Category Archives: Right to free expression

The long history of blacklisting outspoken workers in the UK

Statewatch article: RefNo# 33255
“Every Man a Capitalist”: The long history of monitoring ‘unsuitable’ workers in the UK by Trevor Hemmings, Statewatch
Statewatch Journal; vol 23 no 2 August 2013
“Blacklisting is the practice of systematically denying individuals employment on the basis of information, accurate or not, held in some kind of database.” [1]

In February 2009, investigators from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) raided the premises of The Consulting Association (TCA) in Droitwich, West Midlands, confiscating a database comprising 3,213 names that was being used by 43 construction firms to blacklist workers they deemed “unsuitable” for employment. [2] The seized database was only a small fraction of the information held by TCA, but inexplicably the bulk of the data was left behind and subsequently destroyed. Clandestine blacklisting by multinational construction companies, who submitted the names and addresses for vetting by TCA, denied employment to thousands of workers on the basis of their trade union membership, political beliefs and health and safety activities. [3] Information held in the database was often based on little more than “gossip.” As a consequence of the raid, in July 2009 the director of TCA, Ian Kerr, was fined £5,000 after admitting breaching the Data Protection Act, but his fine was paid secretly by Sir Robert McAlpine on condition that the company’s name was not revealed. [4] Kerr died a fortnight later, taking unknown secrets to the grave.

As a result of the high profile raid, the practice of blacklisting was belatedly made illegal in March 2010 by the introduction of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklisting) Regulations 2010, under which it is unlawful to compile, sell, use or supply a prohibited list (a list which contains details of people who have been members of Trade Unions or have participated in Trade Union activities). The law has been criticised by trade unionists as being too little, too late. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been in force since 1953, protects “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions.” [5]

In July 2012, 80+ blacklisted workers launched a High Court action against the construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine, a Conservative Party donor and builder of the Olympic Stadium, for the firm’s alleged role in creating TCA and cooperating with other firms to keep them out of work. [6] The head of McAlpine’s Human Resources department, David Cochrane, chaired TCA from 2006-2009 and the company effectively set up and funded it. Further insights into this “real live conspiracy” emerged when the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee heard evidence from a number of the key players and their victims in November 2012, some of which was later written up in an interim report published in April 2013. [7] The interim report was highly critical of the companies which failed to take responsibility for their “morally indefensible” blacklisting practices.

In January 2013, a House of Commons debate [8] moved by Labour MP Chukka Umana discussed police and security service collusion in the blacklisting and suggested that at least 200 environmental activists were also among those under surveillance by TCA. Umana told the Guardian newspaper:

“Very serious allegations have been raised, including by a serving ICO official who is himself a former police officer, that information contained on the blacklist files came from police and security services. This only reinforces the need for a full investigation into blacklisting so we can get the full truth of what went on.” [9]

In February 2013, the Metropolitan police reluctantly launched an investigation into allegations of collusion in the blacklisting of construction workers. The Met had previously dismissed a complaint from the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) which claimed the police had been involved in compiling the blacklist that came to light in the ICO raid. [10]

A brief history of the Economic League

The twentieth century was dominated by the role played by the right-wing Economic League (EL) in “countering subversion” between 1919 and 1993. Its early years are opaque, although works by investigative journalists such as Mike Hughes, Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor have thrown some light on this period. [11] The father to TCA, the Economic League was formed in 1919 to fight Bolshevism, combat the “red infection” and “crusade” for unregulated free-market capitalism. The League emerged from various cliques of industrialists, such as National Propaganda (NP), which had close links to the early intelligence services and military. [12] In 1925 the Economic League became a permanent organisation under its first director-general, John Baker White, who had been an intelligence officer and had maintained the security links that formed the basis of the League’s data collection and blacklisting services. As Mike Hughes has pointed out, the Economic League had dual objectives: its council members, pillars of the establishment and other powerful men, opposed socialism overtly, while at a covert level they began to establish the framework of a shadow state. One early anti-democratic activity was a campaign to break the 1926 General Strike under the slogan “Every Man a Capitalist.” [13]

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the EL compiled records on trade union organisers, socialists and communists, sometimes based on information which originated from police files. There is also well-documented evidence that the EL and British intelligence agencies were cooperating at this time. [14] Despite this, the influence the League exerted on the British state over its first two decades had diminished by the Second World War when its model of unregulated free-enterprise came into conflict with the mixed economy supported by the mainstream Conservative Party, which was in government between 1951 and 1964. [15]

From the 1960s, a number of investigations, most notably by the Labour Research team, [16] published details of the blacklisting of workers, a practice the EL continued to deny until the 1969 publication of A Subversive Guide to the Economic League, [17] which revealed that in 1968 the organisation had an annual income of £266,000, £61,000 of which was contributed by 154 companies. Twenty-one known banks and financial institutions contributed as much as 47 manufacturing companies. According to the State Research Bulletin, in 1977 the top industrial donors to the Economic League were: Tate & Lyle; Imperial Group; Shell Petroleum Company; National Westminster Bank; Barclays Bank; Midland Bank and Lloyds Bank. The top four banks of the day were not only among the EL’s donors, four of their directors sat on the organisation’s Council. [18] Hollingsworth and Norton-Taylor cite a figure of £1m in annual income and 2,000 subscribers for the EL in their 1988 work, Blacklist. [19]

The EL’s profile became even more visible in the 1980s as investigative journalists delved deep into its clandestine activities to reveal more names of companies that were vetting the politics of potential employees. This information also showed that the EL worked with MI5 to blacklist more than 22,000 “subversive workers”, who ranged from trade unionists to individuals speaking up for work mates to anti-nuclear activists. [20] In light of these disclosures, in 1990 the House of Commons Select Committee on Employment heard evidence from the Economic League about its blacklist. This enabled campaigners and investigative journalists to exert further pressure on the organisation. The investigative journalist, Paul Foot, managed to obtain a complete copy of the EL’s blacklist and ran a series of pivotal stories in the Daily Mirror newspaper. Its practices exposed to the public, the EL was wound up in 1993. Data protection laws meant that it would have had to open its files to further scrutiny, revealing personal data on thousands of shopfloor workers, prominent trade unionists, journalists, political activists and Labour Party MPs. [21]

A chip off the old block: The Consulting Association

The Consulting Association grew out of the Economic League’s Services Group, whose membership was comprised of construction firms. A key link between the EL and TCA was Ian Kerr, who had played a lead role in the League for many years before becoming TCA’s chief officer. Unlike those he blacklisted and made unemployable (and in some instances destitute), while employed by TCA Kerr earned an annual salary of £50,000 plus bonus, had BUPA medical insurance and drove a Mercedes car. [22] Kerr gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee shortly before he died, stating that TCA was founded in April 1993 with a £10,000 loan from Sir Robert McAlpine:

“[The Consulting Association] was started out of the Services Group (SG), operated by and within the Economic League (EL). A Steering Committee of key people in construction companies of the Services Group drafted a constitution. Key operating features of TCA were decided by representatives of the major construction companies, who were the original members.” [23]

TCA operated from 1993 until 2009. Unfortunately the full extent of its operations may never be known as the ICO seized “only a small proportion of the documentation” held at TCA’s Droitwich office. David Clancy from the ICO told the HSAC that:

“We are talking of between 5% and 10% of what was in the office. What the other 90% or 95% was I can’t comment on because we didn’t go through lots of it.” [24]

Clancy argued that it had been unnecessary to look at anything else because he had “found the blacklist.” However, TCA’s Ian Kerr, giving evidence to the same committee, admitted that other information was held “including some files on environmental activists. These were not taken away by the ICO and were subsequently destroyed.”

