8,894,355 reasons why Ireland should Vote No Today and continue to uphold the sanctity and dignity of every human life – because both lives matter. Irish Times article on why proposed changes would produce an even more inhumane law than England’s – where one aborion takes place every three minutes of every day.

 

 

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

 

8 million Reasons For Voting NO: Click on this link –

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/8894355-reasons-why-ireland-should-continue-to-uphold-the-sanctity-and-dignity-of-every-human-life-because-every-life-matters-count-the-missing-britons-and-the-people-of-ireland-would-be-2/

 

Alive but not born yet.jpg

 

Larissa Nolan – and a point of view that deserves to be heard

I am a feminist, a progressive, a liberal and a free thinker – and for all these reasons, I am voting No on Friday.

https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/health-news/larissa-nolan-comment-im-voting-12585262

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/ireland-having-discuss-truth-abortion-way-britain-never-has/

And hear this speech by Maria Steen to the Citizens’ Assembly

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does. There’s no such thing as a safe abortion for a baby in the womb.

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Article from the Irish Times

Removal of Eighth would create law more inhumane than Britain’s

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Recently, the Irish Government released a paper setting out 21 principles that would inform their prospective abortion legislation, were the Eighth Amendment to be repealed.

Looking at this from a British perspective, it’s worryingly hard not to see shadows of our own law, the Abortion Act 1967.

When it was introduced just over 50 years ago, the 1967 Act was sold to the public and to the Westminster Parliament as a restrictive law. The evidence of half a century, however, shows this claim was utterly empty. The everyday reality in Britain today is that abortion is available on demand, for any reason, up to 24 weeks. In 2016, just over one in five British pregnancies ended in abortion.

The false assurances we heard in 1967 are echoed by certain pro-repeal politicians today, as they claim that abortion law after any removal of Eighth Amendment protections for unborn children would be modest and more restrictive than those across the Irish Sea. The truth is that, if anything, it would create a law not just as permissive and inhumane as Britain’s – but even more so.

The reason why the Abortion Act has led to abortion on demand is because section 1(1)(a) of the Act allows abortion under what we now call Ground C: when two doctors agree that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”.

‘Mental health’ reasons

Some 97 per cent of all abortions in Britain take place under this ground; 99.8 per cent of which are carried out for “mental health” reasons.

Of course, no evidence exists that abortion helps safeguard mental health. As pro-choice Prof David Fergusson reported in a longitudinal study on mental health and abortion, the “evidence clearly poses a challenge to the use of psychiatric reasons to justify abortion”. Uncoincidentally, no verification is required regarding the alleged underlying psychological condition, nor is even one of the two doctors required to be formally qualified to be able to identify such a condition.

As a consequence of this, abortion in Britain can take place for functionally any reason whatever up to 24 weeks – the explicit “upper limit” introduced in 1990. This has meant a situation of normalised laxity, which a media investigation in 2012 showed even allows for the ugly spectre of misogynistic sex-selective abortion.

This permissive abortion system has not only led to the destruction of girls in the womb, but to the deeply tragic suicides of young women. Examples include 13-year-old Ashli Blake in 2014, whose abortion helped to cover up her sexual abuse; young mother Jade Rees in 2015 after the abortion of her baby daughter, and the artist Emma Beck in 2007 after the abortion of her twin girls.

Compare the British model to the principles of the Irish Government’s Health paper on prospective abortion legislation. These state that under any legislation they introduce, abortions would be provided “without indication” (ie on demand) up to 12 weeks, but also on the grounds of “risk to health” to a pregnant woman with no gestational restriction.

Moreover, no distinction would be made between physical and mental health. This would establish the same supposedly limited “health grounds” for abortion as in UK law, but by crucial contrast, with no “upper limit” applying in such cases. This would lead to a de facto situation of abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

Sex-selective abortion

“Any reason” would include the sex-selective abortion that has been shown to be possible in British practice. The Stop Gendercide campaign started by women’s groups Jeena International and Karma Nirvana, in analysing currently debated proposals for permissive abortion on the Isle of Man, has noted that due to improvements in prenatal testing technology, foetal gender can now be detected after seven weeks’ gestation. Not only would introducing abortion on demand up to 12 weeks formally legalise sex-selective abortion in the first trimester, but providing de facto abortion on demand would enable sex-selection throughout all of pregnancy.

While the Irish Government’s proposals may seem restrictive, just as the Abortion Act did in the 1960s, long British experience shows that any legislation enacted based on their “principles” would introduce a radically permissive abortion regime all throughout pregnancy.

Ireland would suffer a system even more extreme than the British, which itself has destroyed so many lives, not only of unborn children, but of pregnant mothers. Both lives matter: every life counts.

In considering how to vote in the upcoming referendum, I hope the Irish public realises that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the Republic would go down a road even darker than that of British practice. Knowing this, I hope voters will opt instead to Vote No to maintain Ireland’s Constitution as a civilised standard of human dignity and rights.

David Alton is a member of the House of Lords and a long-time anti-abortion campaigner

Join The Rebellion And Vote No – Because Both Lives Matter

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

Unborn child and smoking kills 2

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does.

Secular and Religious Voices Unite To Urge Ireland To Vote No And To Insist That Both Lives Matter

As Ireland faces a referendum on whether to introduce British-style laws to allow the abortion of babies in the womb (and which in Britain have led to one abortion every three minutes) there has been an increase in opposition to such change from secular and religious voices.

Wendy Grace in a really succinct and well-argued article puts the case for a No vote which deserves to be shared far and wide. https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/a-no-vote-is-our-opportunity-to-do-better-for-women-and-babies-36878030.html#

Ms Grace says “We are at a key moment in Irish history where we have the opportunity to be truly progressive, unlike countries in the past, we cannot plead ignorance, with this knowledge comes a responsibility.

 

“I refuse to be part of a system that pits mother against baby. This is not equality. Abortion is the tragic sign that the real needs of women are not being met.

