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As DSEI arms fair opens, new poll shows high level of public opposition

Tue, 2015-09-15 09:40

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has published new polling research that reveals the level of public opposition to arms sales to dictatorships and human rights abusers

On the same morning as thousands of arms dealers and military delegates descend on London for Defence & Security Equipment International 2015 (DSEI) (15 September), Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has published new polling research that reveals the level of public opposition to arms sales to dictatorships and human rights abusers.

The polling of over 2000 adults, undertaken by Opinium LLP, a London based online market research agency, found that 70 per cent of UK adults oppose the promotion of arms sakes to governments with poor human rights records, with only seven per cent in support. Similarly, 60 per cent oppose the promotion of arms sales to countries that are not democracies, with only eight per cent supporting them.

Government statistics show that at present, two thirds of all UK arms exports go the Middle East. The largest buyer is Saudi Arabia, to which the Coalition licensed over £3.9 billion worth of arms.

Forty-three per cent believe that the government should not be involved in organising arms fairs like DSEI, with only 19 per cent believing that they should. This increases to 64 per cent opposing the government's involvement with arms fairs to which human rights abusers are invited, with only nine per cent supporting it.

DSEI is organised by Clarion Events and supported by UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the 130 strong government department responsible for promoting arms exports.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The government is not a neutral observer in the arms trade, it is an active participant and is central to events like DSEI. The overwhelming majority of people across the UK oppose the government selling arms to human right abusers, and yet the vast majority of arms sales are to war zones, authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.”

DSEI attendees will include military delegations from a number of oppressive regimes, war zones and dictatorships; including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Pakistan. Israel is not on the official invitees list but it has a pavilion, which means it is a "high powered delegation."

The poll found that 62 per cent oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with only 16 per cent saying they are acceptable; 71% oppose arms sales to Pakistan, with only eight per cent saying they are acceptable and 62 per cent oppose arms sales to Israel, with only 18 per cent saying they are acceptable.

Andrew Smith concluded: “It is shameful that the government is welcoming arms dealers and despots with open arms at the same time as it is turning away refugees who are fleeing the kind of wars and insecurity that are fuelled by the arms trade.”

* CAAT https://www.caat.org.uk/


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Pakistan can hang paralysed prisoner, says court

Tue, 2015-09-15 09:25

The Lahore High Court has ruled that a disabled death-row inmate can be hanged, in a judgment suggesting Pakistan’s international obligations “should be kept aside.”

A judge at the Lahore High Court has ruled that a disabled death-row inmate can be hanged, in a judgment that suggests that Pakistan’s international obligations “should be kept aside.”

In his ruling, handed last week to lawyers for Abdul Basit, 43, the judge dismissed the fact that there are no provisions in Pakistan’s Prison Rules for the hanging of wheelchair users. It says that “as there is no rule declaring the hanging of a disabled person as illegal”, the authorities should be allowed to execute Basit, and use their “discretion” to determine how to carry it out.

Basit’s lawyers had argued that his hanging would amount to cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited under Pakistani and international law. Basit is paralysed from the waist down, and the relevant authorities have so far been unable to explain how they will practically carry out the execution. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22030)

The judge also states that “international laws should be kept aside” when considering whether prisoners on Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row should be executed. If this assertion is accepted, Pakistan would be in breach of its commitment to several tenets of international law, such as the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Several UN experts have recently condemned Pakistan’s current spate of executions – which has seen over 220 people killed since December – as a breach of international standards.

The ruling also contains a significant technical error, incorrectly asserting that Basit’s lawyers at Pakistani NGO Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) had failed to challenge the dismissal of an earlier mercy petition for Basit. In fact, Basit’s lawyers filed a mercy petition on 22nd July, on which to date, no decision has been made by the government.