Blacklist Support Group vs. Captains of Industry

The Blacklist Support Group (BSG) is a network of construction workers who have been blacklisted because of their trade union activities. [25] The network has run a campaign to “name and shame” the top construction company bosses who have chaired TCA and have also named the construction industry’s ‘main contacts’ with the covert blacklisting organisation. [26] The Group has published a list of company directors that have chaired TCA:

1993-1996 Cullum McAlpine (Sir Robert McAlpine)

1997-1999 Tony Jennings (Laing O’Rourke)

2000-2001 Danny O’Sullivan (Kier)

2002-2003 Stephen Quant (Skanska)

2004-2005 Trevor Watchman (Balfour Beatty)

2006-2009 David Cochrane (Sir Robert McAlpine)

The BSG is seeking to “blacklist the blacklisters” and asks: Where are they working now? Are they involved in publicly funded contracts?
The BSG has also demanded compensation for blacklisted workers and that the companies responsible for their loss of earnings be made accountable for their actions. BSG is demanding:

• A full public apology,

• Compensation for blacklisted workers,

• Denial of public contracts for blacklisting firms,

• Jobs for blacklisted workers on major projects.

Big spenders

The journal Building published a detailed analysis of the spending of 14 of TCA’s main users in a report entitled “Annual Spending by the Consulting Association 1996-2009.” [27] The main players were Sir Robert McAlpine and Skanska, each spending well over £200,000. They were followed by Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty which both spent more than £100,000, with Carillion and Amec both spending around £70,000.

The Scottish Affairs Committee report also details the roles played by three major construction firms: Sir Robert MacAlpine Ltd, Skanska and Balfour Beatty, describing MacAlpine as a “major force” behind the blacklist and Balfour Beatty as a particularly “hard-nosed” user. Balfour Beatty is heavily criticised, with the SAC pointedly remarking:

“…we are sure that [the company] regrets being caught; we were less convinced that management regretted its involvement with TCA.” [28]

The TCA’s database was accessed by construction companies on an annual subscription basis – membership was at the invitation of an existing member – and a further £2.20 was paid for each name checked. The point of contact with TCA was usually through a senior executive in a company’s Human Resources Department who would submit a list of names, to be checked against a card file held by the Association. Over a four-year period, for instance, Skanska vetted 66,000 names of workers to be employed on Ministry of Defence building projects while Balfour Beatty was vetting 15,000 workers a year.

Red, black, blue and green

While the ICO’s flawed investigation seriously undermined attempts to confirm the broader scope of the TCA covert blacklisting service, other lines of inquiry have been more forthcoming. Ian Kerr’s evidence to the SAC described how blacklisted names were given different colours: black (for industrial relations – general); red/orange (mechanical and engineering); green (environmental activists) and blue (everything else). [29] While there is some question as to the veracity of Kerr’s statements, it is worth briefly exploring the scope of TCA’s activities.

Various industrial tribunal claims have resulted from the construction industry’s blacklisting of workers. Two examples will serve here as an illustration of the effects of blacklisting on individual construction workers.

Construction worker, Steve Acheson (58), from Greater Manchester, obtained a copy of his 22-page file following the ICO raid on TCA. Achesons’s trade union activities began in 1996 after the death of a 21-year old colleague at a site on which he was working. This compelled him to ensure that companies for which he worked complied with health and safety legislation. He has won four cases of unfair dismissal at various industrial tribunals. His TCA file began in April 2000 and confirmed that he had been placed on the blacklist because of raising health and safety issues and because of “suspected” trade union membership. The file included his name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, mobile telephone number and a reference to his union membership. As a result of being blacklisted, Acheson was unemployed “for nine of the last 11 years and in the last five years [he] received only 16 pay packets.” On the few occasions when he secured employment he was swiftly removed from the site. This has had a devastating effect on his family and his wife had to work full time to support him.

Engineer, Dave Smith (47) had a 36-page file him held on him by TCA and he was repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites. The file contains many entries regarding Smith’s role as safety officer for the building workers’ union, Ucatt, while working on building sites controlled by John Mowlem and Schal International (both subsidiaries of Carillion) after he raised safety issues relating to the presence of asbestos and working conditions. In 2009, Smith became the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group. In January 2012, he pursued a claim against Carillion through an employment tribunal. Although Carillion accepted that Smith had been blacklisted, the company successfully argued that because he was not employed directly by them, but through a sub-contractor, Carillion was not legally responsible. Smith told the Guardian newspaper:

“This is about human rights. I have not done anything illegal; I am a member of a trade union. I have worked in an attempt to improve health and safety on building sites and yet it appears my employers, the state, security services and the police have been conspiring against me.” [30]

It should be noted that the majority of those who have sought redress through the courts have failed. [31]

The scope of TCA’s blacklisting has recently been shown to have included Irish construction workers; 370 people on the 3,200-name TCA database have typically Irish names. Irish workers were illegally barred from Ministry of Defence projects and the ICO’s David Clancy has alleged state involvement, saying that some information on TCA’s records “must have been supplied by either MI5 or police.” The Labour MP, John McDonnell, who has spent many years highlighting the blacklisting scandal, called for the truth on how Irish workers were targeted and asked “who in the state authorised or turned a blind eye to this organised victimisation.” To this end he called for an independent public inquiry into blacklisting:

“I am calling for an independent public inquiry into blacklisting because many believe that what we have found out so far about the activities of The Consulting Association is just the tip of an iceberg.” [32]

According to the GMB trade union, the TCA’s blacklist also included 582 workers who were living or working in Scotland. Describing the practice of blacklisting as “a deplorable activity that has ruined livelihoods for decades,” Labour MP Jim McGovern called “on authorities to look into whether it remains an ongoing practice.” [33] The GMB has met with officials from the Scottish government, which is considering preventing companies implicated in the blacklisting scandal from bidding for future contracts, worth billions of pounds. A Scottish government spokesman said: “Officials met union representatives to discuss new guidance to update existing public procurement processes and procedures in light of blacklisting of employees by contractors in the construction industry.” [34]

In January 2013, a House of Commons debate on blacklisting discussed police and security service collusion in the practice, suggesting that at least 200 green activists involved in road building protests were among those under surveillance by TCA. TCA’s Ian Kerr had revealed to the parliamentary committee that construction firms wanted information on green protestors after being “badly hit” by their campaigns in the 1990s. He told the MPs:

“In the mid-90s the industry was literally taken unaware by the people who came along and built treehouses, cut the hydraulic lines on the equipment and put sand in tanks, because at the time it was quite easy to win a contract and put a route through an area.” [35]

He went on to say that the construction industry had organised a meeting to debate green activism: “The targets were [activists at] the M11, Twyford Down, the Manchester second runway and the Bath eastern bypass.” [36]

In a recent Panorama television investigation [37] Ian Kerr’s wife, Mary, who worked as a bookkeeper for TCA, described the vetting that occurred during the building of the London “Dome” as extending to acrobats, dancers and entertainers who were seeking employment.

