Ratko Mladic stood defiant today as the war crimes suspect entered the dock to face trial on 11 counts including genocide, extermination and murder, reports Shamik Das.
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• Ratko Mladic stood defiant today as the war crimes suspect entered the dock to face trial on 11 counts including genocide, extermination and murder.
The BBC’s Chris Morris, who witnessed the extraordinary proceedings, writes:
“There he was – older, balding but instantly recognisable. He saluted as he walked slowly into court wearing a light khaki cap and a grey jacket. ‘I am General Ratko Mladic,’ he said. ‘I am a gravely ill man and I need time to organise my defence.’
“He showed only flashes of emotion but occasionally spoke with contempt. He described the charges against him as ‘obnoxious and monstrous’ and entered no plea.
“But the chief judge’s summary of the indictment was a thesaurus of brutality. In the judge’s own words: ‘Genocide, persecution, murder, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, torture, rape and plunder.’”
While the BBC’s John Simpson said:
“As he came in he didn’t look that frail, he was shrunken, certainly, and he had nothing of that big, sort of puffed up aggression that I remember so well, I mean he was a very scary figure to have to go and speak to or to interview, 15/16/17 years ago, but all of that had gone, he’s grey now, he’s wearing grey clothes and he looked a very diminished kind of character…
“Right at the end, there was a chilling moment, I hadn’t seen him for 17 years, he put on his hat, they had turned the cameras off, he put on his hat and he looked at me – I was sitting in the front row of the gallery – and he gave me a salute and that kind of very cynical, mocking smile, that I remember, rather chillingly now, 17 years ago…”
If you’re able to spare two hours this weekend, we urge you to watch “A Cry from the Grave”, which follows, hour by hour, the unfolding terror of the Srebrenica massacre, through the testimony of survivors and relatives; watch it here.
Though no matter what is done, it will never be enough, the pain will never diminish and loved ones will never return, it is to be hoped the arrests and bringing to trial of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and now Ratko Mladic will bring the victims of their tyranny some justice, some comfort, some closure.
• Domestically, health was again the major policy issue, with the coalition’s “listening exercise” on Andrew Lansley’s controversial health reforms closing on Tuesday.
Questions remain over how useful it’s been, how many people have had a chance to participate, and just how much the government has actually listened. Even David Cameron’s own constituency of Witney, as revealed by Left Foot Forward, appears not to have had a single listening event.
As Dominic Browne wrote:
“Most of the listening “events” held by PCTs nationwide appear to have been pre-scheduled staff meetings, advertised through the “usual process” of staff newsletters and the like, where the issue of the health bill was tacked on as “another matter for discussion”.
“The Department of Health press office refused to comment on the issue of oversight or accountability. When we asked the East Midlands what would happen if the PCTs didn’t hold any listening events their press officer said “we wouldn’t let them get away with that”, however they declined to elaborate on this and did not confirm what would or could be done in such circumstances…
“It remains the case that the performance across then NHS appears patchy and the public was woefully uninformed. This listening exercise has provided no greater legitimacy to these reforms. It has been likened to a PR campaign. On this evidence, it would make an unfortunate text book on the subject.”
On the substance of the Bill, meanwhile, Dr. Charles West, a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate who has been a GP and an NHS manager, wrote on Left Foot Forward today of the growing concern among GPs over the ‘Quality Premium’:
“Making the GPs responsible for NHS budgets raises a number of possible conflicts of interest. The one that is likely to affect more GPs than any other is the Quality Premium. Laurence Buckman of the BMA has criticised it as unethical…
“Let us look at what is happening on the ground. I know of a GP Commissioning Consortium in shadow form that proposes to deduct 15 per cent of the salary paid to GPs and to let them earn it back if they comply with the consortium’s referral guidelines and objectives. If you absolutely trust the Commissioning Consortium this may all be fine.
“But bear in mind the Commissioning Consortia will have fixed spending limits, and many will farm commissioning out to private companies, and I am afraid the Quality Premium could damage patient care and destroy the trust between patient and doctor.
“The Quality Premium is just one of the many things that should be removed from the Health Bill.”
There was some good news for Mr Lansley however, (well, I say “good news”…), two thirds of bankers back his proposals, a poll for City A.M. revealed – though it must be pointed out that only one third of those polled actually rely on the NHS. I guess it’s easier to gamble away a healthcare system when your life doesn’t depend on it.
• Sepp Blatter was re-elected President of FIFA this week, unopposed, as allegations of corruption continued to swirl.
“Seldom can any electorate have been offered a less attractive electoral choice than Sepp Blatter versus Mohammed Bin Hammam for the FIFA Presidency. That would have been like Nixon versus Nixon in a post-Watergate election in the United States.