Pakistan’s Prison Rules provide that ill-health provides valid grounds for the commutation of sentences. Jail medical records for Basit outline how he is “bed-bound” and has “almost no chance of recovery”, but it appears that the government has not considered the records as grounds to grant mercy.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “This ruling gives an absurdly technical response to a question of fundamental rights and common decency. It’s very clear that Abdul Basit’s execution will amount to a grisly spectacle, and will have little to do with justice. It is outrageous to suggest that Pakistan should simply ignore its international obligations in order to carry out yet more hangings.

"The international community must now step in and urge a halt to all executions, including that of Basit, and ensure that Pakistan complies with the treaties it has signed up to.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Labour Shadow Cabinet Appointments

Mon, 2015-09-14 14:41

Jeremy Corbyn, the new Leader of the Labour Party, has appointed his first Shadow Cabinet.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new Leader of the Labour Party has appointed his first Shadow Cabinet. The appointments are as follows:

Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Party Chair and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Tom Watson

Shadow First Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Angela Eagle

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Seema Malhotra

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham

Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn

Opposition Chief Whip Rosie Winterton

Shadow Secretary of State for Health Heidi Alexander

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Lucy Powell

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Owen Smith

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Maria Eagle

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention Jon Trickett

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Lisa Nandy

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Chris Bryant

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Lilian Greenwood

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Diane Abbott

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Ian Murray

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Nia Griffith

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Kerry McCarthy

Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Kate Green

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport- Michael Dugher

Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration Gloria De Piero

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Luciana Berger

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon

Lords Chief Whip Lord Bassam of Brighton

Shadow Attorney General Catherine McKinnell

Shadow Minister without Portfolio Jonathan Ashworth

Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning John Healey

Whilst Jeremy Corbyn claimed this was a 'unifying' and 'inclusive' Shadow Cabinet with the majority of posts filled by women, he has been criticised for not appointing a woman to any of the top five jobs. In response he has suggested this is an "eighteenth century" view of the top jobs and the shadow cabinet now has "a majority of women covering all areas of policy and public life".

There has been further criticism of the appointment of John McDonnell to the post of Shadow Chancellor, which some feel will cause divisions in the party.

Sixteen former Shadow Cabinet members either resigned or were not asked to serve and have returned to the back benches.

These are, Chris Leslie, Rachel Reeves, Tristram Hunt, Emma Reynolds, Caroline Flint, Liz Kendall, Jamie Reed, Yvette Cooper, John Woodcock, Ed Miliband, Dan Jarvis, Ivan Lewis, Stella Creasy, (who had stated she would go back to the back benches after the election), Shabana Mahmood, Chuka Umunna, and Mary Creagh.

Yvette Cooper, who led a debate on the refugee crisis last week, has agreed to chair Labour's task force on refugees.


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Developing a coherent strategy for and with refugees

Mon, 2015-09-14 11:39

Following on from his August 2015 paper about the Calais situation, Ekklesia associate Vaughan Jones, URC minister and former CEO of a major NGO working with displaced people, addresses the refugee crisis by looking at the steps needed to bridge short-term and long-term requirements. His focus is on the gap between government response and the deeper causes of forced migration, the role secular and faith agencies can play, and a response rooted in the experience and expertise of refugees themselves.

Vaughan Jones
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Government refuses to say if UK pilots involved in Pakistan drone strikes

Mon, 2015-09-14 09:53

The UK Government has refused to confirm whether UK pilots have been involved in flying covert US drone strikes over Pakistan.

The UK Government has refused to confirm whether UK pilots have been involved in flying covert US drone strikes over Pakistan, withholding the information requested by legal charity Reprieve on grounds of "international relations."

Reprieve had made Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Ministry of Defence asking two questions: whether the UK had flown drone missions over Pakistan; and whether British pilots ‘embedded’ in US units had done so. While the UK Government confirmed that it had not itself conducted such strikes in response to the first question, it said it would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) whether British embedded pilots had done so.