The legal fight back

An estimate of the extent of TCA’s activities can be gauged by legal documents lodged by Sir Hugh Tomlinson QC, acting on behalf of 80+ alleged victims of the blacklisting organisation. Their legal claim alleges that TCA’s clandestine database monitored the trade union activity of workers in the construction industry, including compiling details on industrial action, political views and affiliation and membership of unions, with entries frequently being made after workers had made complaints about matters concerning health and safety. Addressing health and safety issues was considered by companies to be likely to delay construction and therefore lessen profits for no discernible benefit. The TCA’s files did not only make recommendations on employment, with entries such as “do not employ” and “not recommended”, but even commented on individual’s relationships and wrongly accused others of criminal activities, such as accusing one man of claiming unemployment benefit while working. Victimised workers say that the conspiracy to run the blacklist caused them to suffer “loss and damage” by preventing them from obtaining employment [38].

The action also claims that Sir Robert McAlpine, and in particular Cullum McAlpine, had a central role in the establishment and operation of TCA.

“[Cullum] McAlpine was the founding chairman at the organisation’s inception in 1993. He was intimately involved in the foundation and operation of TCA. He formally offered Mr Kerr the position of director in August 1993. He finalised the written particulars of Mr Kerr’s employment, sending them to members for approval and obtaining legal advice in relation to them. He oversaw the arrangement of life and health insurance for Mr Kerr as part of his remuneration.” [39]

The legal claim also says that once TCA’s database was exposed in 2009 and Kerr was prosecuted, he was warned that if McAlpine’s name was mentioned the company “might encounter serious difficulty in obtaining major construction contracts.” Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd paid Kerr’s winding up costs, legal costs and the fine imposed by the ICO through cheques not paid to him directly. McAlpine was invoiced by Kerr’s daughter for “services rendered” and Callum McAlpine paid the bill. The company denies that these underhand payments “…were in any way linked to his taking responsibility or protecting Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd or any other member of the Consulting Association.” [40]

However, Mike Hughes, in an article for SpinWatch, has warned that the legal complexities of the case and obscurity of the law “means that it will be hard to see that even if this case is successful it will set sufficiently clear precedents to change recruitment practices in general.”

Commenting on the legal cases against Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, a spokesman said:

“TCA was established by a large group of construction companies. All the member companies contributed to, and accessed information from, the CA from time to time. Directors and representatives of a number of major construction firms chaired CA over the years. These included Mr Cullum McAlpine who was chairman for a period in the 1990s.” [41]

The depth of the company’s state of denial was clear when a spokesman added that it had never operated a “blacklist.”

“We are, and have always been, wholly committed to maintaining good relationships with our workforce and to responsible trade unionism.” [42]


Protests at local and European level

At the local level, members of trade unions such as Unite have been leafleting, petitioning and demonstrating to mobilise public support to prevent local authorities using the companies that blacklisted, and in some cases allegedly continue to blacklist, workers. Unite is calling on local authorities:

“…to desist from using the services of companies proven to have blacklisted workers and in particular those companies, such as Royal Bam and Kier which appear to be continuing to abuse the basic human rights of ordinary working people.” [43]

Hull City Council voted unanimously to remove blacklisting firms from all council contracts at a full council meeting in December 2012. The council also recognised the GMB trade union campaign to win an apology and compensation for those who have been unable to work as a result of being blacklisted. [44] Around a dozen other councils in England, Scotland and Wales are considering moves to exclude blacklisting companies from local government contracts. The Blacklist Support Group has called on other local authorities to follow Hull’s lead:

“…until the blacklisting firms apologise and compensate the workers whose lives they have ruined. They have destroyed careers in order to increase their profits. As profits are the only thing that the blacklisting companies are interested in, perhaps losing publically funded projects will make them own up to their responsibilities.” [45]

The Unite trade union [46] maintains that blacklisting continues to be rife in the UK and that this is evident on the £15 billion publically funded Crossrail project (Europe’s largest railway engineering programme underway in southeast England). The union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, has called for a national mobilisation against Crossrail consortium Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK), after alleging that “blacklisting activity is continuing at Crossrail.” [41] The union says that workers’ have been excluded for raising safety issues, an allegation that will be tested at an employment tribunal by electrician, Frank Morris (38), who says that he was dismissed after becoming a union representative and voicing safety concerns.

At the European level, in April 2013 the Unite union led a delegation to Amsterdam to protest outside Royal Bam’s annual general meeting. Bam is the latest major contractor to have its overseas meetings targeted by anti-blacklisting protesters from the UK. Unite is running a campaign against the Crossrail project and its delegation to Holland was protesting at Bam Nuttall’s role in the London scheme. In the same month, the Blacklist Support Group and GMB trade union targeted the Skanska annual shareholders meeting in Stockholm. Unite’s assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, who attended the protest in Amsterdam said “Blacklisting ruins lives and we believe it is continuing today on Crossrail.” She continued: “Unite believes that the people of Holland and Bam’s shareholders deserve to know about Bam’s behaviour elsewhere in Europe.” [47]

“We are all Thatcherites now”

Following the death of former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on 8 April 2013, the current Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to her, declaring that “We are all Thatcherites now.” Thatcher, who laid waste to vast swathes of working class communities when taking on the miners and other trade unionists during an earlier programme of privatisation that left generations unemployed and unemployable, stands as an appropriate symbol for the blacklisting scandal. Like Thatcher before him, David Cameron has also targeted workers’ rights and imposed neo-liberal austerity measures that take from the poor to subsidise wealthy captains of industry, who continue to get vast bonuses that exceed what the average worker will earn in an entire lifetime.

The blacklisting and removal from employment of those workers who are represented by trade unions, or have the temerity to question health and safety standards, evokes this Thatcherite ethos, but also accurately signifies the role that working class people can expect to play in twenty-first century Britain. It is therefore unsurprising to find that the HSAC’s interim report also expresses grave doubts as to whether the illegal practice of blacklisting has actually ended. The Committee felt obliged to investigate the extent to which the practice continues within the construction industry and further afield, and will report its findings in a forthcoming report. In future sessions, the Committee will also examine the ongoing issues of compensation for victims and penalties for offenders.

However, it is clear that private websites, like HR Blacklist, [48] which describes itself as “an ethical human resources community for employers and employees” that promises to reveal “the truth about employees,” is continuing an old tradition. The company advertises five reasons for using its HR Blacklist:

1. Blacklisting an employee is free

2. Almost 50% of the candidates lie in their CV’s

3. Hiring the wrong person, may cost you money and reputation

4. Fast and easy CV search: find what other employers had to say about the candidate

5. Rate an employee, or check his/her rating

However, Mike Hughes has warned that:

“…the technology of blacklisting is moving offshore and embracing wiki models where the conspiracy becomes more dispersed and tortuous and certainly less actionable.” [49]

Endnotes

[1] House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee “Blacklisting in Employment: interim report” (The Stationery Office), 16.4.13 link

[2] Information Commissioners Office “The Consulting Association” Press release (undated) See also: Phil Chamberlain “The Construction Industry Blacklist: how the Economic League lived on” Lobster 58, Winter 2009/10, for a detailed account of the raid.