“Yet Sepp Blatter has surpassed even that scenario. The election is off and the FIFA President plans to steam on, to be re-elected, unopposed, for a third term – whatever the cost to FIFA’s tattered public reputation…
“FIFA, rather more than the IOC, is now synonymous with misgovernance and corruption. Global football, therefore, remains in search of its Gorbachev candidate and its glasnost agenda.
“Many expected, even this week, that Blatter would attempt one last reinvention as a candidate of reform in a final term. Yet he has preferred to deny that there is any crisis at all, beyond in the imaginations of his critics in the British media.
“There is a rather more obvious candidate in Michel Platini, the French footballing legend who has been a popular and effective head of UEFA. His influence in FIFA has been more ambivalent. Platini’s personal integrity has never been in question – but he has played a waiting game, acting indeed as something of a Blatter loyalist in the hope of succeeding as the next FIFA President.
“If Platini is to be football’s Gorbachev, perhaps his time to speak out would be today.”
So why, then, knowing what we all know, and assuming not all FIFA delegates are crooked, why would anyone support the Swiss?
Glenn Moore, writing in today’s Indy, is the man with the answers:
“A slew of corruption allegations mean FIFA’s reputation in the UK is at an all-time low, but most of the world, and their football associations, seem unconcerned. Sepp Blatter’s landslide re-election as Fifa President caused surprise and consternation in England, but there is no great mystery to it.
“The “Football Family” support Blatter not because they all receive brown envelopes full of cash but because for most of the flock he has been an excellent President.
“Here are 10 reasons Blatter won: increased revenue, without strings attached; the “goal” programme that has built facilities worldwide; the fact every country counts; it has grown the game across ages, sexes, formats and geography; FIFA is a bulwark against the clubs; the prevention of government clean-ups; protecting the health of players; welcoming Palestine into the fold; FIFA’s expert tournament organisation; and law changes that have improved the game.”
Progressive of the week:
Tory Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who today announced plans to save £3 billion in costs through “centralising” Whitehall purchasing, utilising its scale, buying power and credit rating.
As Dominic Browne wrote on Left Foot Forward:
“He works from a humble office, holds meetings with trade unions and plans to centralise the buying of goods and services across Whitehall departments. Is it fair to ask whether Tory Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is in fact a secret Fabian?
“Tories often justify their ideological commitment to privatisation and competition as useful models for bringing down public service costs. However Mr Maude is working on a policy that gives the lie to this idea…
“A very Fabian theme is developing in Mr Maude’s approach to his key responsibilities. This just leaves the Big Society. Mr Maude says: ‘I absolutely undertake that we will be re-launching it this week, next week, the week after, probably several times a week, and if you want to keep a tally of the number of re-launches we’ll be well into three figures by the end of this year…’
“Is this humorous flippancy or a subtle attempt to undermine the project? We can’t be sure, but Maude goes on to say: ‘The truth is that people have some sort of broad understanding of what society is…a bigger stronger society is one where more people do more things with each other, for each other, in their communities, for their communities.’
“That might be a bit strong for the modern Fabian society. It almost sounds like socialism.”
Regressives of the week:
Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece in the States, which has once again defied belief by calling Sesame Street – yes, Sesame Street! – “left wing propaganda”. Sean Hannity, reports Political Scrapbook, called the kid’s show “a direct assault on our country’s moral foundation”, and said of Elmo and Big Bird that he:
“…wants to take ’em out back and cap ’em.”
Extraordinary. As was fellow far-right traveller Glenn Beck’s anti-Palestine rant yesterday, in which he accused Coldplay – yes Coldplay! – of wanting to “destroy Israel”.
It would be funny if it weren’t for the fact millions of people actually believe Fox’s bulls**t.
Evidence of the week:
The International Energy Agency announced this week that carbon emissions have hit an all-time high. The IEA say the prospect of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2ºC is “getting bleaker”, adding 80 per cent of projected 2020 emissions from the power sector are “already locked in”.
Dr Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, said:
“This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2ºC…
“Our latest estimates are another wake-up call. The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2ºC target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for manœuvre in 2020, unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal agreed in Cancun.”
The IEA say that, in terms of fuels, 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas, and that, while an estimated 40% of global emissions came from OECD countries in 2010, these countries only accounted for 25% of emissions growth compared to 2009.
Non-OECD countries, led by China and India, saw much stronger increases in emissions as their economic growth accelerated – though on a per capita basis, OECD countries collectively emitted 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, and 1.5 tonnes for India.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
“We believe it is now time for the agenda of respect to deliver an agenda for progress on the issues of the greatest concern to those who elected us including economic growth. We call on the prime minister and deputy prime minister to work with us to make progress on financial, constitutional and policy reform across the United Kingdom.