A No vote is our opportunity to unite together and say we can do a lot better for women, for babies, for Ireland.”

The latest poll in the Sunday Independent shows more and more people joining the rebellion: You can find it here-https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/abortion-referendum/poll-young-urban-women-giving-yes-side-referendum-edge-but-it-is-a-narrow-lead-36877996.html.  While Yes remains in the lead, their lead has dramatically declined since February.

Archbishop Eamon Martin has spoken out with great clarity and profession arguing that both lives matter. His interview to the Belfast Telegraph can be read at:

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/archbishop-martin-will-continue-to-push-for-pope-to-visit-northern-ireland-36882908.html

The Archbishop said: “Those who are voting can be in no doubt that this is not just the removal of an amendment in order to be compassionate in hard cases, such as rape, incest or life-threatening situations.

 

“This is the removal of the only remaining protection for unborn life in order to introduce a very liberal abortion regime which, I believe, the people of Ireland do not want.

 

“The Supreme Court has told us that once you remove the eighth amendment, there is no recognition at all for the rights of the unborn.

 

“Once that is gone, I find it difficult to believe that we would not move to probably becoming one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world.

 

“Once we elevate personal choice above the right to life, where do we stand?

 

“If we enshrine in our laws the right to choose to end life, where does that place us? I see this not as a Church versus State battle, but as an opportunity to highlight that we must choose life and not death.”

Archbishop Martin said that abortion was “not a matter of private choice but of the common good”. “Society can never tolerate the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life, and I am conscious that many of my brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations and in other faiths hold a similar view.”

He also stated his belief that the outcome of the referendum was not a foregone conclusion and that many people are still undecided.

“I would like to think that when people go in to vote that they will pause, listen to their heartbeat, look at the fingerprints, and realise they have had these since they themselves were in the womb.

 

“I would love them to think of two lives as they make their decision.”

The Irish Times also has a report on a host of pastoral letters read out in parishes across the Republic this past Sunday. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/bishops-warn-against-abortion-on-demand-1.3487675

Underlining that this view is echoed across denominations, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, has trenchantly spelt out his opposition to the proposed changes https://www.donegalnow.com/news/bishop-derry-raphoe-rt-rev-ken-good-referendum-eighth-amendment/223252.

He says:

“Often, in the past, the protection of vulnerable women and children in Ireland left a lot to be desired, but legislating now to allow the lives of the most defenceless among us to be terminated is not the answer.”

 

For the Child In The Womb there is no such thing as “a safe abortion”…

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Join The Rebellion: 8  million reasons for voting no… Opposition echoed by Ireland’s former Taoiseach

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/former-taoiseach-says-ireland-should-be-proud-of-eighth-amendment-1.3423831 <https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/h-9FCK13nCqQRY3cvbRYw?domain=irishtimes.com&gt;

8 million Reasons For Voting NO: Click on this link –

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/8894355-reasons-why-ireland-should-continue-to-uphold-the-sanctity-and-dignity-of-every-human-life-because-every-life-matters-count-the-missing-britons-and-the-people-of-ireland-would-be-2/

 

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s Faith and Fiction – article for Venerabile

 

tolkien-books-2

Also see…

Liverpool Hope University Lecture: Tolkien Faith and Fiction

tolkien2

https://davidalton.net/2016/11/10/tolkien-faith-and-fiction-liverpool-hope-university-lecture-marking-the-fiftieth-anniversary-of-j-r-r-tolkiens-involvement-in-the-translation-of-the-jerusalem-bible-and-the-link-between-his-faith/ 

Click link for You Tube presentatuon of the lecture

You can follow the lecture with the link to the power point presentation slides at:

faith-in-the-work-of-tolkien

Universe 14-4-17 page 10 (2)

and to discover the Tolkien Trail – the perfect spring or summer walk.

http://www.christianheritagecentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/CHC-Tolkien-Booklet.pdf

 

 

The National Health Service Celebrates Seventy Years – Foundation Values and the High Calling of The Healer Recalled At Commemorative Cathedral Event

 

Speech Delivered by David Alton – Lord Alton of Liverpool – at the NHS Anniversary Celebration Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral May 2nd 2018

 

Choral Evening Prayer – 70th Anniversary of the NHS

 

 

 NHS2

It is a great privilege to have been asked by Peter Davies to join you for this Choral Service celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the NHS.

 

What a wonderful wayto mark the achievements of one of the nation’s most respected institutions; to reflect on the vital role the Service plays in our lives; and to honour and thank the extraordinary, dedicated, 1.5 million NHS staff, from all over the world, making it the country’s biggest employer: always there when we need them – caring for us and supporting us and day in, day out.

 

In the aftermath of the Windrush scandal this is a good moment to pay special tribute to those Commonwealth nations and others from overseas – some 150,000 I believe – who have contributed so richly to the NHS.

 

I am especially pleased to be here with one of my sons – an A and E doctor in a Liverpool hospital – and it is with regret that I learnt that Dame Lorna Muirhead is unwell and unable to be with us as she was one of the midwives who helped my children into the world.

One of those children later had orthopaedic surgery opeated on by wonderful staff at Alder Hey; my wife worked for the Service as a speech and language therapist with children and adults with learning difficulties; and, beyond my family, as a one-time City Councillor and Liverpool Member of Parliament, I have seen countless examples of the life-saving, and life-changing, phenomenal work undertaken by the NHS.

Over these past 70 years the NHS has transformed the health and well-being of the nation – and its founding principle, of providing care for all, regardless of means, is one I have supported throughout my life.

Thanks to the NHS; to improvements in public health; and to extraordinary medical breakthroughs – in everything from bionic eyes to hand transplants – our life expectancies have become greater while diseases like polio and diphtheria are all but eliminated.

Yet, we also know that the advances also mean that the challenges facing any 70-year-old have to be carefully considered too.

