Exactly twenty years ago the European Court of Human Rights found that the British Government had acted illegally in shooting dead three IRA members in Gibraltar, even though the court accepted that the government had a genuine belief that they were planning a bombing attack. Indeed the court accepted the victims were terrorists, and refused compensation to their families on those grounds. But the court refused to accept there was no possibility of foiling the plot through methods other than summary execution.
In the light of the decision that Operation Flavius contravened Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it is difficult to understand how the government can claim its killing of British men in Syria, with no trial, is anything other than murder. I personally find it difficult to imagine technically how men journeying in a car in Syria were imminently able to instantly wreak havoc in the UK so that it was impossible to prevent by any method other than their execution without trial. The level of certainty required for that decision would involve sufficient knowledge of what was to happen in the UK to stop it here. If there was vagueness about what was actually to happen in the UK, there cannot have been the certainty about the threat claimed. It is a logical impasse.
Frankly in twenty years of experience working with British security services their level of accuracy (remember Iraqi WMD) was never that good. And everybody is fortunately now deeply sceptical about the continual claims by the security services that there are thousands of dedicated Islamic terrorists in the UK conducting hundreds of plots every year, and yet miraculously never actually managing to kill anybody.
Just in case anybody had not worked out yet that the Guardian is a disgraceful neo-con rag, it has an article by its “legal correspondent” Joshua Rozenberg, married to the even more rabid Zionist militarist Melanie Phillips (who still believes the Iraqi WMD exist, hidden in the bed of the Euphrates). Rozenberg assures us it is absolutely legal for the British government to kill us without trial if it wants. He even suggests the murdered Mr Khan would not object:
“If he was waging war on British troops and civilians, he can hardly complain the UK’s armed forces were one step ahead of him.”
Astonishingly for a lawyer, the disgraceful Rozenberg does not seem to notice that the opening “if” is rather important. “If Mr Jones was engaged in insurance fraud, he can hardly complain at being banged up for twenty years”, so according to Mr Rozenberg we can dispense with all that nonsense about trials and evidence and just take the government’s word for it. Not to mention that the government has now instituted summary execution without trial in a country that does not even have the death penalty.
writes Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, in an article he posted on his blog on Tuesday [Sept 8th].
The following day, Murray wrote a second piece which he declares is possibly “the most important article I [will] ever post” with encouragement for others to repost it – the complete version follows – and original can also be read here:
This may be the most important article I ever post, because it reveals perfectly how the Establishment works and how the Red Tories and Blue Tories contrive to give a false impression of democracy. It is information I can only give you because of my experience as an insider.
It is a definitive proof of the validity of the Chomskian propaganda model. It needs a fair bit of detail to do this, but please try and read through it because it really is very, very important. After you have finished, if you agree with me about the significance, please repost, (you are free to copy), retweet, add to news aggregators (Reddit etc) and do anything you can to get other people to pay attention.
The government based its decision to execute by drone two British men in Syria on “Legal Opinion” from the Attorney-General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, a politician, MP and Cabinet Minister. But Wright’s legal knowledge comes from an undistinguished first degree from Exeter and a short career as a criminal defence barrister in Birmingham. His knowledge of public international law is virtually nil.
I pause briefly to note that there is no pretence of consulting the Scottish legal system. The only legal opinion is from the Attorney General for England and Wales who is also Honorary Advocate General for Northern Ireland.
So Jeremy Wright’s role is as a cypher. He performs a charade. The government employs in the FCO a dozen of the most distinguished public international lawyers in the world. When the Attorney-General’s office needs an Opinion on public international law, they ask the FCO to provide it for him to sign.
The only known occasion when this did not happen was the Iraq War. Then the FCO Legal Advisers – unanimously – advised the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, that to invade Iraq was illegal. Jack Straw asked the Attorney General to dismiss the FCO chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood (Goldsmith refused). Blair sent Goldsmith to Washington where the Opinion was written for him to sign by George Bush’s lawyers. [I know this sounds incredible, but it is absolutely true]. Sir Michael Wood’s deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned in protest.
