Sunday, 7 June 2009

Mad as a box of frogs

I went to the Liberty 75th Anniversary Conference yesterday, "Common Values in times of Crisis". It was a thought-provoking and very interesting day. The Liberty staff and volunteers had cool t-shirts, designed by Dame Vivian Westwood which read 'I'm not a terrorist, please don't arrest me'. She sat on one of the panels and whilst she had a lot of interesting things to say that I don't disagree with, she does come across as mad as a box of frogs. No one really does mad eccentrics like the Brits!

There were excellent speeches by Lord Bingham of Cornhill on the Human Rights Act and the history of human rights in the UK- the gist being, they're a good thing, the Human Rights Act is a good thing, and getting rid of it wouldn't do much because we're still bound by the European Convention (which British lawyers and law contributed to very significantly so it's downright silly to think of it as a 'foreign' influence)- and Nick Clegg, Shami Chakrabati and many others.

I must say, I've never thought of joining a political party but Mr Clegg just seemed so eminently sensible, and his proposals for legal reform so workable, I am tempted to nail my colours to the mast for once and all, so devoid was his speech of the usual political hyperbole and posturing for posturings sake.

The most impressive person I think, however, was Gareth Pierce. Famed human rights solicitor who's worked on all the big cases and issues you'd care to think about in the last 20, 30 years she has the most remarkable way of speaking. I don't think you'd know her in the street, or to look at her would think anything in particular but she speaks in a very soft, and yet incredibly powerful way.

She was on the panel in the 'Terror' workshop, alongside many other distinguished speakers. In the audience and attending the Conference was a Mahmoud Abu Rideh, who I understand is a client of Gareth Pierce. His story was chilling.

In short he has been held by the government for 8 years now, first in Belmarsh without trial until the Law Lords ruled that unlawful and then under various control orders. He has been hospitalised and terrorised by the experience, and before us was a clearly desperate man.

When he came to the UK, he had a UN travel document as an asylum seeker. The document is no longer valid, because of the passage of time, and despite promises from David Blunkett and Tony Blair to provide him with a new one they have not. The govt have said he will be allowed to leave the country, but still keep him waiting and under house arrest.

No charges have been brought against him, nor has he been told of the evidence against him - this is the nature of the 'civil' Control Order: because it is non-criminal the Police aren't involved and your PACE or Article 6 powers aren't invoked.

I urge you all to write to the new Home Sectretary, Alan Johnson (at the last I heard, anyway) on and ask him to provide Mr Abu Rideh with the travel document he has been promised. I will edit this post to include some more details of his case, but I'm sure that you will want to do your own research. Plug his name into Google and various articles and information will come up.

It's pretty shocking that this regime is allowed to continue- it is executive action in its more brutal and unchecked form. There is no way of challenging a Control Order (detention of less than 14 hours has been held to not constitute a breach of Convention rights). Mr Abu Rideh's children and wife have left the UK, although they are British Citizens because they could not take living in this way any longer. They were not allowed a telephone, internet, visitors, and were subjected to random and indiscriminate searches every few days.

I've posted previously on the Palestine-Israel situation, and my shock at the horrors of life in Gaza. This man is begging to be allowed to leave so that he can go back to Gaza.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

I think I might heart Obama a little

I'm a big cynic, frankly I consider cynicism to be a democratic duty. And of course, Obama's speech today was just words and hasn't translated into action - the only true test of a politicians worth.

But what a difference having a literate President makes! Quotes from 3 holy books and well-placed historical references, and not a one of them mangled (by a pretzel or otherwise). I think it was a smart speech and I'm encouraged for USA-Middle East links.

PS- Don't forget to do your democratic duty and vote today! Even if they're all blood-sucking, corrupt scum (according to the media image today), best to have your say, ay?

PPS- There's no bloody point, when the current PM is making Suralan a Lord. Because he's such a great businessman that we all have Amstrad computers at home, don't we? Exactly what the present govt needs.
Any remaining confidence I had in Brown's sense now gone.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Pupillage workshops

I received a letter from my Inn today, amongst other things it was advertising Pupillage workshops for those who have failed to attain pupillage. Now, I have yet to apply but it seems a useful thing to do before applying. It includes being assigned a mentor to help with applications.

Sign me up I thought! But it's £50. That's a week of unemployment benefit, which I expect to be shortly in receipt of.

Only joking! But I think I will sign up for a workshop when the dates are set. I've been reading other blogs and the Student Room (which I am new to) and it's all making me very nervous for everyone!