Following the Beveridge Report, it was Aneurin Bevan,as Minister of Health, who spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service. he once remarked that“politics is the religion of priorities”.

In shaping priorities, we must never lose sight of our values – chief of which must be a profound respect for the dignity of the whole person.

Bevan also said: “the victories won by preventative medicine are much the most important for mankind”perhaps that was a foreshadowing of our increasing contemporary understanding that prevention is better than cure.

Prevention combined with early diagnosis followed by rapid intervention must be the gold standard for twenty first century health care.

In this context, consder for a moment  mental health for a moment.

I was particularly struck by the findings in the recent Green Paper Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, that:

“Children who are exposed to persistent and unresolved parental conflict are at a greater risk of early emotional and behavioural problems, anti-social behaviour as an adolescent and later mental health problems as they transition into adulthood”.

Prevention will require a paradigm shift in the emphasise we place on family support and parenting. 

Yet, resources, commensurate with the challenges, will always be needed too.

According toThe Independent, 50% of clinical commissioning groups say that they are planning to spend less of their total funding on mental health during the current year. 

Paradigms and priorities do not shift without commitment and, often, without a fight.

InIn Place of Fear published by Bevan in 1952, he wrote that:“No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”and thatThe NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it.”

Those with the faith to fight for it – and who see the NHS as a hallmark of our civilised values – need to recognise that the priorities and challenges vary from generation to generation but that the good will always be eclipsed when we take it for granted and fail to fight for it.

And, new times create new challenges and new fights.

For one thing, there are more of us using the Service.

Britain in 2018 has 17 million more citizens than when it was founded seven decades ago.

And as we live longer, with 18% of the population now aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged 85 and over – the pressures on the Service and the needs of its users have significantly changed.

The Institute for Public Policy Research has predicted that the NHS will need an extra £50 billion by 2030.

As things stand, the Health Foundation, the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund suggests a shortfall of £3.5 billion in social care alone by 2020.

 

But, interestingly, in a recent poll no less than 66% of the public said:“I would be willing to pay more taxes in order to maintain the … spending needed”,

The public support NHS expenditure – but, of course, they want it spent judiciously and effectively.

Small adjustments can enable resources to be redeployed.

For instance, my colleague, Baroness Finlay, with her enormous experience in palliative and end of life care, argues that better integration of hospices and the NHS would result in an up to 40% decrease in the use of hospital beds, with significant savings of more than £1,000 per patient.

But it’s not just about money. Making a change that reflects our values and, in particular, the upholding of human dignity, this can significantly improve care at the end of life and enable people to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

As we look forward to the next 70 years, throw into the mix the need to create parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

Throw into the mix the new and often complex ethical challenges that challenge NHS staff on a day by day basis – highlighted by the cases of Ashya King, Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans.

Throw into the mix the challenge of reducing variations in care and outcomes related to inequality and deprivation which were highlighted in a recent House of Lords Report.

And throw into the mix the opportunities offered by the digital revolution.

Dr Murray Ellender, writing in the Times last week, outlined some of the opportunities presented by modern digital triage tools but observed that“if we use social media as a benchmark, digital consulting is still at the Friends Reunited … stage”,

These complex challenges cannot be ducked and nor must the NHS be a points-scoring political football.

A consensus needs to be established on how a future NHS should be funded and how it, and a care system, should be delivered.

Along with others, I have argued for the creation of an all-party commission to consider the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

Bevan was right, the NHS and the values on which it was built, helps us to understand what makes for a civilised society.

And, whether we are secular or religious, this is something that should unite us. For the Abrahamic religions – but others too – the command to heal the sick and to affirm life itself is foundational. It is there inJesus’ Golden Rule about love of neighbour. 

Which brings me to the two Readings we have heard this evening.

The first was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, composed in Jerusalem in the 7th century BC. Chapters 1–30 of the book consist of three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. 

Addressed to the children of Israel, we hear the words:“Behold, I set before you this day curse and blessing, life and death, therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live.”

But you don’t have to be a Christian, Jew or Muslim to hold fast to this life affirming belief.

At least two hundred years after the death of Moses, between the third and fifth centuries BC, the Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, drew up an oath that required a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. The Hippocratic Oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics: “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing.”

Hippocrates abjures the harming of a patient and like Moses he insists that in our words and deeds we must always choose life.

 

Yet we know that some doctors like Harold Shipman – or those in Holland who recently killed patients with Dementia – have not always held fast to that injunction.

 

Only a few days ago, we learnt that the Austrian paediatrician,Hans Asperger, after whom the Syndrome is named, was directly linked to the Nazi programme that sent children with disabilities to their deaths. More than 200,000 disabled children and adults were murdered during the T-4 and child euthanasia programmes.

 

Consider for a moment some of those who are said to have experienced Asperger’s Syndrome – including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein – and you get a glimpse of how much poorer humanity would have been if they had been eliminated. 

 

In our over-zealous pursuit of medical knowledge, our prioritisation of patients, and our practice of medicine we must never lose sight of the call to the children of Israel or the oath of Hippocrates.

In the second Reading, we were reminded of the high calling of the healer – as Jesus, the Great Physician, heals ten men with leprosy.  Each of us is made in God’s own image and, regardless of the disease, disability, or social standing of the patient, must be worthy of the attention of the healer. 

We are also reminded not to expect the thanks of those we serve. Jesus, heals all ten lepers but it is only the foreigner who returns to thank Him.  So often we can fail to offer thanks for what T.S.Eliot describes as“the sharp compassion of the healer’s art”:Christ is“The wounded surgeon,” who “plies the steel; That questions the distempered part“And “Beneath the bleeding hands we feel The sharp compassion of the healer’s art Resolving the enigma of the fever chart”

The sharp compassion of the healer’s art is all around us in the National Health Service but it has its origins in the first century after Christ, when Clement recorded how the Christian community in Rome was alleviating suffering.

Later, St Basil of Caesarea founded a 300-bed hospital and it was followed by hospices and leprosy houses.