In consequence Blair and Straw decided that, again for the first time ever, the FCO’s chief legal adviser had to be appointed not from within the FCO legal advisers, who had all declared the war on Iraq to be illegal, but from outside. They had to find a distinguished public international lawyer who was prepared to argue that the war on Iraq had been legal. That was a very small field. Blair and Straw thus turned to Benjamin Netanyahu’s favourite lawyer, Daniel Bethlehem.
Daniel Bethlehem had represented Israel before the Mitchell Inquiry into violence against the people of Gaza, arguing that it was all legitimate self-defence. He had also supplied the Government of Israel with a Legal Opinion that the vast Wall they were building in illegally occupied land, surrounding and isolating all the major Palestinian communities and turning them into large prisons, was also legal. Daniel Bethlehem is an extreme Zionist militarist of the most aggressive kind, and close to Mark Regev, Israel’s new Ambassador to the UK.
Daniel Bethlehem had developed, in his work for Israel, an extremist doctrine of the right of States to use pre-emptive self-defence – a doctrine which would not be accepted by the vast majority of public international lawyers. He clinched his appointment by Blair as the FCO chief legal adviser by presenting a memorandum to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in 2004 outlining this doctrine, and thus de facto defending the attack on Iraq and the Bush/Blair doctrine.
A key sentence of Daniel Bethlehem’s memorandum is this
“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.”
There is a fundamental flaw in this argument. How can you be certain that an attack in “imminent”, if you are not certain where or what it is? Even if we can wildly imagine a scenario where the government know of an “imminent” attack, but not where or what it is, how could killing someone in Syria stop the attack in the UK? If a team were active, armed and in course of operation in the UK – which is needed for “imminent” – how would killing an individual in Syria prevent them from going through with it? It simply does not add up as a practical scenario.
Interestingly, Daniel Bethlehem does not pretend this is accepted international law, but specifically states that
“The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats”
Bethlehem is attempting to develop the concept of “imminent” beyond any natural interpretation of the word “imminent”.
Daniel Bethlehem left the FCO in 2011. But he had firmly set the British government doctrine on this issue, while all FCO legal advisers know not to follow it gets you sacked. I can guarantee you that Wright’s Legal Opinion states precisely the same argument that David Bethlehem stated in his 2004 memorandum. Knowing how these things work, I am prepared to wager every penny I own that much of the language is identical.
It was New Labour, the Red Tories, who appointed Daniel Bethlehem, and they appointed him precisely in order to establish this doctrine. It is therefore a stunning illustration of how the system works, that the only response of the official “opposition” to these extrajudicial executions is to demand to see the Legal Opinion, when it comes from the man they themselves appointed. The Red Tories appointed him precisely because they knew what Legal Opinion would be given on this specific subject. They can read it in Hansard.
So it is all a charade.
Jeremy Wright pretends to give a Legal Opinion, actually from FCO legal advisers based on the “Bethlehem Doctrine”. The Labour Party pretends, very unconvincingly, to be an opposition. The Guardian, apparently the leading “opposition” intellectual paper, publishes articles by its staff neo-con propagandists Joshua Rozenberg (married to Melanie Phillips) and Rafael Behr strongly supporting the government’s new powers of extrajudicial execution. In summer 2012 Joshua Rozenberg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Secret courts, drones and international law” which consisted mostly of a fawning interview with … Daniel Bethlehem. The BBC and Sky News give us wall to wall justification of the killings.
So the state, with its neo-con “opposition” and media closely in step with its neo-con government, seamlessly adopts a new power to kill its own subjects based on secret intelligence and secret legal advice, and a very weird definition of “imminent” that even its author admits to be outside current legal understanding.
That is how the state works. I do hope you find that helpful.