This position is at odds with recent comments made by the UK Defence Secretary to the effect that the Government would answer questions about the activities of embedded personnel when asked. In the wake of revelations that British pilots had flown strikes in Syrian territory while embedded with the US Air Force, Michael Fallon said that “if we are asked to give details [on embeds] we of course do so.” (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22053)

The new evidence of potential UK involvement in the US’ drone programme in Pakistan comes in the week of David Cameron’s announcement of a new UK ‘targeted killing’ policy which closely mirrors that carried out by the American Government. The US programme – which has been running for over a decade – has seen hundreds of strikes taken and hundreds of civilians killed. The latter is due in large part to faulty intelligence, which has seen strikes miss their intended target with the effect that individual alleged militants have often been reported ‘killed’ on multiple occasions.

The US programme – which is justified on the same basis as that of the UK, and carried out using the same technology – has also come in for heavy criticism from senior American defence and intelligence figures, who argue it has proved counter-productive. General Michael Flynn, former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, has described it as a “failed strategy”, while General Stanley McChrystal has warned it creates “ resentment” towards “American arrogance”.

The UK Government has consistently refused in the past to comment on drone strikes in Pakistan, saying that they are a matter for “the states involved.” For British personnel to have been involved in the strikes would go far beyond the picture of the drones programme that the Government has so far presented to the British public and Parliament.

Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer at Reprieve, said: “This refusal suggests that we may be embroiled in the CIA’s secret wars in far greater ways than was thought. Given the CIA’s drone programme in Pakistan has killed hundreds of civilians while operating without public accountability, that is cause for serious concern. What more don’t we know?”

“Numerous senior military and intelligence figures have warned that secret drone programmes of this kind can actually make the situation worse, not better. Before heading down this path, we need a real debate, and real answers from the PM. We need to think very carefully about whether giving our government carte blanche to kill people anywhere in the world, without oversight, is really a good idea.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Methodist church report reveals changing shape of Britain’s families

Mon, 2015-09-14 09:39

A new study from the Methodist church has raised questions about the common concept of 'family'.

A new study from the Methodist church has raised questions about the common concept of 'family'.

Through a range of surveys, interviews, consultations and research, a new collaborative study, by the Consultative Group on Ministry among Children (CGMC) and the Methodist Church, has found that church family workers are engaging with a growing range of family types.

The We are Family research was released t at the family ministry conference of the same name taking place on 11 to 12 September at Liverpool Hope University. Along with the launch of the study, the weekend saw attendees participate in a new Core Skills for Family Ministry training course and partake in discussions, seminars and an interview with Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet.

In addition to encouraging a greater emphasis on diversity in understanding what is meant by 'family', the study promotes a deeper level of ministry that embraces variety and offers support to both church going families and those outside of the Church.

Gail Adcock, Families Ministries Development Officer in the Methodist Church, said: "Our understanding of family needs to go beyond the concept of the nuclear family to encompass a diversity of relationships. Once we recognise this, we can adopt more inclusive language and respond more effectively to minister and support families in the contexts that they are in.

"If we are to be effective family workers we can't just presume all families are the same. We must treat each family as unique and provide relevant support to them in the circumstances that they are in."

Penny Fuller, moderator of the CGMC, added "Family ministry across the UK is growing, with many new projects starting. It's not just happening on a Sunday, but is taking place in a range of different contexts, engaging with a great diversity of families. In this growing area of ministry, it is essential that the Church provides suitable training and support. Our biggest challenge now is how we enable an intergenerational engagement in all areas of our ministries and not segregate them into silos."

* Read the report We are Family here: http://i.emlfiles9.com/cmpdoc/0/9/3/5/1/files/319046_final-waf-a4-resear...

* Read the research summary bookle here: http://i.emlfiles9.com/cmpdoc/0/9/3/5/1/files/319048_family-ministries-b...

* The Methodist Church in Britain http://www.methodist.org.uk/


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And so it goes on: the pain of the MENA region

Mon, 2015-09-14 08:28

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is changing but, such change will take long years and further sacrifices, says regional expert and Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian, surveying what seems like an endless tragedy at times. However, the length of such wars also depends on the involvement of outside powers – whether regional or global – as well as people on the ground in particular settings.

