Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga – Frances Webber

December 19, 2014

Following the acquittal on 16 December of the G4S guards charged with the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga, barrister Frances Webber, chair of the Institute of Race Relations and author of Borderline Justice: The Fight for Refugee and Migrant Rights (Pluto, 2012) focuses on the judge’s decision to rule inadmissible evidence pointing to endemic racism within G4S.

JIMMYMUBENGA_6After the acquittal of the guards charged with Jimmy Mubenga’s manslaughter, the judge told the jurors not to be concerned if they later read about evidence excluded from the trial. What should we make of this advice?

On 16 December three G4S guards were acquitted of the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga, who died on 12 October 2010 under restraint on a plane during his deportation to Angola. Terrence Hughes, Colin Kaler and Stuart Tribelnig had been on trial at the Old Bailey for manslaughter by gross negligence, on the basis that they disregarded their duty of care by keeping Mubenga in a compressed position in his seat for over half an hour, ignoring his cries that he could not breathe.

Should we be surprised at the verdicts? No. In all the dozens of deaths in custody involving undue force researched by the IRR over the last twenty-five years,[1] no one has ever been convicted of homicide. And where an inquest jury, after seeing and hearing incontrovertible evidence, has brought in a verdict of unlawful killing (which has happened at least nine times), heaven and earth are moved to reverse the verdict and/or to ensure that the CPS does not bring a prosecution of those involved.

On this occasion, following the inquest verdict of unlawful killing, the CPS did decide to prosecute the three men, in a reversal of its previous position that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute anyone involved – the CPS’ default position when it comes to deaths in custody. Read the rest of this entry »

Taiwan: residents resist forced eviction for ‘Aerotropolis’ megaproject

December 19, 2014

The following article originally appeared in the Ecologist. You can read it online, here

Communities facing around Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport are facing huge land grabs for a vast airport city that will line the pockets of powerful officials, politicians and developers, but leave them with nothing, writes Rose Bridger. Now, faced with official abuse and police brutality, they are fighting back with street protests and art projects.

Taoyuan Airport, serving the Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei on the northern tip of the island, is not unusual in planning expansion: A third runway and passenger terminal are planned.

But around the airport, government and big businesses are pursuing a far larger development: a megaproject called an ‘aerotropolis’, or airport city. Phased commercial, industrial and residential development is envisaged over an area totalling over 4,700 hectares.

The scheme encompasses a tourist resort with hotels and theme parks, conference and exhibition space, convention centres, business premises such as offices, R&D facilities and assembly plants plus accommodation for 300,000 people.

The government intends to expropriate most of the site, over 3,700 hectares, mostly consisting of highly fertile farmland, from residents and landowners. There are 15,000 houses in this area and 46,000 residents face losing their homes and land.

Many of these people do not wish to give up their property for the project and the government’s land acquisition procedures violate land rights enshrined in Taiwan’s constitution.

An animated promotional video depicts the planned construction of the Aerotropolis. Identikit rectangular buildings metastasize outwards from the airport. Cultural facilities like convention and exhibition centres are graced with more interesting curved facades. Read the rest of this entry »

Police Impunity and Beyond

December 8, 2014

Lesley J. Wood

People gather outside the funeral service for Eric Garner at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)

People gather outside the funeral service for Eric Garner at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)

Police brutality feels like an epidemic. In the last two weeks in the US, thousands have been in the streets marching and raging against the impunity of police in Ferguson after the grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, a young unarmed Black man. Facing pepper spray, flash bang grenades and mass arrest, protesters in 90 cities grieved as they occupied the highways and streets. In the midst of this, another white police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Black boy in Cleveland. Then yesterday, a grand jury in New York City refused to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold, despite clear video evidence. The streets filled with people chanting Garner’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe’, in despair. The question is, when a system is so fatally flawed, where to turn for justice?

When it comes to shooting Black men, the oversight bodies are far too weak to make a difference. In New York City during the 2011-12 period, the Civilian Complaint Review Board closed 2,518 cases of complaints against police officers, only 27% of which were full investigations, and only 74 of these 671 (3%) were found to be substantiated (CCRB Report January – June 2012). In Washington DC, none of the 579 complaints against officers in 2012 led to criminal conviction. Instead of using police oversight bodies, people are turning to lawsuits to seek redress. In this regard, complainants are more successful, but through cash settlements and not the enforcement of new policies and practices related to changes to police behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »

We Make Our Own History – Book Launch transcript and video

November 26, 2014

The launch for Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen’s new book, We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism (Pluto, 2014) took place at the annual Historical Materialism conference at SOAS, London earlier this month. Below is both a video of the event, and the authors’ written presentation. You can find out more about the book on the Pluto website, here.

We Make Our Own History explores the relationship between Marxism and social movements, and in particular how this works in the specific historical period that we are calling the twilight of neoliberalism. Before opening up for our guests on the panel, we want to try and summarize the key arguments in the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Criminalizing the Victim: The Life Story of Rasmea Odeh

November 25, 2014

Rasmea OdehNahla Abdo

Since her birth and until this day, that is during her 67 years of struggling for justice, Rasmea Odeh has been the victim of injustice in both her homeland and her host country as well.

