’s office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said.#

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/19-12-2013/126435-mandela_cameron-0/
http://stopwar.org.uk/news/r-i-p-nelson-mandela-18-july-1918-5-december-2013#.UrNaHiee8fE
http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/alerts-2013/750-the-media-s-hypocritical-oath-mandela-and-economic-apartheid.html
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