Benedictines established monastic hospitals and committed themselves to care for the seriously ill: to “help them as would Christ”.

In the eighteenth century, inspired by John Wesley the Christian hospital movement was founded and Christian philanthropists challenged by the desperate needs of those living in grinding poverty, worked for creation of hospitals like the London Fever Hospital and for advancing public health.

Demonstrating that good ethics, good science, and good practice can march hand in hand, people of Faith have been at the cutting edge of crucial discoveries, including William Harvey’s work on circulation; Jan Swammerdam’s work on lymph vessels and red cells; and Niels Stensen’s work on fibrils in muscle contraction.

Think of Lister, a Quaker, and how his discoveries were applied to surgery; Davy and Faraday, who discovered and pioneered the use of anaesthesia in surgery; and the obstetrician, James Simpson, the first to use ether and chloroform in midwifery; while William Keen, a Baptist, was the first to successfully operate on a brain tumour.

Edward Jenner, was the Christian responsible for the beginnings of immunology and in ending the scourge of smallpox.

Think of the role of Florence Nightingale in transforming nursing or the foundation by the Sisters of Charity in 1905, of St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, and the pioneering work of the Anglican, Dame Cicely Saunders at St Christopher’s Hospice in providing for those with terminal illness, while offering an environment of Christian love and support.

Or, think of Louis Pasteur, the French Catholic scientist whose discovery of germs was a turning point in the understanding of infection.

To end, let me leave you with a story that illustrates that faith and works, prayer and deeds can, and should, go hand in hand. They are not enemies.

This story is about a young medical student who boarded a train in a small university town in France. He had recently qualified and was rather proud, perhaps too proud, of his academic achievements.

As the train left for Paris, the young man took his seat facing an elderly gentleman who appeared to be dozing.

 

Suddenly, the train lurched and s string of rosary beads fell from the elderly gentleman’s hands. The young man reached down and handed the beads back to the elderly gentleman with the words: “I presume you are praying sir?
“You are right” I was praying, came the reply.

 

“I am surprised,” said the young doctor “that in this day and age there is still someone so benighted and so superstitious. Our professors at the university do not believe in such things.”

 

He proceeded to “enlighten” the elderly passenger – who expressed surprise and amazement.

“Yes” insisted the young man “the enlightened do not believe in such nonsense.”

 

“You don’t say!”

“Yes, sir, if you wish I will send you some excellent books to illuminate and educate you further.”

 

“Thank you” came the reply. “You may send them to this address.” And he handed the young man a card, which read: Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research, Paris

 

The moral of the story is never to assume that faith and reason, prayer and action, cannot go hand in hand. In an increasingly intolerant age we need to be more respectful of one another and better informed about the values that animate countless men and women. Nowhere more so than in the NHS, 

 

So, in celebrating the sharp compassion of the healer’s art; in praising those who uphold a high sense of their calling; in celebrating those who put God’s gifts at the service of others; we have every reason to be like the leper who returned to Jesus, to raise our voices, and to give heartfelt thanks for 70 years of dedicated service. 

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The Readings:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

1See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God[a] that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

 

Luke 17:11-19

Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

 

Freedom of Religion or Belief In Commonwealth Countries. Meetings with Sudan’s Opposition Leader and leading Judge From Pakistan. Debate in The House of Lords. Government Minsiter’s Replies on killings in Nigeria; Pakistan; Genocide; and Inadequate Funding of UK Foreign Office Team Championing freedom of Religion or Belief

Inadequate Funding of UK Foreign Office Team Championing freedom of Religion or Belief

Genocide Of Christians, Yazidis and Other Minorities

 

Sunil Saleem – Beaten To Death In Pakistan

Pakistan April 2018

Nigeria and Killings By Fulanis and Boko Haram

DavidAlton.net

Freedom of Religion or Belief In Commonwealth Countries Raised In Parliament and Discussed with Leading Judge From Pakistan

Thurs morning photo2It was wonderful to chair a constructive and very positive meeting this morning (April 19th 2018) with Justice (R) Chowhan, Chairman of the National Commission of the Human Rights in Pakistan – who is in London as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. We had wide ranging discussions, particularly about the position of the country’s minorities.  A celebrated jurist of considerable experience and distinction Justice Chowhan fielded questions from representatives of all party parliamentary groups, pictured here with me on Westminster’s Terrace of the House of Lords.    

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Sudan's Imam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi

It was a great pleasure, on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan, to welcome Imam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party and Chairperson of the Sudan Call opposition group, to parliament recently. We discussed…

View original post 2,179 more words

The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity ; Report of Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination; And Recent Parliamentary Interventions on Syria and Iraq  

 

1.The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity ; 2 Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination; 3. Recent Parliamentary Interventions

Also see Ewelina Ochab:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/04/27/known-genocidaires-and-daesh-foreign-fighters-avoid-prosecutions-in-the-uk/#727a6c1fa76c

And this link to Gregory Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/tenstagesofgenocide.html  and Ewelina Ochab on prevention of genocide: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2017/09/02/can-genocide-ever-be-prevented/#65048bb761be

This link to the translation and analysis of the Dutch Government’s opinion: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/01/netherlands-joins-un-security-council-shine-light-genocide/ original: https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/brieven_regering/detail?id=2017Z18889&did=2017D38861) 

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1.The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6962):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the testimony of Rita Habib, a Christian Iraqi woman, published in The Times on 16 April, who was held for three years as a slave by Isis and suffered repeated sexual violence, that her owners included an Iraqi, Saudi Arabians and a Syrian man; and what assistance they are giving to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. (HL6962)