[3] A Health and Safety Executive report published in April 2013 revealed that “nearly a quarter of building sites in London failed to meet minimum health and safety legal standards, BBC News 5.4.13. See link

[4] Daniel Boffey “McAlpine denies high court claim it had major role in ‘blacklist scandal’” The Guardian 12.1.13

[5] European Court of Human Rights “The European Convention on Human Rights” 1950 link

[6] “Blacklisted builders launch mass legal action against Sir Robert McAlpine” The Guardian, 29.7.12 link

[7] Op. cited House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee 2013.

[8] Parliament “Blacklisting Debate: Opposition Day” 23.1.13. link

[9] Matthew Taylor “MPs call for inquiry into blacklist of green activists” The Guardian, 29.1.13

[10] ibid

[11] See for instance: Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor, Blacklist: the inside story of political vetting (The Hogarth Press 1988) Mike Hughes “Spies at Work” (1995) online book: link

[12] See for instance the role played by Sir Admiral Reginald ‘Blinker’ Hall a director of Naval Intelligence who advised the government on the establishment of MI6 in 1909

[13] Op. cited, Hughes 1995

[14] Matthew Taylor “MPs call for inquiry into blacklist of green activists” The Guardian, 29.1.13

[15] Op. cited, Hughes 1995

[16] The journal Labour Research still publishes news and information for trade unionists and continues to play an important role in exposing the activities of major construction companies in illegal blacklisting. Website: link

[17] Labour Research “A Subversive Guide to the Economic League” 1969

[18] State Research “The Economic League” Bulletin No. 7, pp. 135-145, 1978

[19] Op. cited Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor 1988

[20] David Hencke “Left blacklist man joins euro fight” The Guardian, 9.9.00

[21] When the Economic League was wound up two of its former directors formed a similar organisation called CAPRiM. The role of this organisation is enigmatic, but Ian Kerr has said that it was primarily an organisation that put out publications and checked potential employees curriculum vitaes. He also suggested that it was a vehicle to ensure that he and other ex-Economic League employees were able to maintain their standard of living.

[22] Op. cited Scottish Affairs Home Committee 2013

[23] Op. cited Scottish Affairs Home Committee 2013

[24] Op. cited Scottish Affairs Home Committee 2013

[25] The BSG blog can be found on the Hazards website. See link

[26] ibid

[27] link

[28] Op. cited Scottish Affairs Home Committee 2013

[29] Ibid

[30] Daniel Boffey “Blacklisted building workers hope for day in court after ruling” The Guardian, 3.3.12 link

[31] ibid

[32] Irish Post, 9.2.13

[33] The Courier, 5.2.13

[34] Paul Cahalan and Sanchez Manning “Building firms could face bans over blacklisting of workers” Independent 9.6.13.

[35] Op. cited Scottish Affairs Home Committee 2013

[36] Op. cited 7. Parliament “Blacklisting Debate: Opposition Day”, 23.1.13

[37] Panorama “Blacklist Britain” BBC 1, 10.6.13

[38] Daniel Boffey “Blacklisted builders launch mass legal action against Sir Robert McAlpine” Observer 29.7.12. link

[39] Daniel Boffey “McAlpine denies high court claim it had major role in ‘blacklist scandal’” The Guardian 12.1.13 link

[40] Panorama “Blacklist Britain” BBC 1, 10.6.13

[41] Op. cited The Guardian, 12.1.13

[42] Op. cited The Guardian, 12.1.13

[43] Tim Lezzard “Shoppers asked to support blacklisted workers (Union News 11.5.13)

[44] Morning Star, 4.1.13

[45] See Unite webpage:link

[46] Matthew Taylor “Unite calls for national action over Crossrail blacklisting allegations” The Guardian, 10.6.13.

[47] Will Hurst “Blacklisting protesters target Royal Bam” link

[48] HR Blacklist website: link

[49] Mike Hughes “First concerted legal action against blacklist will reveal need for a radical rethink of employment regulations” SpinWatch, 18.1.13

 

 

Secret industry databank in U.K. on militant trade unionists

Six years and still waiting: the legal implications of blacklisting

Blacklisted 2http://thejusticegap.com/2015/02/six-years-still-waiting-legal-implications-blacklisting/

by Dave Smith, The Justice Gap, March 6, 2015

The construction industry blacklist has appeared regularly in the media since it was discovered in 2009 following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Over 40 of the UK’s largest contractors held a covert database of trade unionists who had complained about unpaid wages or safety on building sites through an organisation called The Consulting Association.The database was used to check whenever workers applied to work on major projects and resulted in sackings and repeated refusals of employment over a period of decades. All this was meticulously recorded on 3,213 files using secret codes for the companies and the senior directors who oversaw he operation, with invoices sent for usage. You might have thought, that with mountains of documents, the individuals who had suffered would easily find a legal remedy to achieve some kind of justice. If only.

Initially hundreds of blacklisted workers applied for their files from the ICO and were supplied with what appeared to be prima facie evidence of unfair dismissal and various other forms of victimisation and discrimination. In the summer of 2009, there were a flurry of Employment Tribunal claims submitted and by November that year, when a collective case management discussion was held in Manchester, the blacklisted workers and their lawyers were optimistic of their prospects.

 Demo outside parliament, TUC Day of Action on Blacklisting in 2012

That optimism didn’t last very long. Within months, virtually every ET claim had been thrown out without the evidence even being heard in open court. The reason relates to time-limits.

Every ET claim needs to be submitted within three months of the incident taking place. This is a very strict rule and only in exceptional circumstances will the three months be extended (for instance if someone has been hospitalised for the entire period). In the blacklisting cases, the acts of discrimination or unfair dismissals complained about had not taken place three months earlier but sometimes three decades ago.

The claimants argued that deliberate deception by the blacklisting firms meant that it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to claim at the time of the incident. The courts accepted this but the law does not state how long an extension should be granted for.

In every case, the claimants completed their applications within a few weeks of receiving their file and in most cases well within the three months allowed in normal circumstances. But when Judge Brain sitting alone in Manchester heard the cases, he dismissed every single claim based upon the time-limit rule. The written judgements claim that even though he was willing to grant an extension, this should amount to only a few days. The decision as to how long an extension to grant is entirely in the hands of the judge. It was within his power to allow some leniency to ex-construction workers with no legal training who had completed the tribunal forms themselves. But he decided not to and only five cases ever made it to a full hearing.

'Blacklisted' book cover - more www.newint.org/books/politics/blacklisted-secret-war

Of these, three cases supported by the UNITE union were successful and the workers won compensation of a few thousand pounds because of a specific incidence of unfair dismissal or failure to appoint due to union membership. Sometimes the workers had suffered years of unemployment due to the blacklist, yet the compensation equated to no more than a few weeks lost wages.

The remaining two cases both lost because of ‘employee status’. In both cases, Dooley v Balfour Beatty and Smith v Carillion the companies admitted using the Consulting Association database to blacklist the union activists but won the court case because neither worker was directly employed by the main contractor that carried out the blacklisting. Dooley worked for a brickwork sub-contractor and Smith for an employment agency. In UK employment law, legal rights such as redundancy, unfair dismissal and victimisation for raising safety concerns only apply to direct employees. The impact for millions of casualised agency workers or those on zero hours contracts effectively have little or no employment rights – even where they have documentary evidence and when employers admit the victimisation.

