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The human rights abuses that couldn’t be closer to home – weekly briefing

Will the New Labour imperialists ever pay for their crimes, asks Lindsey German

Imagine if, in the course of a much contested and aggressive war, your government was involved in facilitating the torture and detention of suspected terrorists, its intelligence officers being present while some of this torture is taking place, or supplying questions to the torturers in order to facilitate their interrogations in other cases – with more than 200 known cases where this took place.

Imagine if government ministers at the highest levels lied or covered up such behaviour, and denounced those who questioned it or tried to get at the facts.

There would be outcry at the highest levels, with demands for criminal inquiries and for those responsible to be held to account. Or would there? Because these are exactly the findings of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, and the outcry has been – with some honourable exceptions – muted to say the least. Not only that, Theresa May severely restricted the scope of the inquiry by refusing to let many of the intelligence officers testify, thus preventing anything like the full story from seeing the light of day.

The man who was Foreign Secretary while this was going on, Jack Straw, has denied knowledge of the particulars, while May has said that the circumstances of the War on Terror were such that people did not always realise what they were doing! Then prime  minister, Tony Blair, seems less than interested, more concerned to reverse the result of the EU referendum than face the truth.

The truth is not pleasant. The report makes clear the complicity of British secret services in these processes of rendition, as they are euphemistically called. Calls from Labour shadow frontbenchers for a full inquiry into the scandal are welcome but only part of the answer. The real problem is that government ministers acted with impunity during the War on Terror. Tony Blair and Jack Straw behaved despicably during this war using lies and deception in their every endeavour to support a right-wing US president.

It has become almost beyond the pale to criticize the security services, but let us remember their involvement in these renditions, in helping to promote the dossier which asserted there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and in being directly involved in operations in Libya, Syria and Iraq. These are the same security services who spy on trade unionists and political activists.

These activities, of course, have consequences. Most obviously that these practices, combined with the horrors of Guantanamo, the political instrumentalisation of Prevent, and the continued bombing and intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere, have all helped not to diminish terrorism but to hugely increase it. After Chilcot, surely this is more evidence that Blair should be in the dock – not feted by the great and the good and given regular slots on the BBC – as should Straw and all those responsible.

Unfortunately, those in government seem determined to continue with exactly the policies which created this abuse of human rights. May is committed to the militarism and war which marked her predecessors, and now with Trump we’re seeing the rottenness of the ‘special relationship’ all over again. Yet one more reason to demonstrate against Trump’s visit on 13 July.

Why the Mediterranean is the graveyard of the world’s poor and desperate

One of the major drivers of the refugee crisis is, of course, the misery and destruction caused by war. The response of the powers largely responsible for the wars is to exclude and scapegoat the refugees. Following the EU deal on Friday, it is pretty close to official policy to just leave them to drown in the Mediterranean. The plan is to extend what already happens in Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan, which is to force refugees into local camps out of sight of Europe. This means building more camps in Libya, a miserably war-torn and poor country, where there is no safety for the mass of the people.

There is much talk in the media that far fewer refugees are coming to Europe than in 2015, but this misses the point because it isn’t about numbers, it’s about politics. The EU has a 503 million population so even 1 million isn’t that big a deal. But right-wing politicians have used the issue to their advantage since 2015, and have been successful against a background of austerity and a failure of mainstream parties to deliver the basics that people need. Trump has boosted the right internationally, and this won’t easily be turned around. It needs an active and ongoing opposition to fascism and the far right on the one hand, a defence of migrants and Muslims on the other. It also needs a third element, which is the undercutting of right wing arguments through genuinely providing improvements in people’s lives.

Neoliberal Europe does little on the first two, helping to fuel the right with its policies, and is uninterested in the third as it continues its determined austerity drive. I wish that those who put faith in the EU to solve problems from low wages to equal pay would honestly look at the reality here. I care about the rights of EU citizens to move freely; I also care about all those beyond the EU who are facing ever more draconian treatment – at the explicit decree of the EU, which is pacifying the far right over this. On this score, things can only get worse – unless we fight back on all these issues.

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