Rasmea was born in Lifta, an affluent village between Jerusalem and Jaffa.  This village is described as one of Palestine’s largest and wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem region. The beauty of this village, as described by Zochrot (an Israeli Jewish and Palestinian organization)[i], is evidenced through ‘the old homes which are still standing upon the overgrown hillsides… homes which pay tribute to that prosperous past’. The population of the village in 1948 was approximately 2,550 (including 2,530 Muslim and 20 Christian Palestinians). Like most Palestinian villages, many of Lifta’s residents were dependent on agriculture and cultivated 3,000 donums (3 km2) of land, including 1,500 olive trees.

However, like more than 400 other Palestinian cities and villages, between 1947 and 1948 Lifta was destroyed, forcefully depopulated and ethnically cleansed, rendering its population refugees. It is true that the story of Rasmea’s Lifta is the story of the Palestinian Nakba (the Catastrophe of the creation of the state of Israel). However, the close proximity of Lifta to the neighbouring village Deir Yassin has further aggravated its population, leaving its imprint on Palestinian collective memory and on Rasmea’s own personal memory. Read the rest of this entry »

Israel sows despair and senseless violence – Jeff Halper

November 25, 2014

A Statement of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) 19/11/14

And the “Zionist answer” to the downward cycle of senseless violence in which Jerusalem finds itself: house demolitions, mass arrests, revoking the ‘residency’ of native-born Jerusalemites, closing Palestinian neighborhoods with concrete blocks, arming Israeli Jewish vigilantes and cheap shots at the last person who believes in a two-state solution, Abu Mazen. Everything, that is, except an end to occupation and a just political solution. This is what happens when a powerful country forgoes any effort to address the grievances of a people under its control and descends into raw oppression.

Israel is not in “the grip of a terrorist onslaught,” as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated in this press conference tonight; it is in the grip of senseless violence spawned by despair and repression. The Palestinians, having lost all hope of the Occupation ending and a tiny state of their own, imprisoned in tiny islands of their country, victimized, impoverished, lacking the minimum in individual and collective rights, displaced, even their only place of refuge, their homes, demolished (some 48,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territory since 1967), have been reduced to lashing out. Threats to al Aqsa mosque – and there are palpable threats coming from the Israeli right, which wants to partition the holy site as it did to the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron – only add to the danger that what has been until now a political conflict that can be resolved may turn into an uncontrollable religious war.

Israel, having given up all pretense of seeking a just solution, has answered Palestinian despair with pure, atavistic repression. Once again Prime Minister Netanyahu’s analysis is dead wrong: the “core of the violence,” as he puts it, is not the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (they recognized the state of Israel on 78% of historic Palestine 26 years ago), but Israel’s refusal to address – even acknowledge – Palestinian national rights and claims. His “Zionist answers” of increased repression are empty of any political policy that could ease the conflict; not only do they not deter, as an IDF commission concluded in 2005, but they inflame the situation and lead to an endless downward spiral of violence. The Israeli political scene has deteriorated to raw revenge – and revenge for both crimes and acts of resistance that could have been avoided by a genuine Israeli aspiration for a just solution.

In the meantime, the people suffer and hatred prevails, stoked by the only party strong enough to end it all, the Occupying Power, Israel.

Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). His new book, War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification, will be published in September 2015.

Taking What’s Ours – A review of The Squatters’ Movement in Europe

November 12, 2014

Anitra Nelson, author of Life Without Money (Pluto, 2011) has reviewed two new books for the online publication Overland. One of them, The Squatters’ Movement in Europe, was published by Pluto in May this year. You can read the review, as well as some other great content, on Overland - we’ve also reproduced it below.

Anitra Nelson

Kollective T02744In general, the laws of capitalism protect the interests of property owners and big bosses, particularly the one per cent. As capitalism expands and intensifies, the laws multiply. Writers have difficulty claiming copyright and earning their just rewards. Australian federal court judges recently threw out an appeal from Cancer Voices Australia about a decision that DNA and RNA can be patented. Bailiffs turf you out when you stop paying your rent or mortgage off. If the bosses decide, thousands of us can be made redundant – essentially, forced not to work.

But capitalists’ exploitation of nature and people is the subject of increasing resistance, as life on earth is threatened by the climate change caused by capitalism. Two very readable recent books explore anti-capitalist practices: The Squatters’ Movement in Europe: Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism, written by scholar-activists of the Squatting Europe Kollective (SqEK) and edited by Claudio Cattaneo and Miguel Martínez López, and The Village Against the World by Dan Hancox.

The first is a pioneering work on a relatively neglected topic: squatting as a political action and to fulfil otherwise unmet needs for housing. Despite the book’s European focus, some chapters draw on examples from the US, with authors discussing the cultural diversity within squats, their meaning for our urban environmental crises and legal codes.

The observations and experiences are easily transferable, except that Australian squats are neither as extensive nor as visible: see the Australian Museum of Squatting created by squatter enthusiasts Iain McIntyre and Shane McGrath who run 3CR’s SUWA (Squatters and Unwaged Airwaves) show, and the international site Squat!net for SqEK and recent Australian news. Read the rest of this entry »


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