Dave Smith (second from right) with legal team from Smith v Carillion test case.  (L-R) Declan Owens, David Renton, Smith, and John Hendy QC   (all acting pro-bono via the Free Representation Unit)

The Smith v Carillion case has been appealed using the Human Rights Act, all the way to the Court of Appeal. The legal argument being that blacklisting is a breach of Article 8 (privacy) and Article 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Human rights are supposed to apply to everyone not just a particular category of employee. So either the agency worker should be protected or else UK employment law does not comply with the ECHR, and should therefore be amended. In February 2015, the UK government even intervened in the case against Smith. The reserved judgement is expected within the next few months. There are currently two cases submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, the judgements in these cases are not expected for several years.

The Smith v Carillion test case has taken six years and had nearly 20 days in court, with QCs representing on both sides. The legal fees alone would financially ruin most and are another very real barrier to justice for working people.

The final throw of the legal dice is the ‘group litigation’ currently at the High Court. This is equivalent to a US style class action and is arguing that the Consulting Association was an unlawful conspiracy and claiming damages for loss of earnings and defamation. Around 500 workers are up against all the major blacklisting companies. The legal bills have already exceeded £10million and the trial date is not even confirmed yet but is likely to be in the summer of 2016.

Six years of legal battle and no real end in sight. Many have passed away in the process. Whatever the legal outcome, it will not be real justice.

U.K. Supreme Court grants “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”

Supreme Court grants “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”

Surveillance at June 2014 London austerity march

This morning the UK Supreme Court delivered a ruling that amounts to what Netpol describes as “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”.

This decision is the result of an appeal by the Metropolitan Police against a decision in March 2013 that its secretive ‘domestic extremist’ surveillance unit had unlawfully recorded the political activities of Brighton peace campaigner John Catt.

Back in December last year, when Netpol was granted the right to intervene in the Supreme Court hearing, we warned that a victory for the Metropolitan police would “make it significantly easier for intelligence-gathering officers to continue to obtain and retain data about protesters on an almost industrial scale.”

Today’s ruling does exactly this: it allows the police extraordinary discretion to obtain and retain the personal information of protesters whenever they consider it useful for purposes that are never fully defined, but that include investigating the ‘links between protest groups’ and their ‘organisation and leadership’. The Supreme Court has accepted that no further justification is apparently required.

We believe their judgement amounts to judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements. It affirms the Metropolitan Police’s stated belief that anyone taking part in a public protest has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Supreme Court appears to view the deletion of John Catt’s ‘nominal’ records from the domestic extremism database as a significant indication of an “intensive regime of statutory and administrative regulation”. However, his data was erased long after he stumbled upon evidence that he had been targeted for surveillance and and only after he submitted a request for the specific information held on him. The judgment fails to understand that whilst the Data Protection Act 1998 does, in theory, allow individuals to obtain information held about them by the police, intelligence-gathering itself remains highly secretive and the process for challenging it is deeply flawed.

The Supreme Court says that overt intelligence-gathering “has never been concealed from those who wish to know about these matters”. Netpol’s experience working with campaigners to obtain alleged ‘domestic extremist’ data suggests the exact opposite. It is normal for a request for personal information to take months longer than the statutory maximum of 40 days and if it is eventually provided, any detail is often partial and incomplete.

This Court’s ruling means many activists must repeatedly resubmit requests if they want to check that any new data about them on police files is not, as we have often seen, either inaccurate or misleading. It is extremely unlikely that most have the time or patience to keep doing so.

This case also demonstrates the limits of relying on the courts to protect against unwarranted police surveillance. It reinforces our belief that activists must take their own steps to prevent the gathering of so-called ‘intelligence’ in the first place.

A copy of the Supreme Court judgement is available here.

UPDATE

In a press release issued by his solicitors Bhatt Murphy, John Catt has confirmed his intention to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. He said:

“Four senior judges have found that my rights have been violated unlawfully, whilst four others have disagreed.  I cannot agree that the police in this country should be trusted with information about innocent people’s lawful political activities. In my view, without a new system of rules governing police surveillance, there is too much scope for the police to abuse their powers.  I am therefore left with no option but to take this matter to the European Court of Human Rights for the sake of other innocent people whose lawful political activities are being monitored by the state.

John’s solicitor Shamik Dutta said:

“Mr Catt has instructed me to seek a ruling from the European Court that by monitoring and retaining information about people’s lawful political activities the UK is violating the privacy rights of its citizens”.

Israeli blood-hounds try to muzzle Palestinian MP

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-moves-outlaw-palestinian-political-parties-knesset/13998

Israel moves to outlaw Palestinian political parties in the Knesset
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, Nazareth
4 November 2014

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement.”

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”

“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.

But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.

In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.

Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

Death threats

Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.

In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.

Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.

During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”

Under attack

Zoabi, who has come to personify an unofficial political opposition in the Knesset against all the main parties, is under attack on several fronts.

Last week she was informed that the state prosecution service had approved a police recommendation to put her on trial for criminal incitement for “humiliating” two policemen.

She is alleged to have referred to the policemen, who are members of the Palestinian minority, as “collaborators” as she addressed parents of children swept up in mass arrests following protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza over the summer.

Faina Kirschenbaum, the deputy interior minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has also drafted two bills directly targeting Zoabi.

The first would strip someone of the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism,” while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Because ministers are not allowed to initiate private bills, the task of bringing the measures to the floor of the parliament has been taken up by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.

Intentional subversions

Zoabi further infuriated fellow members of Knesset this month when she compared the Israeli army to the Islamic State, the jihadist group that has violently taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for kidnapping westerners and beheading them.

In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”

“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.

A poll this month found that 85 percent of the Israeli Jewish public wanted Zoabi removed from the Knesset.

“There is a great deal of frustration among Israeli politicians and the public at their army’s failure to defeat the Palestinian resistance in Gaza,” said Awad Abdel Fattah, the secretary general of Balad, a political party representing Palestinians in Israel. “At times like this, the atmosphere of repression intensifies domestically.”

Silencing all political dissent

The initiatives against Zoabi are the most visible aspects of a wider campaign to silence all political dissent from the Palestinian minority.

Last week, Lieberman instructed one of his members of Knesset, Alex Miller, to initiate a bill that would outlaw Salah’s Islamic Movement.

The legislation appears to be designed to hold Netanyahu to his word from late May. Then, the Israeli media revealed that the prime minister had created a ministerial team to consider ways to ban the movement.

At the same time, the Israeli security services claimed that Salah’s faction was cooperating closely with Hamas in Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger,” he has taken a leading role in warning that Israel is incrementally taking control of the most sensitive holy site in the conflict.

Last month it emerged that the Knesset is to vote on legislation to give Jewish religious extremists greater access to the mosque compound. Already large numbers of Jews, many of them settlers, regularly venture on to esplanade backed by armed Israeli police.

They include Jewish extremists that expressly want to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque so that a replica of a Jewish temple from 2,000 years ago can be built in its place.

Last week, Yehuda Glick, a leader of one of these extremist groups, was shot and wounded in Jerusalem. In response, Israel shut down al-Aqsa for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada fourteen years ago. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, called it a “declaration of war.”

According to the text of Lieberman’s bill, the northern wing of the Islamic Movement “subverts the State of Israel’s sovereignty while making cynical use of the institutions and fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic state.”

It also blames the movement for “an eruption of violence and unrest among the Arab minority in Israel, while maintaining close relations with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Raising the threshold

The attacks on Zoabi and the Islamic Movement come in the wake of legislation in March to raise the electoral threshold — from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — for a party to win representation in the Knesset.