“We look forward to discussing this progress agenda at the forthcoming plenary meeting of the joint ministerial committee in London.”
“The current situation where criminal appeals decided in Scotland by a court of as many as seven Scottish judges can be overruled by a Supreme Court bench made up of five judges – or on occasion seven – with a maximum of two from Scotland, must not be allowed to continue.”
Justice secretary Kenny McAskill suggested the Scottish government was considering withdrawing its share of the funding for the court.
However, Brian McConnachie, a former Principal Advocate Depute at the Crown Office, said:
“I cannot believe in honesty that he is as ignorant about the subject as he appears to be. Kenny MacAskill is speaking about how the Supreme Court is routinely interfering in Scots law – it’s scaremongering nonsense.”
And the Advocate General for Scotland in the UK government, Lord Wallace – a former deputy first minister – argued:
“The Supreme Court has made clear as recently as last week in the Fraser ruling that the High Court in Scotland remains the court of last resort on criminal matters. I sometimes wonder if those who are the most vociferous have read these rulings.
“I will be interested in what the Scottish government and their new expert group have to say but I imagine that if they take evidence from the same people they will hear the same argument.”
Elsewhere, Shelter Scotland accused the Scottish government of misleading voters on the number of new social homes it intends to build, with the charity’s director in Scotland, Graeme Brown, explaining:
“The size of the black hole at the heart of the Scottish government’s plans for building new social homes is shocking. The numbers simply don’t add up. Instead of funding 6,000 new social homes as per its manifesto pledge, our analysis shows the Scottish government has only made available enough money to build 1,550 – at a push.
“That’s very worrying at a time when Scotland faces a crisis in the supply of new council and housing association homes.”
Left Foot Forward reported on the latest round of WikiLeaks stories on Northern Ireland which suggested the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein were in discussions far earlier than had been thought, and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was prepared to restate Ireland’s constitutional claim over Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the leak, Liam Clarke wrote for the Belfast Telegraph:
“If Bertie Ahern had gone public with his threat to revive the Republic’s constitutional claim over Northern Ireland it would have provoked a major crisis in Anglo-Irish relations as well as the peace process.”
While an editorial for the Newsletter concluded:
“The cables disclosed today, and previously, show that modern history is sometimes dependent on happenstance and luck as well as the will of the participants to make things happen.
“Personalities as well as policies play a dominant role in the decision making and the public faces of the movers and shakers in society are often very different from the way they behave behind closed doors.”
Meanwhile, new murder laws came into effect across Northern Ireland allowing domestic violence victims to claim they were forced to kill their abuser provided they can prove they were motivated by “words and conduct” which left them “seriously wronged”.
Justice minister David Ford said of the changes:
“The unlawful taking of the life of another human being is the most serious issue which our criminal courts have to deal with. These changes update the law, including where murder is linked to domestic abuse, and will help to provide a more just and equitable outcome in individual cases.”
Three more Welsh universities confirmed they intend to charge the maximum £9,000 tuition fees made possible as a result of the Westminster government’s policies. Despite the rise, however, Conservative shadow education minister Angela Burns called for the Welsh government to abandon its plans to protect Welsh students from increases in tuition fees, branding it a “gimmick”.
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government responded:
“The minister has made it clear that our tuition fee policy is affordable, sustainable, and is fully costed up as far as 2016.
“It is important to note that before Welsh universities can set their tuition fees higher than £4,000 for academic year 2012-13 their fee plans must be rigorously scrutinised and approved by [the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales] to ensure they are meeting our requirements in respect of equality of access to higher education and improving the student experience.
“HEFCW are taking this work forward on behalf of the Welsh government. The minister expects HEFCW to take a robust approach to the assessment of fee plans.”
Meanwhile, as police handed their files to the Crown Prosecution Service over the cases of disqualified Lib Dem Assembly Members – John Dixon and Aled Roberts – Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay, a candidate for leader of the Welsh Conservatives, found himself banned from his local pub following apparent rude and abusive behaviour.
Landlord Simon Key, a Conservative member who has since announced he will not renew his membership, explained:
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“Nick Ramsay came into the pub on an evening when we were fundraising for Help for Heroes, the charity that helps service veterans. He heckled the quizmaster repeatedly, telling him that his questions were rubbish. He challenged the quizmaster, a local antiques dealer, to bid £100 for a rugby jersey in an auction we held on the same evening for the charity.
“He was quite rude and objectionable and his comments didn’t go down well – I think he’d had a few beers. I have had words with him since, but don’t think he understands the degree to which he has offended people.
“So far as I am concerned he hasn’t made a proper apology. He is no longer welcome in the pub and I shall be telling him he is banned.”