UK politics news review

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  • A Step Towards the Dock

    The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg Principles as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”(2). This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter(3).

    That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair’s cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His Attorney-General warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN Security Council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.”(4) Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.

    His foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told Blair that for the war to be legal, “i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent; ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”(5) None of these conditions were met. The Cabinet Office told him “A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”(6)

    Without legal justification, the attack on Iraq was an act of mass murder. It caused the deaths of between 100,000 and a million people, and ranks among the greatest crimes the world has ever seen. That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisies Tutu has exposed.

  • Law criminalising squatting to be challenged in court by cottage dweller

    A woman who has lived in an abandoned Welsh hillside cottage for 11 years is to challenge legislation that criminalises squatting.

    Irene Gardiner, 49, raised her family in the 500-year-old timber and stone house at Newchapel, near Llanidloes, Powys.

    Backed by lawyers in London, Gardiner is bringing a test case against the police and Crown Prosecution Service seeking assurances she will not be thrown out of the home she has inhabited since 2001.

    Her cottage, which has no electricity or running water, has been occupied by squatters for several decades.

    Gardiner’s case is supported by the law firm Leigh Day & Co. The claim, to be lodged in the high court in London next week, alleges prosecution would breach her rights to personal and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

    Ugo Hayter, of Leigh Day & Co, said: “This legislation will have impacts on the most vulnerable people in society, and will be a further burden on already strained public services.”

    She added: “There is existing criminal and civil law which enables property owners to swiftly evict squatters.

    “Homeowners will derive no further protection from this new legislation. It will simply criminalise the homeless.”

  • Crackdown on squatters ‘will put people on streets’

     New squatting laws have sparked fears of a rise in homelessness across Manchester.

    From today, squatting in a residential building becomes illegal – meaning anyone doing it could be jailed or fined.

    Ministers say the move will protect homeowners – and ‘slam shut the door on squatters’.

    But campaigners have told the M.E.N. most squatters are genuinely homeless and will now be left on the streets.

    They argue it is better to use an empty house rather than let it fall into disrepair.

    Currently squatting is initially treated as a civil matter, meaning homeowners must go to court to prove trespass first.

    In future, police will be able to arrest squatters on the spot. They will then face six months in jail and a £5,000 fine.

    But one 38-year-old man, who has lived in squats all over the city for more than 20 years, said: “Everybody doing it is homeless. They don’t live in a flat or anything – they just get their head down wherever they can. We’re going to get more people on the streets, definitely, but at the end of the day people are not going to stop doing it.”

    [edit: Uk prime minister David Cameron is also altering his cabinet today. Small changes are expected.]

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