Tabled on: 17 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The testimony of Rita Habib contained appalling reports of human rights abuses and violations, perpetrated against her by members of Daesh. The UK condemns all such atrocities committed. We welcome the commitments of Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to protect all Iraqi citizens and to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses and violations and to hold those responsible to account. We will continue to make clear that we expect the Government of Iraq to act on that commitment. We are working with our international partners and the Government of Iraq to ensure that Daesh is held to account for its appalling crimes, including against Christians. The Investigative Team established under UN Security Council Resolution 2379 will gather evidence of Daesh crimes, beginning in Iraq, and the UK has committed £1 million to the establishment of this team. In March I visited Iraq and launched the UK’s Fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, encouraging efforts to hold Daesh to account for its crimes, build support for survivors of sexual violence and end the stigma attached to victims of those crimes. In Syria, over £1.3 million has been allocated through our Conflict, Security and Stabilisation Fund to support work which collects and documents evidence of war crimes; and builds capacity to investigate sexual and gender based violence cases.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 12:36.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6960):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they are giving to the establishment of a Regional Tribunal to bring to trial those responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria modelled on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (HL6960)

Tabled on: 17 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

​The UK strongly supports efforts to pursue accountability for war crimes in Syria. In December 2016, the UK co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution which established the new UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria. Future prosecutions could be through a referral to the International Criminal Court or by hybrid, specialised or national courts.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 12:32.

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7036):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the view expressed by the then Prime Minister in 2016, speaking about events in Syria and northern Iraq, that “there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such”, what assessment they have made of the extent to which actions taken in those areas constitute genocide. (HL7036)

Tabled on: 18 April 2018

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes such as gross violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity face the prospect of being held to account, and that any final settlement does not include amnesties, in order to deter future genocides and crimes against humanity. (HL7037)
    Tabled on: 18 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

It is UK policy that any determination on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for competent judicial bodies, rather than for governments. The UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. We continue to voice our support for this principle, and continue to support the work of the International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:19.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6857):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in cases blocked by the UK Courts’ extradition of alleged genocidaires to the countries requesting their extradition in order to prosecute them there, whether there has been any consideration of prosecuting those alleged genocidaires in the UK on charges of genocide under the principle of universal jurisdiction; if so, what were the challenges; and what has been done to overcome them. (HL6857)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

Before a prosecution can take place, there has to be a police investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has no powers to investigate allegations of crime. The war crimes team of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is responsible for the investigation of all allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture. They decide whether an investigation is required and how it should be conducted. SO15 received a request from Rwandan authorities in January 2018 to investigate five individuals in the UK in relation to alleged genocide offences in Rwanda dating from around 1994. SO15 has not launched an investigation as it is currently assessing material provided from Rwandan authorities to determine whether it will be possible to carry out further scoping of the allegations.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:18.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6854):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many times the Crown Prosecution Service has used (1) the International Criminal Court Act 2001, and (2) the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009, on the basis of universal jurisdiction; what were those cases; and what were the offences the individuals were charged and convicted for. (HL6854)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

The Crown Prosecution Service has to date not prosecuted any individual on the basis of universal jurisdiction for offences contrary to the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009.

There have been a small number of prosecutions for international crimes by the CPS, including those of Anthony Sawonuik who was convicted of war crimes from World War II and Faryadi Sarwar Zardad who was convicted of torture and hostage taking as a result of offences committed in Afghanistan.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:08.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6855):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many times the Crown Prosecution Service has charged individuals with the crime of genocide; and how many convictions were ultimately secured. (HL6855)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

The Crown Prosecution Service has to date not charged any individual with the crime of genocide.

There have been a small number of prosecutions for international crimes by the CPS, including those of Anthony Sawonuik who was convicted of war crimes from World War II and Faryadi Sarwar Zardad who was convicted of torture and hostage taking as a result of offences committed in Afghanistan.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:08.

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2 Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination

 

Summary of the Parliamentary Event on 20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, Lord (David) Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP hosted an event at the House of Lords on ‘The Question of Genocide Determination.’ The speakers included Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Barrister and Professor of Law; and Dr Adrian Gallagher, Professor at Leeds University and Research Director at the ECR2P.  The attendees have also heard from three remote speakers, Dr Pieter Omtzigt, Member of the Dutch Parliament and Special Rapporteur on Bringing Daesh to Justice; Lars Adaktusson, Swedish MEP; and Dr Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The event was co-organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Prevention of Genocide & Crimes Against Humanity in cooperation with Ewelina Ochab, human rights advocate and researcher.

During the event, the speakers scrutinised a bill on genocide determination (the Genocide Determination Bill) tabled by both parliamentarians and considered the UK Government’s failure to recognise mass atrocities as genocide. Indeed, the UK Government has a long-standing tradition to leave the question of genocide to the ‘international judicial system.’ To address this issue, the tabled Genocide Determination Bill identifies the High Court of England and Wales to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide, and for the subsequent referral by the Secretary of State of such findings to the International Criminal Court or the UN Security Council.

The Genocide Determination Bill would provide for a better response to cases of potential genocide than waiting for the ‘international judicial systems.’  Once the determination is made, further steps are likely to follow to ensure that the UK Government fulfils its duties under the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Convention on Genocide).

The speakers agreed that the current approach of the UK Government that leaves the question of genocide determination to the ‘international judicial systems’, irrespective of the delay it causes or irrespective of whether there is any mechanism to consider the question, is flawed and in breach of the UK’s obligations under the Convention on Genocide. This approach cannot be justified. The speakers praised the Genocide Determination Bill for being able to address the current failure of the UK Government and to provide for a more expeditious way to respond to such mass atrocities triggering decisive steps.

The event was attended by Parliamentarians, members of civil societies, lawyers, and academics. The attendees engaged in a constrictive debate with the speakers, shared their support for the Genocide Determination Bill and shared their suggestions.

 

 

 

Summary of the presentations

Professor Geoffrey Nice QC

Professor Nice QC shared his experience of working on human rights and international criminal prosecutions for many decades. Professor Nice QC explained the importance of investigating and prosecuting international crimes. As identified by Professor Nice QC, the creation of international tribunals in relation to mass atrocities over the recent decades has established an expectation that such crimes will be prosecuted. This is something we must press for and deliver.

