Serbia’s President Boris Tadic warned today that anyone found to have helped Ratko Mladic evade capture would be hunted down and prosecuted, reports Shamik Das.
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• Serbia’s President Boris Tadic warned today that anyone found to have helped Ratko Mladic evade capture would be hunted down and prosecuted.
Tadic told the BBC that investigators would look into any help given by members of the Serbian armed forces or police to the war crimes suspect, who was indicted in 1995 for the massacre of 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
“In the next few days, we’ll have a completed picture of what happened in the past two-and-a-half years, even more, in the past 16 years, and, for us, that is going to be very, very important…
“He had many, many relatives, not only in Serbia but also in other regional countries – in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia and other countries. That was making real difficulties in terms of investigating that case.”
Yesterday, Left Foot Forward looked at the reaction to Mladic’s capture, as well as a reminder of the background to his atrocities, the worst in Europe since the Second World War, and the unacceptable, disgraceful inaction of the UN and Western powers at the time.
As I wrote:
“General Ratko Mladic, indicted for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of Muslims, alongside Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague – where Mladic will shortly be extradited.
“Karadzic and Mladic waged a bloody war on Bosnian Moslems and Croats, committing genocide on a scale not seen in Europe since the Second World War.
“Pictures of emaciated men and boys herded into concentration camps reminiscent of Aushwitz, cities under fire from snipers, mortars and rockets; scenes not witnessed for half a century.
“Muslim males as young as 13 ordered to line up along the side of the road and shot in the back, their cowardly killers lacking the backbone to look them in the eye.
“Children raped and tortured while their parents looked on, helpless; mental degradation and humiliation to go alongside the physical scars merely for believing the “wrong” faith as neighbour turned on neighbour. Time has not lessened those horrors nor faded the memories.
“Watching reports of the massacres, remembering the past, sent a shiver down my spine – images seared into one’s consciousness, as I’m sure it was Tony Blair’s and a young David Cameron’s, watching on helplessly as blue bereted, thinly armed UN peacekeepers turned a blind eye to the massacres unfolding before them.
“That the international community allowed such carnage to take place in our time and on our doorstep is unforgivable.”
• Domestically, health was the big policy issue this week, with Labour announcing their alternative to the coalition’s NHS reforms, and the Lib Dems claiming they have already delivered significant changes to those reforms.
Shadow health secretary John Healey, in the foreword to “After the ‘pause’ – Labour’s alternative on the Health and Social Care Bill” (pdf), outlines the three major flaws in the bill which need to be tackled, namely the breaking up of the NHS; the lack of patient and democratic accountability; and turning the NHS into a free market.
Mr Healey writes:
“David Cameron’s Health and Social Care Bill is fundamentally flawed and needs to be radically rethought. The prime minister has promised to listen to the chorus of criticism and to make substantial changes. If he is true to his word and the government brings amendments to fundamentally rewrite the bill, then the House of Commons must be given the time to scrutinise these changes properly, not see them rushed through in a few hours of debate at Report Stage.
“That is why Labour has tabled a motion to have the entire bill recommitted to Committee Stage, so that any changes proposed by the government can be properly examined. This is a piece of Parliamentary procedure that has not been used in 11 years. We hope the government will accept the constitutional case and support us.
“Despite his bluster and Mr Muscle act, Nick Clegg has not set tough enough tests for the changes the prime minister needs to make to his bill. The deputy prime minister’s concern is saving his party rather than safeguarding our NHS.
“I have argued for some time that the government must drop the bill and make fundamental changes. However, to set out the sweep of the changes needed, and in anticipation of the bill returning to the Commons at Report Stage Labour has today tabled a series of amendments to make vital changes to the bill and fix some of its key flaws. The House of Commons needs to be given the opportunity to debate and vote on these amendments.”
On Thursday, in a speech (pdf) to the Royal College of Medicine, Mr Healey accused Mr Cameron of being “a PR man looking for a PR answer”, and told him to accept that the problem was not the presentation of his NHS plans but the “full-blown free-market ideology behind them”, an ideology “totally at odds with the ethos of the NHS and the essential way it works”.
“The test for the prime minister now is whether he makes the changes required to honour the promises he made to protect the NHS and guarantee patients that they will see health care get better not worse, and whether he makes the changes required to safeguard the NHS and prepare it to meet the challenges of the future…
“The risk is that the prime minister decides on a political fix to deal with divisions in his government not the dangers to our NHS… Whatever the prime minister decides to do with his NHS plans, this first year has raised serious questions about his judgement, competence, values and integrity.”
