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On Tuesday, January 20, the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission (GHRC) was launched at the House of Commons as part of the ongoing struggle to block the way to a return to the arbitrary exercise of power, reminiscent of mediaeval kings, which is an integral part of the Anglo-American "war on terror". The GHRC, which brings together lawyers and human rights activists with friends, families and supporters of the 25 European residents and citizens incarcerated at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, has set itself the aim of fighting for the Guantanamo prisoners to be treated according to international law and in the long term to end all forms of internment without trial.
Speaking at the launch of the commission, Azmat Begg, whose son is being held at Guantanamo Bay, condemned Britain's Labour governments role in the seizing and disappearing of people into legal blackholes under the banner of its "war on terror". Commenting on a recent meeting he had with the Foreign Office, he said, "I am very sorry to say that we have been to the Foreign Office but the response we got was very unacceptable. I came out very disappointed, full of loss. My son has no human rights nothing." He continued, "We call ourselves the mother of civilisation, we call ourselves champions of democracy but what we are doing we can see it ourselves. Democracy and justice cannot exist in any country unless governments act according to international human rights law and the conventions that apply to captured prisoners." Phillippe Sands QC, professor of law at London University, stated, "It is plain and clear that the treatment of these 660 (prisoners at Guantanamo) being held without charge, without access to a lawyer, without access to a court violates the most fundamental of human rights."
The grave violation of human rights taking place at Guantanamo Bay is mirrored in Britain at Belmarsh Prison, dubbed Britain's Guantanamo, and other high security prisons where at least 16 foreign citizens have been held for over two years without charge or trial, under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. Amnesty International has pointed out that this Act permits indefinite detention of foreign citizens using evidence extracted under torture. These prisoners are being held in their cells for up to 22 hours each day and at least half of them are reportedly showing signs of mental illness. Gareth Peirce, the solicitor representing a number of the prisoners, said, "They have now been pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. All these men are refugees and a number are torture victims. It is well established that victims of torture should not be confined, because this can trigger former trauma." The government, which is practising such mediaeval barbarism, does not shrink from lecturing others, such as the government of Zimbabwe, on the need to respect human rights as a shameless means of interfering in the affairs of that country.
The brutal and inhuman measures being taken, as well as the brushing aside of the most elementary human rights by Anglo-American finance capital and the governments in its service shows clearly the nature of their "war on terror". The working class and people must persist with their opposition to this reactionary drive to the arbitrary use of power, the flouting of the rule of law and the use of state terror.
A Bloody Sunday Commemoration was held in Conway Hall, London, on Sunday, January 25. Welcoming the participants on behalf of the Organising Committee in a packed Fenner Brockway Room, Tony Donaghey, President of RMT (acting in a personal capacity), said that the meeting was being held once again to support the struggle for honesty and justice for the 14 citizens of Derry killed by British soldiers on that day. He said that the killing, again by British troops, of five Iraqi demonstrators in the last weeks brought it all back. He pointed out that it was important that this side of the water it was seen also as an English problem. It was important for the peace process that the truth come out. A minutes solemn silence was held in memory of the dead.
Dan Connolly, brother of Niall Connolly, one of three Irishmen held on terrorism charges in Colombia, said that everybody in Ireland knew the British Army had killed innocent people on Bloody Sunday. But there was great admiration for the families who persisted in fighting for the truth. He gave an update on the Colombia trial, detailing the discredited evidence, difficulties of legal access, prejudicial statements made by the countrys President and military, and pointing out that this was a political trial held at the behest of the US administration. He said they now awaited the trial judges verdict to be given possibly next month.
John McDonnell MP said that he like others had campaigned over the years first from emotional shock, then solidarity with the bereaved, then calling for an enquiry to reveal the truth. He said that the campaign had also been educative, bringing out the history of the Irish struggle for freedom and its part in the overall struggle against colonial oppression. He said that whether planned or not, the Bloody Sunday massacre was part of a last attempt to show who was in charge. It had failed and only revealed over the years the potential for a United Ireland. He said that Tony Blair and Bertie Aherne must recognise that the majority of people in Ireland supported the peace process and that they must face down bigotry. This is part of the anti-imperialist struggle for Irish freedom, he ended.
Gerry Duddy spoke movingly and with great poignancy of the loss of his brother on Bloody Sunday, of his promise to do something for him, of people saying they were mad to take on the British establishment. It had not been easy and he was grateful for all the support the families had received. It was not clear how successful the Saville Enquiry had been. At least more had come out than from the Widgery Tribunal. There was now a record. But why could the British not just admit the truth, that there was no gun battle? The families could only hope for the right result, which would open the gates for 100s of other bereaved families.
Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein, an Omagh Councillor and MLA for West Tyrone, said that Bloody Sunday had shaped the character of Derry. The human dimension was important. Bloody Sunday had been no accident, he said, British paratroopers had murdered Irish citizens. The subsequent lies added insult to injury. He said it was all part of an attempt to lower political ambitions. But we must make sure there are no limits! We must take not wait to be given! He spoke of the continuing denial of rights, citing the disenfranchisement of youth in the recent elections. He said partition must be ended after 83 long years and the ignoring of the express will of the Irish people ended too. He recalled the overwhelming Republican victory in the all-Ireland General Election of 1918, which the British had ignored and which led eventually to partition. He emphasised that the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was not a Republican document. It was transitional, a compromise. The aim was not seats in Stormont but seats for the six counties in Leinster House, Dublin! He denounced the suspension by the British government of the political institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement and the lack of progress, particularly regarding North-South bodies. He pointed out that British interference in Ireland was not only bad for Ireland but bad for Britain too. Now the peace process was to be reviewed beginning February 3. Sinn Fein, he said, was in the business of sorting things out, including the weapons question. But it must be a review not a renegotiation. The days were over when Irish aspirations could be halted. The British government had no right on Irish soil, although one looked forward to good-neighbourly relations. He said the British government had told lies on "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, they had told lies on Bloody Sunday, they had told lies on partition. Now they were again colluding with the UDA on terrorist threats. He said Sinn Fein welcomed the Saville Enquiry. They hoped it would reveal the truth. He said the question of cost was continually raised. But there would have been no cost at all if the British government had told the truth! There were two simple demands: the truth and Irish freedom!
In a short question and answer period the Sinn Fein representative spoke among other things on the campaign for voting and debating rights for the north in the Dail and other institutions in Dublin. He pointed out the anomaly that the Irish President herself had no vote in her own election.
By West Midlands correspondent
About 8,000 car workers downed tools at 6am on Monday over pay, in the first strike since 1988. The workers and their unions have rejected a 6.5% offer over two years. Picket lines have gone up outside plants in Solihull, West Midlands, and Gaydon in Warwickshire. Unions have warned that production will be badly hit by the 24-hour walkout. The T&GWU said that support for the strike is solid.
Workers voted heavily against the offer, and the strike represents an escalation of industrial action, including an overtime ban in recent weeks and the withdrawal from a flexible working agreement earlier this month.
Already Ford Land Rover have warned action could put the future of the Solihull plant at risk as it would be "increasingly difficult" to justify new investment. Ford are in the process of rationalising plants and downsizing. Why should this be the case? The workers are asking for parity from a large transnational company, which is paying workers down the road at Jaguar different wages for the same work, the workers are demanding their share of the social product in demanding parity. The Rover workers have no reason to be apologetic about raising demands for wages and working conditions.
The factory normally produces 1,000 vehicles a day, 70% of which are exported. The Transport and General Workers' Union said its members at Land Rover believed the pay offer should be increased to reflect the contribution they have made to the company's profits.
Duncan Simpson, national official at amicus, said: "It's with reluctance that we've moved to strike action but we hope the company will rethink their position and agree to negotiations. We've said we are prepared to meet the company at any time without preconditions. The ball is in their court."
The strike at Land Rover over wages is important. The strike has an increasing political content, on the one hand because of the claim on the social product and on the other because of the struggle against the global strategy of the transnationals. The class struggle is escalating in Birmingham against the export of capital, where large companies have taken it upon themselves to "up sticks" and move out. Every worker in the region knows that the car workers have traditionally led the way forward. By coming out of the margins and asserting themselves, the Land Rover workers are pointing the way by uniting and taking militant action. In this way the struggle for a livelihood crosses over between jobs and higher pay. By resolutely raising and fighting for their demands, the Rover workers are not only advancing their own cause, they are also advancing the cause of the entire community. Their cause is one that deserves the active support of all.
The wage struggle is about the alternative, whether the wages system of exploitation should continue to exist or abolition of the wages system should be placed on the agenda. Whose claims on the social product should come first the workers who produced it or the capitalists who have appropriated it? Not only are the employers demanding workers give over the surplus product today to the capitalist for profit but also yesterday's, where the social product produced by previous generations of workers has also been claimed by the capitalist.
It is the Rover workers who have first claim on the social product which they have created through their labour, both physical and mental. They have first claim by virtue of the fact that they are the actual producers of the social product and, without their labour, the social product could not have been produced. By fighting to assert their own claims, the Rover workers are also advancing the claims of the entire community, for when Birmingham's industrial workers retain more of the fruits of their labour, the economy of the whole city is improved.
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