The new threshold is widely seen as having been set to exclude the three Palestinian parties currently in the Knesset from representation. The minority’s vote is split almost evenly between three political streams.

Zoabi’s Balad party emphasizes the need for the Palestinian minority to build its own national institutions, especially in education and culture, to withstand the efforts of Israel’s Zionist institutions to strip Palestinian citizens of their rights and erase their identity. Its chief demand has been for “a state for all its citizens” — equal rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

Balad’s chief rival is the joint Jewish-Arab party of Hadash, whose Communist ideology puts a premium on a shared program of action between Jewish and Arab citizens. However, its Jewish supporters have shrunk to a tiny proportion of the party. It too campaigns for equal rights.

And the final party, Raam-Taal, is a coalition led by prominent Islamic politicians.

The three parties have between them eleven seats in the 120-member Knesset, with one held by a Jewish member of Knesset, Dov Chenin, for Hadash.

Abdel Fattah said his Balad party had been urging the other parties to create a coalition in time for the next general election to overcome the new threshold.

So far it has faced opposition from Hadash, which is worried that an alliance with Balad would damage its image as a joint Jewish-Arab party. A source in Hadash told Israeli daily Haaretz in late September: “Hadash is not an Arab party, and there’s no reason it should unite with two Arab parties.”

Abdel Fattah said Hadash’s objections were unreasonable given that both Balad and the Islamic faction believed it was important to include Jewish candidates on a unified list. “Eventually they will have to come round to a joint list unless they want to commit political suicide,” he remarked.

Falling turnout

Balad has been under threat at previous general elections. The Central Elections Committee, a body representing the major political parties, has repeatedly voted to ban it from running. Each time the decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007 the party’s former chairman, Azmi Bishara, was accused of treason while traveling abroad and has been living in exile ever since.

But the representation of all the parties is now in danger from the raised threshold. Over the past thirty years, turnout among Palestinian citizens has dramatically fallen to little more than half of potential voters, as the minority has seen its political demands for equality greeted with a wave of laws entrenching discrimination.

Among the anti-democratic measures passed in recent years are laws that penalize organizations commemorating the Nakba, the Palestinians’ dispossession of their homeland in 1948; that provide a statutory basis to admissions committees, whose function is to prevent Palestinian citizens living on most of Israel’s territory; and that make it impossible for most Palestinian citizens to bring a Palestinian spouse to live with them in Israel.

Uncompromising stance

Last week, Balad MKs boycotted the opening ceremony of the Knesset, following the summer recess, in protest at Zoabi’s treatment.

At a press conference in the parliament, her colleague, Basel Ghattas, warned: “The day is approaching when Arab MKs will think there is no use participating in the political sphere. We are discovering more and more that we are personae non gratae at the Knesset.”

On Facebook, Lieberman responded that he hoped the Arab MKs would “carry out this ‘threat’ as soon as possible.”

The increasingly uncompromising stance towards all the Palestinian minority’s political factions marks a shift in policy, even for the right.

Although no Israeli government coalition has ever included a Palestinian party, and the Nasserist al-Ard movement was banned in the 1960s, Jewish politicians have generally viewed it as safer to keep the Palestinian parties inside the Knesset.

Analyst Uzi Baram observed in Haaretz that even Menachem Begin, a former hardline prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, believed it would be unwise to raise the threshold to keep out Arab parties. If they were excluded, Baram wrote, it was feared “they would resort to non-parliamentary actions.”

“Paving the way toward fascism”

Zoabi petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against her suspension from the Knesset in early October. However, the judges suggested she first use an arcane appeal procedure before the Knesset’s full plenum to demonstrate she had exhausted all available channels for lifting the suspension.

Israeli legal scholars have noted the irregularities in the ethics committee’s decision to impose a record-long suspension on Zoabi. The committee’s task is to regulate parliament members’ behavior inside the Knesset, not political speech outside it.

Aeyal Gross, a constitutional law professor at Tel Aviv University, warned that the Knesset’s treatment of Zoabi was “paving the way towards fascism and tyranny.”

Gross noted the extreme severity of the committee’s punishment of Zoabi, contrasting it with that of another MK, Aryeh Eldad. In 2008 he called for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister at the time, to be sentenced to death for suggesting that parts of the occupied territories become a Palestinian state.

Eldad was suspended for just one day, even though it was a clear example of incitement to violence in a country where a former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by a right-wing extremist, citing similar justification for his actions.

Tyranny of the majority

The Supreme Court, which has shifted rightwards in recent years, may not be sympathetic to Zoabi’s appeal against her suspension.

In September the court jailed Said Nafaa, a former MK from her Balad party, for one year after he was convicted of visiting Syria in 2007 with a delegation of Druze clerics and meeting a Palestinian faction leader in Syria.

The crime of making contact with a foreign agent is the only one in Israeli law in which the defendant must prove their innocence.

The court may also be wary of making unpopular rulings at a time when it is under concerted attack from the Israeli right for being too liberal.

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.

Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”


Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is jonathan-cook.net.

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Human rights group B’Tselem will petition Israel’s supreme court after advert was deemed to be ‘politically controversial’
in Jerusale
The Guardian,
Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights organisation which listed the names of some of the scores of children killed in Gaza since the conflict began 17 days ago.

B’Tselem‘s appeal against the decision was rejected on Wednesday. It intends to petition Israel‘s supreme court on Sunday in an effort to get the ban overturned.

The IBA said the ad’s content was “politically controversial”. The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims’ names.

In its appeal, B’Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. “Is it controversial that the children [aren’t] alive? That they’re children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public’s knowledge.”

In a statement, the human rights group said: “So far more than 600 people have been killed in bombings in Gaza, more than 150 of them children. But apart from a brief report on the number of fatalities, the Israeli media refrains from covering them.” By Thursday morning, the death toll in Gaza had exceeded 700.

B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”

Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days, and more than 70,000 children had been forced to flee their homes. There has also been a spike in the number of premature births.

“The shocking number of children being killed, injured, or displaced in Gaza demands an unequivocal international response to stop the bloodshed,” Save the Children said. “Entire families are being wiped out in seconds as a result of the targeting of homes.”

Dr Yousif al Swaiti, director of al-Awda hospital, said: “We have witnessed many premature births as a result of the fear and psychological disorders caused by the military offensive. The number of cases of premature births per day has doubled, compared to the average daily rate before the escalation.”

Turkey shuts off YouTube after ‘Syria invasion plan’ leak

Turkey shuts off YouTube after ‘Syria invasion plan’ leak

http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/

RT.COM,  March 27, 2014

Access to YouTube has been cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria. Other social media have already been blocked ahead of tumultuous local elections.

The latest leaked audio recording, which reportedly led to the ban, appears to show top government officials discussing a potential attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

The tomb is in Syrian territory, but protected by Turkish soldiers.

On the tape, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is heard to say that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees any attack as an “opportunity” to increase Turkish presence in Syria, where it has staunchly supported the anti-Assad rebels. Security chief Hakan Fidan then goes one step further, and suggests staging a fake attack to give Turkey a casus belli to intervene in the conflict.

Turkish officials have recently vowed to protect the tomb as its “national soil.”

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara reacted to the tape by issuing a statement, calling the leak a “wretched attack” on national security. It also claims the tape was “partially manipulated.”