Truth be told, I admire – even envy sometimes – those analysts or observers who still manage to write regularly and apparently confidently on the shifts that continue to quake the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – the after-effects from which are now rippling into other continents, not least Europe.

My own sometimes dour feelings pale into insignificance when compared with those of men, women and children in the region who are wading through Stygian waters: the walking refugees, the demonstrators and those being suppressed, squashed and blackmailed, by those power machines that still dissimulate, dominate, discriminate and disassemble, as well as subjugating and killing in the names both of God and mammon.

Here are a few of the key recent developments that illustrate some of this tragedy, and the struggle against it.

• First, my political alma mater. I wonder how many people are still actively concerned about the festering 48-year-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians? We have a voracious Israeli government that operates in ways antithetical to any irenic understanding of coexistence with their Palestinian neighbours and is keen instead on gobbling up more lands and resources and keeping Palestinians in isolated towns or villages. Conversely, the Palestinians are riven between two rival camps that are hell-bent on checkmating each other. Hamas is a dangerous ideological irrelevance on the political spectrum, whilst the Authority that governs some aspects of the West Bank suffers from political senescence and succession intrigues.

Our solidarity with this conflict today manifests itself tepidly with soft EU indictments, bland US statements, Arab double-standards of futility and – wait for the clincher in terms of political breakthroughs – the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the UN in New York. Palestine needs to find ways for turning those admittedly symbolic achievements into concrete ones.

• Second, the war in Syria continues and politicians are keen to rehabilitate the Assad regime without too much loss of face or too much attention to the barrel bombs falling on East Ghouta and elsewhere. True. But that is the new normal in 2015, so let me focus instead on the Iraqi and Lebanese streets that have moved against the symbols of nepotism and corruption in both countries. There are similarities as well as differences between both popular manifestations. The last straw that broke the camel’s back in Iraq was the continual power shortages (in a country awash with oil) during a blistering summer. In Lebanon, it was the garbage crisis. Both movements have nudged the realities on the ground a bit, but the remedy is so radical that I doubt those attempts – unless sustained and encouraged by the media too – will manage to challenge those systems that are disempowering the state, whereby the notion of citizenship is redundant and what matters are sectarian or confessional affiliations.

• The influx of refugees into Europe has exposed the wide gaps in our understanding of what the EU means to its member-states. From the racism of some East European countries to the mean attitude of some Western ones (with the exception of Germany that has now become the New Jerusalem for refugees), many in Europe are apoplectic about a few hundred thousand refugees amidst a citizenship of roughly 500 million. Such indifference is replicated in the USA too: imagine that the village of Ketermaya at the southern end of the Mount Lebanon range is hosting more Syrian refugees than all 50 US states put together. Those refugees and economic migrants consist of Syrians as well as Eritreans, Afghans, Pakistanis and even Palestinians. But the majority from Syria are in their large numbers escaping a debilitating war as well as dodging the military draft or the increasing difficulty in accessing neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

If we plan to staunch such an influx in practical terms, while exercising due compassion, we need to harmonise our own policies let alone address the issues at source – in other words in Syria itself which is writhing in the two equally destructive pincer movements of the regime and Daesh / ISIL, with a number of allies or supporters for each side.

• Finally, let me add a word about ethnic and religious numerical minorities, including Arab Christians who were already witnessing to their faith in the MENA region seven long centuries before the revelation of Islam. They have every reason to be afraid of the unavoidable changes buffeting the region. After all, look at what has befallen those hundreds of thousands of ‘minorities’ in Iraq in view of the ideological criminality of Daesh / ISIL and al-Qaeda movements.

However, and as I have often stated in the past, it is unwise for those communities and their hierarchs to seek the patronage of despotic regimes simply because they get a few crumbs of freedom thrown in as a reward for their fealty. Thinkers and intellectuals need to keep in mind that wars are indeed fought on the battlefields. However, the deals will be hammered out in anterooms or backrooms by politicians and they will not overlook which side of the fence those communities were sitting on when the last bomb killed its last prey.