As presented by Professor Nice QC, there is a shortcoming of the international criminal justice process that is excusable, namely, that not every conflict can conceivably be put to a legal determination.  There are sometimes no resources, no time, or no will. However, this does not justify inaction.

On the cases of Burma and North Korea, Professor Nice QC explained the failure of the international community to act as a result of the lack of political will. Professor Nice QC stated that what the Genocide Determination Bill could do would be to remove the element of political discretion from the process of genocide determination. He indicated that once the genocide determination is made by the High Court, actions will have to follow, and inaction would not be justified anymore. Professor Nice QC further praised the Genocide Determination Bill for giving the power to individuals to request a case to be considered whether it is genocide or not rather than leaving it with politicians exclusively.

Professor Nice QC explained the legacy of Lemkin in coining the crime of genocide as a separate and different from other crimes, for example, the crimes against humanity. Professor Nice QC argued that it is vital to recognise mass atrocities as genocide and not only as crimes against humanity.

 

Dr Adrian Gallagher

Dr Gallagher indicated that there are many reasons for recognising genocide: ‘From the rights of the victims to the legal duties embodied in the Genocide Convention and the political responsibilities embodied in the 2005 Responsibility to Protect agreement.’ He further added that while the legal and moral perception is that genocide is the ‘crime of crimes’ when the political response fails to acknowledge it, this undermines the legal and moral codes of conduct that underpin international order.

Dr Gallagher stated that the question of determining genocide should be placed in the hands of legal experts and this because of several complexities surrounding the definition of genocide. One of such complexities would be to establish the specific intent required for the crime of genocide.

However, this does not mean that steps should not be made to ensure that a legal determination is made. Dr Gallagher cited the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report from December 2017 that condemned the UK Government for its response concerning the situation of the Rakhine state for a) not conducting its independent legal analysis and b) its lack of clarity and consistency in defining the violence. Dr Gallagher noted that the UK Government responded that the FCO was not a judicial authority and is not qualified to make this determination. Dr Gallagher confirmed that the Government does not have the judicial authority and legal expertise to determine when crimes such as genocide are taking place. Dr Gallagher commended that the Genocide Determination Bill could address this shortfall.

Dr Gallagher considered who was the right authority to make the genocide determination. In response to the FASC report, a Minister stated that no legal analysis had been conducted because the rightful authority was the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Dr Gallagher explained that while the UN carries a lot of political authority, this does not necessarily mean the legal authority that is required. And so, in the case of Myanmar, the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar stated that he would refrain from calling it genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence.

Dr Gallagher indicated that, in his opinion, Commissions of Inquiry, as established by the UN Security Council or the UN Human Rights Council, are best placed for this type of work. Dr Gallagher cited the case of the Daesh atrocities against the Yazidis that was considered by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and concluded that the ethno-religious group was subjected to genocide by Daesh. As explained by Dr Gallagher, Canada initially resisted calling the atrocities as genocide, however, changed its position in light of the opinion of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Dr Gallagher further considered the work of the Commission of Inquiry on Darfur that was not able to conclude that genocide was being perpetrated but recommended referral of the situation to the ICC. Dr Gallagher indicated that there is a benefit in placing the determination of genocide in the hands of lawyers, namely, that the process becomes apolitical. This means that political considerations like for example the national interest would not be of concern. Nonetheless, the steps taken after the genocide determination would be still subject to political discretion.

 

Dr Pieter Omtzigt MP

Dr Pieter Omtzigt MP shared his experience of working on the issue of Daesh genocide at the Council of Europe and the Dutch Parliament. Omtzigt MP was the leading force behind the Council of Europe resolution recognising the Daesh atrocities as genocide, the first such international determination. Omtzigt MP then became the rapporteur on ‘prosecuting and punishing crimes against humanity or possible.

Omtzigt MP indicated that similarly as in the UK, the Dutch government and parliament did not want to deal with the determination of genocide leaving it for the ‘international judicial systems.’ Contrary to the UK, the Dutch government requested an opinion of experts dealing with two questions, 1) whether politicians can make the genocide determination, and 2) whether the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq amount to genocide of expert opinions on the topic. Based on the received legal advice of experts, in December 2017, the Dutch government confirmed that politicians could make the genocide determination if supported by robust inquiry and legal opinion, and that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Daesh was most likely committing genocide against religious minorities.

Omtzigt MP further raised the issue of prosecuting Daesh foreign fighters, whether by international ad hoc tribunals or the ICC. Omtzigt MP considered that despite the challenges surrounding such international prosecutions, those must be undertaken. Furthermore, as explained by Omtzigt MP, many of the so-called Daesh foreign fighters have already returned to their home countries, including over 425 British Daesh foreign fighters, but not many of them have been prosecuted for their involvement or complicity in crimes in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere. Omtzigt MP confirmed that having conducted an inquiry into the prosecution of Daesh foreign fighters in Council of Europe member states, states have been failing to prosecute Daesh foreign fighter returnees across the board.

 

Lars Adaktusson MEP

Adaktusson MEP indicated that Sweden currently joins the United Kingdom in the UN Security Council, and hence both countries, have the opportunity to pave the way for reconciliation and justice. Adaktusson MEP identified that this could be done through cooperation with the Netherlands, which is already working to make this happen, by submitting a concrete proposal to the UN Security Council seeking to establish an international tribunal where Daesh perpetrators of the genocide can be prosecuted.

Adaktusson MEP stated that during his several trips to Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East, he has met with ordinary people, displaced persons, political representatives and Christian leaders. This is also why he understands the need for a comprehensive response to the issue.