“These treacherous gangs are the enemies of our state and people. The perpetrators of this attack targeting the security of our state and people will be uncovered in the shortest time and will be handed over to justice to be given the heaviest penalty,” the ministry said.

A source inside the office of President Abdullah Gül, who has taken a softer line than Erdoğan over the series of government leaks, told Reuters that access to YouTube may be restored if the sensitive content is removed, even though the original video has been deleted.

Invoking national security and privacy concerns has been the government’s tactic in fighting off a stream of leaks showing top officials engaging in unsavory or downright illegal practices.

Erdoğan has also repeatedly claimed that most of the audio recordings are fakes. He labeled the latest audio revelation “villainous” during a stump speech in Diyabakir.

Twitter, another popular source for leaks, has already been shut down in Turkey since March 20, after a court order.

Since then, the California-based social network and organizations have fought in several courts to have the decision reversed, calling it “disproportionate and illegal.”

A court ruling in Ankara on Wednesday supported the appeal, but the country’s regulator has a month to unblock Twitter, leading to speculation that any such move would only take place after the election.

The incumbent party also enjoys the benefit of robust privacy legislation passed last month, which makes it easy to cut off any website even before any violation has been legally proven.

The US has led the chorus of international condemnation, calling the government’s moves “censorship” tantamount to “21st century book-burning.”
OSCE slams YouTube ban

Turkey is deliberately ignoring the fundamental right of freedom of the press by blocking access to social media platforms, Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media stated.

“A regulator exercising censorship by blocking is unacceptable in democracies, and it breaches numerous OSCE and other international standards that Turkey has committed to,” Mijatović said.

The OSCE calls on Ankara to immediately restore access to YouTube and Twitter.

“I call on the authorities to preserve the free flow of information and media freedom both online and offline, and immediately restore access to YouTube. I also urge TIB to reinstate Twitter services without delay following yesterday’s court decision annulling the ban on the website,” added Mijatović.

http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/ (http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/)

NATO Bombs RTS – TV Station in Belgrad

NATO Bombs TV Station in Serbia

Emergency rescue workers carry victims out of the Belgrade TV station bombed by NATO

‘Once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war’

by Robert Fisk, The Independent, April 23, 1999

Hanging upside-down from the wreckage was a dead man, in his fifties perhaps, although a benevolent grey dust had covered his face. Not far away, also upside-down – his legs trapped between tons of concrete and steel – was a younger man in a pullover, face grey, blood dribbling from his head on to the rubble beneath.

Deep inside the tangle of cement and plastic and iron, in what had once been the make-up room next to the broadcasting studio of Serb Television, was all that was left of a young woman, burnt alive when Nato’s missile exploded in the radio control room. Within six hours, the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the place a “legitimate target.”

It wasn’t an argument worth debating with the wounded – one of them a young technician who could only be extracted from the hundreds of tons of concrete in which he was encased by amputating both his legs. Nor with the silent hundreds who gathered in front of the still-smoking ruin at dawn yesterday, lost for words as they stood in the little glade of trees beside St Marko’s Cathedral, where Belgrade’s red and cream trams turn round.

A Belgrade fireman pulled at one of the bodies for all of 30 seconds before he realised that the man, swinging back and forth amid the wreckage, was dead. By dusk last night, 10 crushed bodies – two of them women – had been tugged from beneath the concrete, another man had died in hospital and 15 other technicians and secretaries still lay buried. A fireman reported hearing a voice from the depths as the heavens opened, turning into mud the muck and dust of a building that Ms. Short had declared to be a “propaganda machine.”

We had all wondered how long it would be before Nato decided that Radio Televizija Srbija should join the list of “military” targets. Spokesmen had long objected to its crude propaganda – itincluded a Nato symbol turning into a swastika and a montage of Madeleine Albright growing Dracula teeth in front of a burning building. It never reported on the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees who spoke of executions and “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. It endlessly repeated films that depicted Yugoslav soldiers as idealised heroes defending their country. It carried soporific tapes of President Slobodan Milosevic meeting patriarchs, Cossacks, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

The channel was showing an American interview with Mr Milosevic when the first cruise missile smashed into the station’s control room just after two o’clock yesterday morning. But did this justify killing the night staff in their studios and taping rooms? Two weeks ago, Nato’s spokesmen had been suggesting that RTS would have to carry six hours of Western television a day if it was to survive – CNN’s bland, safe coverage of events presumably offering some balance to the rubbish churned out on the RTS news.

But once Nato decided this was as preposterous as it was impracticable, its spokesman announced that the station was not on the list of Nato targets. Then, on Monday, CNN’s bosses called up from Atlanta to inform the satellite boys in Belgrade that they should pull out of the RTS offices.

Against the wishes of other Nato nations, so the word went, General Wesley Clark had decided to bomb Serb television. CNN withdrew from the building in Takovska Street. And that night, we were all invited to have coffee and orange juice in the studios. The building was likely to be a target of the “Nato aggressor”, according to Goran Matic, a Yugoslav federal minister, as he walked us through the ground floor of the doomed building. Yet, oddly, we did not take him seriously. Even when the air-raid siren sounded, I stayed for another coffee.

Surely Nato wouldn’t waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. Yesterday morning, the moment I heard the cruise missile scream over my hotel roof, I knew I was wrong. There was a thunderous explosion and a mile-high cloud of dust as four storeys collapsed to the ground, sandwiching offices, machines, transmitters and people into a pile of rubble only 15 feet high.

Yet, within six hours, Serb television was back on the air, beaming its programmes from secret transmitters, the female anchorwoman reading the news from pieces of pink paper between pre-recorded films of Serbian folk-songs and ancient Orthodox churches. All along, the Serbs had been ready for just such an attack. We had not believed Nato capable of such ferocity.

The Serbs had. The crowds still stood in the park as darkness fell, watching the men with drills punching their way through the concrete for more survivors. By that time, explanations were flowing from Nato’s birthday celebrations in Washington. Serbia’s “propaganda machine” had been prolonging the war.

I wonder. I seem to recall Croatian television spreading hatred a-plenty when it was ethnically cleansing 170,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. But we didn’t bomb Zagreb. And when President Franjo Tudjman’s lads were massacring Serbs and Muslims alike in Bosnia, we didn’t bomb his residence.

Was Serbian television’s real sin its broadcast of film of the Nato massacre of Kosovo Albanian refugees last week, killings that Nato was forced to admit had been a mistake? Yes, Serbian television could be hateful, biased, bad. It was owned by the government. But once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you have changed the rules of war. And that’s what Nato did in Belgrade in the early hours of yesterday morning.

General Comment 10, Art. 19 (ICCPR) (Right to free expression)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 10, Article 19 (Nineteenth session, 1983), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 11 (1994).

 

 

 

1. Paragraph 1 requires protection of the “right to hold opinions without interference”. This is a right to which the Covenant permits no exception or restriction. The Committee would welcome information from States parties concerning paragraph 1.

2. Paragraph 2 requires protection of the right to freedom of expression, which includes not only freedom to “impart information and ideas of all kinds”, but also freedom to “seek” and “receive” them “regardless of frontiers” and in whatever medium, “either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Not all States parties have provided information concerning all aspects of the freedom of expression. For instance, little attention has so far been given to the fact that, because of the development of modern mass media, effective measures are necessary to prevent such control of the media as would interfere with the right of everyone to freedom of expression in a way that is not provided for in paragraph 3.