This article has been updated to reflect the fact the Daniel Bethlehem is now retired from the FCO.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, evidence is mounting that François Hollande has also recently instituted a programme for the extrajudicial execution of terrorist suspects with Obama-style “kill lists” and “Terror Tuesdays” of his own. As Kumaran Ira writes in an article published on August 19th:
In the name of the “war on terror,” the French state is dramatically accelerating its use of clandestine operations to extra-judicially murder targeted individuals. French President François Hollande reportedly possesses a “kill list” of potential targets and constantly reviews the assassination programme with high-ranking military and intelligence officers.
This programme of state murder, violating basic constitutional rights in a country where the death penalty is illegal, underscores the profound decay of French bourgeois democracy. Amid escalating imperialist wars in France’s former colonial empire and deepening political crisis at home, the state is moving towards levels of criminality associated with the war against Algerian independence and the Vichy regime of Occupied France.
Press reports have revealed the French state’s assassination programme—carried out particularly in the regions where France has launched military interventions supposedly to fight terrorism, in Africa and the Middle East—and applauded it.
In an article on August 8 titled “War on Terror, Licence to Kill,” news magazine Le Point asserted that the French president has the right to kill an individual who has not even been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. It wrote,
“The rule of law has its dark side. The president of the republic has the right to kill, despite the abolition of the death penalty. A republican monarch, the head of the army can give the thumbs-down, deciding alone and in cold blood to make a man leave the land of the living.”
Le Point added, “This right is unchallenged, as it is written nowhere. And because it is exercised without discussion, oversight, or control.”
Regarding the French president’s “kill list,” online magazine Slate wrote:
“This list includes the names of terrorists and other stated enemies whose elimination without trial the president of the Republic has authorised. This means their execution without warning, anytime, as soon as the secret services or military intelligence can locate them.”
In truth, I have been unable to track down the articles Kumaran Ira quotes above, however, intimations that Hollande may soon follow America (and Britain)’s lead can be found in other places:
Is France about to follow the lead of the UK and start sending its warplanes to kill French citizens in Syria? The French public would certainly not be against the move, experts say.
The same day that Britain said its drones had killed two of its citizens in Syria, President Francois Hollande announced he would send planes into Syria to locate and possibly destroy people believed to be planning attacks on France. […]
“It is certain that there are French among the jihadists (in Syria) and if there are strikes then they too might well be hit,” said Jean-Vincent Brisset, a former fighter pilot and now an analyst at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) in Paris.
“A large part of French public opinion would not be too unhappy if a (French jihadist) was not going to come back to France and carry out an attack here,” he said.
“But I don’t think the French have a kill-list as such, even if there a certain number of (French) persons (in Syria) that France would like to see hit,” said Brisset.
Asked about the possibility and legality of French warplanes taking out French citizens, a spokeswoman at French military headquarters said: “For the moment we are at the stage of reconnaissance flights and no strikes have been carried out. So this is not an issue at the moment.”
Jean-Pierre Maulny, a defence expert, said it was likely that French citizens would sooner or later be killed by French planes, but that he did not think French citizens would be singled out in Syria.
“I don’t think they will differentiate between French jihadists and others.”
Click here to read the complete article published in today’s The Local.
Of course, such denials from the French authorities to the effect that they would never deliberately target their own citizens (have we forgotten the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior?) muddy the waters and further distract us from the crucial fact that Nato has not sought legal sanction for any of its air strikes into Syrian territory. And although some genuine form of military offensive against ISIS appears necessary, this habit of conflating our ostensibly primary objective of defeating ISIS with the toppling of Assad simply shows how the West’s truer intentions are — as in Iraq and Libya before — regime change.
For the overthrow of the stable Syrian government is totally counterproductive to success against ISIS and in the so-called “war on terror”. The “war on terror” itself merely the pretext to spread both terror and war, and the “kill lists” and the “Terror Tuesdays” instituted as precedents that we ought to expect to one day come home to roost. Murderous if as yet still distant encroachments on all our human rights.