9780888996824.inddGenocide5

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3. Recent Parliamentary Interventions 

 

Monday, April 16, 2018 9:29:22 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Today’s Statement in Parliament on Syria

 

 Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in the snake pit of competing interests and proxy wars in Syria, it will have been of little comfort, as the noble Lord said a few moments ago, to hear the words “Mission accomplished”, certainly for the relatives of some 400,000 people who have died and the 12 million displaced in Syria. I too would welcome more from the noble Baroness about what diplomatic action we are going to take to try to bring a conclusion to this terrible conflict.

 

I would also like to return to what she said about the veto that has been used in the Security Council and the accountability to which people will be held, whether they are responsible for genocidal crimes against humanity, in the case of Daesh, or for chemical weapons being used, in the case of the Syrian regime. What are we doing to create new mechanisms, such as the establishment of a regional court, the creation of which does not need a decision to be taken by the Security Council, and which could be established by the United States, France, the UK and our allies so that those who have been responsible for these depredations will be brought to justice? Surely what marks us out from people like Assad or, for that matter, Daesh, is our belief in the upholding of the rule of law.

 

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park

 

I entirely agree with the noble Lord’s sentiment. Russia has used its veto six times on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria since 2017, including, as I mentioned, the recent veto of the draft resolution which would have established an independent investigation. Of course, we have used other mechanisms. Through the EU, we have brought sanctions against those involved in the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and we will continue to try to work through international bodies to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes are brought to justice.

 

 Maundy Thursday House of Lords Debate on Syria: A modern day Calvary ….

https://davidalton.net/2018/03/29/todays-maundy-thursday-house-of-lords-debate-on-syria-a-modern-day-calvary-why-those-who-have-slaughtered-christians-yazidis-and-other-minorities-in-an-orgy-of-genocide-must-be-held/

3.09 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who has been a friend for more than 40 years, for securing this timely and important debate today and for the compassionate and consistent way in which he has championed the cause of the Syrian people. It is a privilege to follow so many moving and powerful speeches.

 

In September 1980, during my first visit to Syria, I met Hafiz al-Assad, the Syrian President from 1971 to 2000, and father of Bashar al-Assad. The meeting took place on the day on which the eight-year Iran-Iraq war began—a forgotten conflict that claimed the lives of more than 1 million people. 

 

Since then, through wars and proxy wars from Iraq to Yemen and through the emergence of barbaric militias and violent ideologies, the region has been convulsed and disfigured by an orgy of unspeakable violence, and those responsible have believed that they will never be held to account.

 

For eight long years now, as we have heard, Syria has been ravaged, with an estimated 500,000 fatalities, of whom 200,000 are thought to be children. In his moving remarks, the right reverend Prelate told us that we should never give up on hope. He is, of course, right. The one thing left in Pandora’s box was hope.

 

The practical situation on the ground is this. Since 2011, this war has left more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million internally displaced and another 5 million clinging to life as refugees in camps and countries far away from their homeland, mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. From Aleppo to Damascus, from Eastern Ghouta and Homs to Palmyra, and now in Afrin, we have watched as internal and external forces have reduced homes, hospitals, schools and communities to rubble. In particular, we have seen appalling depredations committed by ISIS and, subsequently, hundreds of Islamic State fighters fleeing Raqqa, once the group’s de facto capital, but their dispersal does not represent defeat for an ideology that continues to preach hatred and to practise genocide.

 

As Ministers have conceded, in 2013 the United Kingdom lost its ability to shape events, with Iran rapidly filling that void, followed by Russia in 2015. With Turkey’s intervention in 2018 in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, as we heard, a further 98,000 people have been displaced. Last week, Christian Aid, in a report issued to Members of your Lordships’ House said that there have been widespread reports of arbitrary arrests, threats of violence and looting of civilian property by the Free Syrian Army—a group the United Kingdom Government have previously told us that they support.

 

The consequences for Syria have been lethal for millions of people, not least in the slaughter of the region’s minorities. On Monday, I attended the opening of a poignant exhibition being staged here in Parliament highlighting the genocide against the Yazidis, who have been subjected to nauseating obscenity and barbarism, rape, enslavement and murder. Nearly 10,000 Yazidis are believed to have been killed or captured by ISIS, with more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and women believed to be currently enslaved in Syria. Christians have also experienced a genocide that began with the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century and continues to this day.

 

The predators change but the existential threat to the minorities has not. 

 

The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo says that two-thirds of Syrian Christians have either been killed or driven away from his country. 

 

I serve as a pro bono member of the board of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and have been deeply moved by the accounts of many who have given evidence to the charity. The suffering that they have experienced was described last night at a Passiontide Wednesday service at St Patrick’s, Soho. One of those who has given evidence told me the story of a Christian family: a mother and 12 year-old daughter which were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door to their home.

 

On 23 July 2014, I wrote in an opinion piece in the Times that,

 

“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

 

But as Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar and Christians fled for their lives, the world chose not to wake up and the genocide continued. A 16 year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, subsequently met parliamentarians, including myself, and described crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves.

 

Following the failure of your Lordships to pass an amendment laid before the House on 20 April 2016 by myself, my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws and Lady Nicholson, the House of Commons subsequently unanimously approved a Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP describing the existential slaughter of these minorities as a genocide and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. It is on this question of justice—about which I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and copied the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on Tuesday of this week—that I want to concentrate the remainder of my remarks.

 

In 2016, David Cameron said,

 

“there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/6/16; col. 168.]

 

However, the Foreign Office has declined to do so and refused to act on that vote. This has made us derelict in our obligations under the 1948 convention on genocide, which places on us as a signatory a duty to prevent, to protect and to punish. It is the word genocide that could have changed the fate of the nameless thousands of victims and survivors of mass atrocities in Syria and Iraq.

 

Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, conducted a study on the perception and effects of determining genocidal atrocities using the words of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide”. The results of the study revealed that:

 

“It was not until the term ‘genocide’ was applied to the crimes, that force was used to stop them … When the term ‘genocide’ is used to describe crimes against humanity, use of force is possible. When the crimes are only called ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is a sure indicator of lack of political will to take forceful action to stop them”.