3. Many State reports confine themselves to mentioning that freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Constitution or the law. However, in order to know the precise regime of freedom of expression in law and in practice, the Committee needs in addition pertinent information about the rules which either define the scope of freedom of expression or which set forth certain restrictions, as well as any other conditions which in practice affect the exercise of this right. It is the interplay between the principle of freedom of expression and such limitations and restrictions which determines the actual scope of the individual’s right.

4. Paragraph 3 expressly stresses that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities and for this reason certain restrictions on the right are permitted which may relate either to the interests of other persons or to those of the community as a whole. However, when a State party imposes certain restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself. Paragraph 3 lays down conditions and it is only subject to these conditions that restrictions may be imposed: the restrictions must be “provided by law”; they may only be imposed for one of the purposes set out in subparagraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 3; and they must be justified as being “necessary” for that State party for one of those purposes.

 

 

General Comment 11, Article 20 of ICCPR (Ban on war propaganda)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 11, Article 20 (Nineteenth session, 1983), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 12 (1994).

1. Not all reports submitted by States parties have provided sufficient information as to the implementation of article 20 of the Covenant. In view of the nature of article 20, States parties are obliged to adopt the necessary legislative measures prohibiting the actions referred to therein. However, the reports have shown that in some States such actions are neither prohibited by law nor are appropriate efforts intended or made to prohibit them. Furthermore, many reports failed to give sufficient information concerning the relevant national legislation and practice.

2. Article 20 of the Covenant states that any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law. In the opinion of the Committee, these required prohibitions are fully compatible with the right of freedom of expression as contained in article 19, the exercise of which carries with it special duties and responsibilities. The prohibition under paragraph 1 extends to all forms of propaganda threatening or resulting in an act of aggression or breach of the peace contrary to the Charter of the United Nations, while paragraph 2 is directed against any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether such propaganda or advocacy has aims which are internal or external to the State concerned. The provisions of article 20, paragraph 1, do not prohibit advocacy of the sovereign right of self-defence or the right of peoples to self-determination and independence in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. For article 20 to become fully effective there ought to be a law making it clear that propaganda and advocacy as described therein are contrary to public policy and providing for an appropriate sanction in case of violation. The Committee, therefore, believes that States parties which have not yet done so should take the measures necessary to fulfil the obligations contained in article 20, and should themselves refrain from any such propaganda or advocacy.

 

Attempt to curtail free expression in an airport

Memorandum about an episode in Gatwick Airport on 1. December 1996
by Elias Davidsson

On 1. December 1996, I spent a few hours at the Transit Hall of the Gatwick Airport (London), coming from Oviedo (Spain), where I had given a concert and going to Zurich (Switzerland) for my professional (musical) activities. I arrived in Gatwick around 1 PM and had my flight to Zurich only after 7 PM.

As a person concerned about the deadly sanctions by most governments against the Iraqi people and having written numerous papers on the subject, I felt that I could use the opportunity of spending time for a few hours in this public place to draw the attention of some fellow passengers to this matter, which the media are not willing to openly discuss. As I do not possess the means to run a newspaper or a TV station, my possibilities of reaching my fellow human beings are grossly limited to sporadic occasions where I can reach more than a handful of people.

I therefore bought some paper and scotch tape, glued together 8 A4 sheets and wrote on them:

YOUR GOVERNMENT PARTICIPATES IN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM.
576,000 IRAQI CHILDREN HAVE ALREADY DIED.
DON”T SAY: “I DID NOT KNOW”.
 


I deliberately did not mention a specific government because passengers are from all around the world and I wanted to leave it to each one to find out whether his/her government was participating in this criminal act.

After having written this, I placed this sheet beside me on another chair and went to read a newspaper. As the sheet was placed on a chair, it could only be seen by people in the vicinity of my place.

It took only five minutes for a security officer to arrive and ask me about this “poster”. He claimed that the poster was “offensive” and that I should take it “down”. I responded to him that the term “offensive” is a a subjective matter and that I, for example, find very offensive to be surrounded by commercial messages all around me in the waiting hall. He then asked whether I intended to display the “poster” in the aircraft and I said NO as I wished to act discreetly, rather than impose the poster on anyone. He then called his superior who checked my passport (for no reason whatsoever). I told both of them that I am a composer,  showed them examples of my published works and emphasized that I did not intend to disturb anybody or solicit anything from anybody and that it was my right to express myself in writing. This is done by thousands of people who carry various messages on their T-shirts, plastic bags and other portable surfaces. They then left.

A few minutes later a policeman arrived and attempted to induce me to remove my “poster”. He maintained that “many people” had “complained” about this “offensive poster”. I told him that the ads surrounding me  irritating to me, but that I was forced to tolerate them. He then said that offended individuals might assault me and that it is his duty to prevent assault. By
displaying my message, he said that  I was provoking and inciting “disorder”. I then told him that if he really believed that my peaceful expression could cause violent and illegal behaviour by somebody, then it would be his duty to protect me and my right to free expression and not suppress it under threat of unknown parties. He then said that it was forbidden to place posters in the airport without permission. I asked about the legal base of this interdiction. He then called his superior who came finally with the airport regulations (which have the force of law) , in which it is written that it is prohibited to put up posters without permission.

Although I did not “put up” any poster nor was my “poster” intended to stay there as it was part of my personal belongings, I decided not to argue my case with the officer, folded the “poster” and put it in my bag. I also told the officer that I thanked him for permitting me to learn about the attitude of the British police towards the right to free expression, especially that he went out of his way to repress my right, knowing that I did not disturb anybody nor caused any commotion whatsoever. I also wrote down his number (he declined to give his name).

I guess that if I had written on the paper: “God bless you”, or had I placed my message on my T-shirt, the police would not have harassed me, nor invoked airport regulations to repress my right. I submit therefore that the airport police restricted unduly and in an arbitrary manner my right to place a written sheet of paper beside me on the seat and decided, designating this action as putting up a poster. It is also significant that security officers reacted very rapidly, although there was not the slightest commotion around me and hardly anybody actually seemed to read my sheet of paper. I believe that the police officer lied to me when claiming that “many people” had complained about the message. It could not have been the case, because the sheet was not visible from afar and only few people bothered to approach and read it. It is obvious that the hundreds of commercial messages imposed on the passengers in the transit area for 24 hours a day are much more obtrusive and imposing than my small sheet of paper. It was thus not the actual action I undertook that caused this reaction, but the contents of the message.  This, in turn, shows that police forces are sensitized to what the ruling elite wants, and do not act impartially.

Having returned home to Iceland (where I lived at the time), I decided to document in detail this incident, as it represents in my opinion an infringement of human rights. An airport waiting hall is a public place, not a private home.  A great number of people impose their messages on the captive public of the airport to sell their wares. If the systematic and large-scale imposition of commercial messages in a public place is allowed as bona fide free expression, there is absolutely no legal base to inhibit the exercise of passengers of their right to peaceful and discreet expression while dwelling in this public place for a short period of time. .

If the right to this kind of free expression is curtailed, then it would be logical for the police to prohibit from a visitor to a public park to place a message on the bank beside him under the pretext that people may not put up an “offensive poster”. I doubt that such curtailment of free expression would be lawful.

Truth – Justice – Peace