The region is changing but such change will take long years and further sacrifices. This is perhaps not the message many people would wish for today, but there is no gain in sweetening a pill politically and then backtracking miserably over and over again. However, the length of such wars also depends on the involvement of outside powers – whether regional or global. Would they stop egging on their own allies and proxies and in so doing muddying the MENA waters further? Or will there be a political consensus at long last? And so the drama goes on…


© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK), Ecumenical consultant to the Primate of Armenian Church in UK & Ireland, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net Follow him on Twitter here: @harryhagopian

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Welfare reform will hit the poorest hardest, say British Quakers

Sun, 2015-09-13 19:33

Quakers in Britain are one of 20 organisations who have signed a letter in The Daily Telegraph outlining concerns over welfare reform.

Quakers in Britain is one of 20 organisations who signed a letter in The Daily Telegraph on 11 September, outlining concerns on welfare reform. Parliament is currently considering the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which proposes a raft of further cuts to the social security system.

Quakers in Britain urge MPs to carefully consider the impact of this legislation on the most vulnerable individuals and communities. The bill was debated in the House of Commons in July and is now being considered in committee until 15 October.

An effective social safety net based on dignity and compassion is a vital foundation of a just society, say Quakers in Britain. They believe that framing complex welfare issues in solely economic terms removes the humanity of those affected and ignores the root causes of inequality.

Coming on top of the £21 billion of cuts legislated for under the last Parliament, these proposals will increase already unacceptably high levels of poverty and inequality. They will have a particular effect on children, large families and people who are unable to work because of sickness or disability.

The government has presented the proposed cuts as an exercise in affordability and is also claiming that many of the measures will somehow serve to increase social mobility and tackle the root causes of poverty framing the debate in narrow financial considerations. Quakers in Britain disagrees with both of these suggestions.

Quakers in Britain will be following and seeking to influence this proposed legislation as it progresses through Parliament.

The text of the letter is as follows:

The extensive cuts being debated by MPs this week as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill include restricting child tax credits, removing the work-related activity component of the Employment and Support Allowance and further reducing the benefit cap.

Despite a welcome increase in the minimum wage, it is now widely understood that this Bill will make low-income working families worse off and penalise disabled people who are taking their first steps back to work.

An effective social safety net based on dignity and compassion is vital in any just society, yet this Bill will make the lives of already vulnerable households ever more precarious.

Paul Parker Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain; Niall Cooper Director, Church Action on Poverty; Cathy Ashley Chief Executive, Family Rights Group; Dave Prentis General Secretary, Unison; Jonathan Arkush President, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Amanda Batten Chief Executive, Contact a Family; Megan Dunn President, National Union of Students; John Ellis Moderator, General Assembly of the United Reformed Church; Duncan Exley Director, The Equality Trust; Lt-Col Melvin Fincham Secretary for Communications, The Salvation Army; Sally Foster-Fulton Convener, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland; Alison Garnham; Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group; The Rev Steven Keyworth Team Leader of Faith and Society, Baptist Church: Derek McAuley Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches; Judith Moran Director, Quaker Social Action; Helen O'Brien Chief Executive, CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network); Mohammad Shahid Raza Founder Trustee, British Muslim Forum and Head Imam, Leicester Central Mosque; Chaya Spitz Chief Executive, The Interlink Foundation; The Rt Rev David Walker Bishop of Manchester;The Rev Steven Wild President, Methodist Conference

*Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.

*Around 22,000 people attend 480 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/


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Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest in first round

Sat, 2015-09-12 21:06

Jeremy Corbyn, the 200-1 outsider when the Labour leadership began, was elected leader today in the first round of the alternative vote process.

Jeremy Corbyn, the 200-1 outsider when the Labour leadership campaign began three months ago, was elected leader today (12 September) in the first round of the alternative vote process.