Nick Clegg, meanwhile, gave a speech to University College Hospital, in which he echoed the substantial changes his party had called for; indeed, it appears the Clegg-inspired alterations to the Lansley reforms are significant enough to warrant the bill to be recommitted to Parliament.
As Dr Prateek Buch explained on Left Foot Forward yesterday:
“Some of the changes Clegg set out yesterday [Thursday] are in direct conflict with the Tories’ leaked red lines – not least their apparent insistence on a rigid timetable for introducing GP commissioning across the country without exception, and the role of Monitor as a competition watchdog in a healthcare market.
“If these really are red lines for the Tories, it shows their dogmatic adherence to the marketisation of the NHS, and puts into strong relief the battles yet to be won before the reforms are acceptable.
“We may well look back at Clegg’s speech yesterday, calling yet again for substantial changes to the bill, as a turning point – not just for the reforms but for the coalition. What matters from here on in is that the personnel running the NHS, the doctors and nurses delivering world class care, are given clear guidance as to where the process goes from here.”
• The “best-known secret in Britain” was revealed this week, with Lib Dem MP John Hemming using Parliamentary Privilege to name Ryan Giggs as the footballer at the centre of the super-injunctions row.
“Four weeks of speculation, legal wrangling and mass civil disobedience on the internet came to an end yesterday when an MP used parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs as the Premier League footballer at the centre of the super-injunction fiasco.
“John Hemming named the Manchester United player only hours after a High Court judge had ruled that a ban on naming him should stand. Last night, Mr Justice Eady refused to lift the injunction despite the intervention – raising the prospect that Mr Giggs could sue news organisations who have named him for damages.”
“To murmurs of disapproval from fellow MPs, the Liberal Democrat said: ‘With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all…’”
“The controversy over super-injunctions and privacy rules shows no sign of abating. Footballers, former Big Brother contestants, highly-paid bankers, major players in the world of motor sport: it’s a vortex sucking us all in. I acknowledge the significance of the underlying issues – the right to freely report versus the right to a private life.
“But let’s not forget the ultimate injunction: fear of death or imprisonment.
“Journalists have every right to challenge what they perceive as over-restrictive gagging orders in this country. It’s essential to a fully-functioning democracy that they do. But this battle pales into insignificance set against the life-and-death struggle to report contentious issues by many of the world’s journalists…
“The Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded the deaths of a staggering 862 journalists in the last 20 years – roughly one working journalist killed every eight days across two decades. Seventeen have already been killed this year, many of them trying to report on the Arab spring.
“Last week’s revelation that the London-based South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl had almost certainly been killed by Gaddafi forces near Brega on April 5th was just the latest tragic news out of Libya. Coming after news of the deaths of photojournalists Chris Hondros and Chris Hetherington, it’s been part of a particularly dark time for those who risk their lives to bring back the key images of conflict…
“When they’re not risking their lives, many journalists are risking their liberty in their pursuit of stories. Our work at Amnesty is quite often focused on trying to get justice for unfairly-imprisoned journalists around the world. To take just one example: in Azerbaijan, Eynulla Fətullayev, a 34-year-old editor of two newspapers critical of the Azerbaijani government, has been jail in since 2007 on a series of trumped-up charges designed to silence him.
“It follows a long pattern of harassment and threats against him, including him being beaten up in the street.
“There’s more than one way of muzzling members of the press. Super-injunctions might be invidious but at least they don’t imprison or kill. It doesn’t mean they’re good for democracy either though.”
Progressive of the week:
First Lady Michelle Obama, the star turn on the US President’s visit to Britain and Ireland this week, for her emotional, spine-tingling speech to Oxford University, and even more inspiring Q&A with the girls from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, in which she told them to work hard, play fair and reach for the stars, dream of studying by the Spires and believe.
Regressive of the week:
Tory MP Philip Davies, who was spouting off in the Mail and Express this week that Britain was a “soft touch” on international aid, adding “we must be stark raving mad”. This is an individual who, as the excellent Political Scrapbook unearthed this week, recently said:
“…why is it so offensive to black up your face?”
Could there be a sharper contrast to our Progressive of the week?
• Stop 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly;
• Save the lives of 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth;
• Secure schooling for 11 million children – more than are educated in the UK but at 2.5 per cent of the cost;
• Vaccinate more children against preventable diseases than there are people in the whole of England;
• Provide access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation to more people than there are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
• Support 13 countries to hold freer and fairer elections;
• Help 10 million more women get access to modern family planning.
What a sad, pathetic little man Mr Davies is.