Corbyn gained 251, 417 votes, representing 59.5 per cent of votes cast in the first round. Andy Burnham was second with 80,462 votes (19 per cent); Yvette Cooper came third gaining 71,928 votes (17 per cent) and Liz Kendall was in fourth place with 8,857 votes (4.3 per cent).

The breakdown of each candidate's votes between members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters respectively is as follows:

Jeremy Corbyn

Members: 49.6 per cent
Registered supporters: 83.8 per cent
Affiliated supporters: 57.6 per cent

Andy Burnham

Members: 22.7 per cent
Registered supporters: 5.8 per cent
Affiliated supporters: 26 per cent

Yvette Cooper

Members: 22.2 per cent
Registered supporters: 8 per cent
Affiliated supporters: 12 per cent

Liz Kendall

Members: 5.5 per cent
Registered supporters: 2.4 per cent
Affiliated supporters: 3.7 per cent

The turnout in the leadership election was 76.3 per cent with 207 spoilt ballots.

The election of the deputy leader went to three rounds. The lowest scoring candidate was eliminated each time and their second preference votes redistributed until one candidate achieved more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Tom Watson won in the third round with 198,962 votes (50.7 per cent). He received 160,852 votes (39.4 per cent) in the first round, 170,589 (42.2 per cent) in the second round, and 198,962 (more than 50 per cent) in the third round. Stella Creasy came second with 26 per cent and Caroline Flint third with 22 per cent. Angela Eagle was eliminated after the second round with 17.9 per cent and Ben Bradshaw was eliminated after the first round with 9.6 per cent.

The turnout in the deputy leadership election was 73.8 per cent, with 374 spoiled ballots.


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Christian Aid launches refugee crisis appeal

Fri, 2015-09-11 10:25

Christian Aid has launched an appeal to support partner agencies in Europe working to alleviate suffering in the present refugee crisis.

Christian Aid launched an appeal yesterday (10 September) to support partner agencies in Europe working to alleviate suffering in the present refugee crisis, and organisations in the Middle East providing emergency relief to those forced from their homes by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

In recognition that the crisis needs a political solution, it is also asking supporters to email Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, pressing the Government to take a courageous stand at EU talks next week to ensure the UK plays a full part in a “permanent, balanced and mandatory EU relocation scheme”. This must include the UK welcoming those seeking sanctuary in Europe.

In addition, the email urges the Government to do more both to ensure aid reaches people in besieged areas in Syria, and to achieve a political settlement there to help bring the day closer when Syrians can return home safely.

Christian Aid is also supporting cathedrals and churches to hold vigils to pray for an end to the conflict and the hardship and suffering it has caused.

Christian Aid’s Policy Director Christine Allen said today: “Christian Aid was founded 70 years ago in response to the millions of people displaced after the Second World War. Today the world is witnessing a human crisis of similar proportions.

“The plight of those seeking sanctuary in Europe demands visionary leadership from European governments to face this crisis together. We call on the UK to join other countries in welcoming refugees within Europe with open arms. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary must act with courage to rise to this great challenge of our times.”

On the situation in Syria and neighbouring countries, Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East, Frances Guy, said: “Countries in the region are hosting an overwhelming number of refugees. Providing succour and support in Iraq and Lebanon is a massive challenge for our partners.

“It is the plight of those still trapped in besieged communities in Syria, however, which is the most worrying. In his latest report the UN Secretary-General expressed specific concern about over 422,000 people living in such places. Water and food have become tools of the conflict.

“Many of those with money and resources will have fled. It is the poorest that are enduring the worst of what is happening.

“A further major worry, both in Europe and the Middle East, is that winter is coming which means cold and illness for those without adequate protection.”

In Europe, Christian Aid’s partners in the Act Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, are providing emergency relief in Greece, Serbia and Hungary.

In Greece, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is providing food and other essential supplies, improving conditions at reception centres and carrying out water, sanitation and hygiene activities on the islands of Chios, Samos, and Kos which saw 300 refugees arrive each day during August.

In Hungary, Hungarian Interchurch Aid is providing refugees on the border with essential supplies and in Serbia, Philanthropy, the charitable foundation of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is providing food, hygiene and baby kits, shelter and sanitary containers, plus winterisation supplies (firewood, clothes and boots), and psychosocial support.

Christian Aid has funded organisations working in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon with refugees and the displaced for several years providing communities with food, bedding, hygiene kits and health services. In Lebanon and Iraq, its partners are also working to provide psycho-social support to children and women in need.

* Donate to Christian Aid's Refugee Crisis Appeal here: https://donate.christianaid.org.uk/refugees

*Email Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May here: http://act.christianaid.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=48&ea.campa...

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx


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UK drones letter to UN casts doubt on Cameron's claims to Parliament

Fri, 2015-09-11 10:10

The UK government has told the UN that striking ISIS in Iraq is legal justification for drone strikes in Syria, despite David Cameron's earlier claim of pure UK ‘self-defence’.

The British Government has told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the campaign against ISIS in Iraq provides legal justification for UK drone strikes in Syria – a claim which is different to that of pure UK ‘self-defence’ provided by David Cameron to MPs earlier this week.

On 7 September, David Cameron told MPs that strikes he had ordered in Syria were legal because they were taken to prevent attacks on the UK. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22053)

However, in a letter sent to the UNSC on the same day, the British Ambassador also states that “ISIL is engaged in an ongoing armed attack against Iraq, and therefore action against ISIL in Syria is lawful in the collective self-defence of Iraq” – a justification which was not provided to MPs in the Prime Minister’s statement.

The letter, published yesterday (10 September) by the United Nations, is the UK’s official submission to the Security Council outlining the legal justification for the strikes under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

While it states that the drone strike “was a necessary and proportionate exercise of the individual right of self-defence of the United Kingdom,” it also argues that “action against ISIL in Syria is lawful in the collective self-defence of Iraq.” The latter statement was not made to MPs, and appears to be at odds with Parliament’s vote in 2013 blocking strikes on Syria.

Commenting, Kat Craig, Legal Director of Reprieve’s Abuses in Counter-Terrorism team, said: “The Prime Minister’s supposed reasons for carrying out this unprecedented drone attack seem to be changing by the day. Parliament voted strikes in Syria down, the government promised to return to Parliament if it were going to strike again, and yet the PM has just told the United Nations he struck Syria in order to defend Iraq. This is precisely why we need a full explanation of the legal and factual rationale for this attack without further delay.”

* The UK letter to the Security Council can be read here:

* The UN document containing the text of the letter is here: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/688

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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New poll finds proposed clampdown on union protests 'a waste of police time'

Thu, 2015-09-10 09:24

The government’s new restrictions on trade union protests are a waste of police time, according to a new poll published today.

The government’s new restrictions on trade union protests are a waste of police time, according to a new poll published today (10 September).

The poll, carried out by YouGov for the Trades Union Congress (TUC), shows that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of the public (and 69 per cent of Conservative voters) think making it compulsory for unions to give two weeks’ notice if they intend to use a loudspeaker or carry a banner during a strike is a “bad use of police time”.

A similar number (72 per cent) think forcing unions to submit what they are planning to post on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs during a strike two weeks in advance to the police would be a “bad use of police time”. If unions breach this rule they could be hit with financial penalties of up to £20,000.

The poll also raises concerns over the victimisation of union members. Almost wo-thirds (60 per cent) of the public (and 79 per cent of trade unionists) think making the lead person on a peaceful picket line give their name to their employer will have a negative effect on that person’s career.

The findings come as the government prepares to bring its Trade Union Bill before parliament for its second reading.

The bill was criticised earlier this week by human rights groups as “a major attack on civil liberties in the UK”.

And Ministers have also been criticised by the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) – the government’s red tape watchdog – for trying to rush through the Trade Union Bill without proper consultation.