Evidence of the week:
The first report for the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards, “Growth without gain? The faltering living standards of people on low-to-middle incomes” (pdf), which revealed that average pay is set to be no higher in 2015 than in 2001.
You can find analysis of the report on Sky News and in the Guardian, Indy, FT, Mail, and on Channel Four News’s Economics Editor Faisal Islam’s blog. There is also more reaction on Twitter, @ResFoundation, hashtag #GWG.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
The Scottish cabinet agreed to introduce new legislation at an early stage to tackle sectarian hatred in football. Measures called for by ministers include tougher powers to arrest and punish those engaged in sectarian-fuelled activities, with proposals to make sectarian conduct at football matches a specific criminal offence punishable by five years in jail, with similar powers to target bigotry on the internet.
Speaking to MSPs, first minister Alex Salmond explained:
“In the age of Twitter and texts, the dreams of a free-speaking world are contaminated by strains of bitterness. Technology has given fresh energy to old hatreds and viral sectarianism again seeps across our land. It will be stopped. I will not have people living in fear of some idiotic 17th-century rivalry in the 21st-century.
“[Sectarianism] travels at least in part hand-in-hand with another scourge of our safety and happiness – the booze culture. Thus the first legislation this parliament will see in this term shall address bigotry and booze.”
Meanwhile, as new figures put house building in Scotland at its lowest levels for almost 30 years, Scottish Labour’s spokesman for infrastructure and capital investment, Lewis MacDonald, outlined his concerns at the worrying figures.
“The fact that the housing and regeneration budget has been one of the biggest losers in successive SNP budgets is very telling. These figures will come as no surprise to those already struggling to secure mortgages, and when combined with the fact that demand for housing outstrips supply it makes for a brutal market for first-time buyers.
“With the number of new housing being started also decreasing things are likely to get worse before they get any better, so the new Scottish government needs a renewed focus on house building and must spell out exactly what they are doing to do to ensure demand is met.”
First minister Carwyn Jones demanded talks with UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over leaked documents suggesting considerable cuts to key BBC Wales services.
Speaking to Assembly Members, Jones explained:
“It’s not acceptable to see cuts of 20% to broadcasting in Wales. As regards cuts, one of the things that has been mentioned as I understand it is only Wales Today and one programme, Week In Week Out, would be available for Welsh issues and politics – nothing from the party conferences, no Dragon’s Eye, no Politics Show, nothing else.
“That is not at all acceptable. We must ensure that the BBC gives the people of Wales the services that they should receive in order to understand what goes on in their own country.”
In calling for a federal system for the BBC, Plaid Cymru AM and shadow heritage minister Bethan Jenkins argued:
“What I’m worried about is that if things like the National Eisteddfod or our sporting occasions are cut you may see receipts fall on entry, you may see that people won’t attend these events in the future and what does that then say for our cultural identity here in Wales?”
Writing on her blog, BBC Wales Political Editor Betsan Powys explained:
“The frantic behind-the-scenes negotiating over the fate of the two disqualified Liberal Democrat AMs has spilled out into the corridors and corners of the Senedd. Why? Because there’s a new document in play, one that lays out clearly for Assembly Members what the legal lie of the land currently is.
“The Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler has been given legal advice that she cannot allow the current situation of 58 AMs to continue.
“Under the rules, she must inform the Regional Returning Officers by Friday that the two list seats are now officially ‘vacant’ which means, in turn, they must nominate the second name on the North and South East Wales lists to become AMs in place of Aled Roberts and John Dixon.”
In the week that Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson formally published the findings of the inquiry into the death of solicitor Rosemary Nelson in 1999, Kevin Meagher outlined on Left Foot Forward how the circumstances of her death still remain “shrouded in controversy”.
Writing for the Belfast Telegraph, meanwhile, Brian Rowan concluded:
“There are stories in the ‘dirty war’ that have been buried. And, so, there will always be questions about Rosemary Nelson, about Pat Finucane and about hundreds of other killings. After war, none of the players will make it easy to find their ugly truths.”
Elsewhere, during his visit to Ireland on Monday, Barack Obama spoke of how the Northern Ireland peace process sent a “ripple of hope” to other areas of conflict around the world.
He told the people of Dublin:
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“To see Her Majesty the Queen of England come here, to see the mutual warmth and healing that took place as a consequence of that visit, to know that the former Taoiseach FitzGerald [who died last Thursday] was able to witness the Queen coming – that sends a signal not just in England, not just here in Ireland but around the world.
“It sends what Bobby Kennedy once said was a ‘ripple of hope’ that may manifest itself in a whole range of ways.”