The RPC described the government’s three impact assessments on its proposals as “red – not fit for purpose” and said the government had failed to make a case for its changes.

The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These findings should be a wake-up call to ministers. The public want the police to be out catching criminals not wasting valuable time and resources supervising peaceful picket lines and social media accounts.

“The government’s Trade Union Bill is an attack on the right to strike and will worsen industrial relations. People are rightly concerned that union members will be victimised for taking action to defend their pay and conditions.

“It is great that the public can see through ministers’ rhetoric and recognise how unfair and unnecessary these proposals are.”

* A copy of the TUC’s complaint to the International Labour Organisation about the Trade Union Bill can be found at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/ILOcomplaintontheTUBill.pdf

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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David Cameron refuses to answer MPs’ questions on drones policy

Thu, 2015-09-10 09:08

The Prime Minister said yesterday he would not discuss with MPs the details of the Government’s targeted killing programme, the existence of which was revealed this week.

The Prime Minister said yesterday (9 September) he would not discuss with MPs the details of the Government’s targeted killing programme, the existence of which was revealed this week.

On 7 September, David Cameron revealed that he had ordered several drone strikes in Syria, and was prepared to take similar action elsewhere, saying: “I will always be prepared to take that action, and that’s the case whether the threat is emanating from Libya, Syria or from anywhere else.”

The apparent secret shift to a programme of drone strikes outside declared war zones has caused concern, with MPs and legal experts calling on the government to reveal the legal advice it has received.

Covert US drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen – where the US is not at war– are thought to have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and have been criticiced as counterproductive by senior military personnel. Research last year by the human rights organisation Reprieve found that repeated US attempts to target just 41 people resulted in 1,147 deaths.

US military personnel who have criticised the drone programme include Army General Stanley McChrystal, former head of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command. He told the BBC last year that US strikes cause a “tremendous amount of resentment” in countries such as Yemen, and “what seems like a panacea to the messiness of war is not that at all.”

Commenting, Kat Craig, legal director of Reprieve’s Abuses in Counter-Terrorism team, said: “The Prime Minister has adopted wholesale a US-style drone policy, under which he is allowed to use lethal force anywhere around the world without oversight. This is an alarming change in government policy, and crucial questions remain unanswered. What safeguards, if any, are in place? What are the limits of the assassination programme? And has the Prime Minister given any thought at all to criticism levied by top military officers in the US that their own drone programme is flawed, and failing?

“A limited inquiry by the ISC (Intelligence Security Committee) – which has a poor record on holding the government to account – is not good enough. MPs and the public deserve to know the true extent of Cameron’s drone programme.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Campaigners occupy and blockade setup of DSEI arms fair in London

Wed, 2015-09-09 10:15

Campaigners are taking action at London's Excel centre as part of a week of action immediately before the DSEI International 2015, one of the world's biggest arms fairs.

Hundreds of campaigners are taking action at the Excel centre in East London as part of a week of action immediately before Defence & Security Equipment International 2015 (DSEI), one of the world's biggest arms fairs. The action will take place as arms dealers arrive, and aims to stop the set-up of the event.

There are blockades and protests at the main entrances to DSEI all week, with a separate theme every day to highlight the deadly consequences of the arms trade.

The protest includes music, theatre, workshops, discussions, an 'exorcism' and other events. There will also be other actions during the week of DSEI.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The refugee crisis is showing us the human cost of war and conflict. It is shameful that the UK government is rolling out the red carpet for arms dealers and despots – helping to fuel conflict across the world – at the same time as it is refusing entry to refugees fleeing wars.

"Arms sales aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet, they have deadly consequences. 13 months ago UK arms were being used against the people of Gaza, as they have been repeatedly, and today they are being used against Yemen."

The list of countries attending is not published until the first day of the event, but past events have included military delegations from a range of abusive regimes including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Bahrain.

* CAAT https://www.caat.org.uk/


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