 

“Genocide” is a word that makes so much difference. 

 

Only by recognising the mass atrocities committed as genocide will victims be able to receive an adequate level of justice. Furthermore, the recognition of genocide matters for their humanitarian assistance, justice and much more besides. 

 

The Minister will be aware of the impact that the current policies have had on issues such as, for example, asylum. Less than 1% of those allowed into the UK under the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme come from the groups that I have described as affected by genocide. Everyone affected by war suffers, but either genocide is a crime above all crimes or it is not. Labelling victims simply as “religious groups” is also, in terms of the implementation of things such as asylum policies, a form of reverse discrimination.

 

In addition to the failure to determine the ISIS atrocities perpetrated against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, the atrocities perpetrated by other actors within the regime also have genocidal traits, such as the use of chemical weapons and the intentional starvation of the population. They are most certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity. But what links all these atrocities is a culture of impunity. Do we have the will or the capacity to hold those responsible to account and to bring them to justice? That is the central question. Genocide is the crime above all crimes, and it must be our starting point in upholding internationally agreed law and in determining our priorities in all areas of public policy.

 

The case of the ISIS genocide against these minorities is a simple one. 

 

Daesh fighters have been systematically perpetrating mass atrocities, including killing members of religious groups such as Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and others, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of these groups, deliberately imposing conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. 

 

Intent does not have to be inferred from these atrocities. Daesh has been expressing this genocidal intent through social media and in its recruitment and propaganda newsletters and videos. 

 

The crucifixion and death of one young man was boastfully posted on the internet. He was crucified for wearing a cross. From the same town local girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIS returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ homes with a videotape of them being raped.

 

The UK Government cannot justify hiding behind the long-standing legacy of genocide denial. Ministers say, “It is clearly a matter for judicial authorities to determine whether a genocide has taken place”, and then fail to put in place a mechanism for doing that. They say, “Perpetrators will pay the price”. They have talked about “the long arm of justice” and give the example of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosnian men and youths were massacred. 

 

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, spoke at a colloquium on genocide which I convened in your Lordships’ House last week. As Sir Geoffrey made clear, a trial of genocide is not easy, as is clear from the case of Ratko Mladić which, for reasons I shall give, was a surprising choice for the Government to cite. 

 

What options do the Government have in seeking to justify their position for leaving genocidal determination to the international judicial system?

 

 There is the International Criminal Court but vetoes and hostility by key members of the Security Council sadly make it unlikely that the ICC would be a realistic mechanism to deal with these events.

 

Another mechanism might be something like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, whose role the Government regularly now cite. But, to be clear, the ICTY was an ad hoc tribunal with a limited jurisdiction. The court was established after a commission of experts, established by the UN Security Council, determined in its interim report that “ethnic cleanings” were perpetrated. This was before it prepared a final report confirming that genocide and other mass atrocities had been perpetrated. This determination of genocide by the commission of experts was the key to establishing the ad hoc tribunal and ensuring that the perpetrators were brought to justice. 

 

It was the interim determination by the commission of experts and not the ICTY’s final judgment that was the first and most important step towards justice. 

 

This point needs to be fully understood. If there is no special ad hoc tribunal or no existing court capable of making an adjudication, there will be no consideration of the atrocities that would result in a final judgment acceptable to the UK Government.

 

Secondly, as Gladstone once observed, justice delayed can be justice denied. 

 

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, confirmed in a reply to me last week that Mladić was arrested 16 years after he was charged and convicted only in November 2017—two decades after his genocidal atrocities had taken place. 

 

If a perpetrator is never charged with genocide, he will not be convicted of genocide, so the UK Government will not gain the final judgment necessary to make a genocidal determination.

 

 I have never argued that the UK Government should undertake the role of being a court to make the final determination. But they can make a qualified determination, subject to evidence and final judgment. 

 

It is the interim determination of genocide that can trigger further steps, as in case of the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and elsewhere. 

 

This is precisely the approach taken by the Dutch Government, now temporary members of the Security Council, and it is in the provisions of my Private Member’s Bill before your Lordships’ House.

 

Under the genocide convention, the Government have a duty in law to act, and act they must. 

 

Syria desperately needs an end to violations against the civilian population, including summary executions, hostage-taking, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. 

 

It needs the release of children, women, the elderly and the disabled from detention centres.

 

 It needs an end to siege tactics, to ensure that there is immediate and timely access to, and provision of, humanitarian assistance. One day it will need both the right to return and protection. 

 

If ever future genocides and crimes against humanity are contemplated, the world needs to see that perpetrators of such crimes will be held to account and that any final settlement will not include amnesties for gross violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

 

All those who have suffered in Syria’s bloodletting deserve nothing less.

 

 

8,894,355 reasons why Ireland should Vote No on Friday and continue to uphold the sanctity and dignity of every human life – because both lives matter. Count The Missing People. Baroness O’Loan poignantly Explains what lies behind her Bill to protect workers sacked for refusing to collaborate; What Ireland’s Former Taoiseach Has To Say In Opposing Anti-Life Attempts To Repeal the 8th… Meetings in Lisburn and Belfast; Irish Times article on why proposed changes would produce an even more inhumane law than England’s;

Alive but not born yet.jpg

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

Larissa Nolan – and a point of view that deserves to be heard

I am a feminist, a progressive, a liberal and a free thinker – and for all these reasons, I am voting No on Friday.

https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/health-news/larissa-nolan-comment-im-voting-12585262

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/ireland-having-discuss-truth-abortion-way-britain-never-has/

And hear this speech by Maria Steen to the Citizens’ Assembly

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does. There’s no such thing as a safe abortion for a baby in the womb.

May 3rd 2018 – Meetings in Belfast and Lisburn as part of the Both Lives Matter Campaign in Northern Ireland. IMG_4046

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/careforni/

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Article from the Irish Times

Removal of Eighth would create law more inhumane than Britain’s

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Recently, the Irish Government released a paper setting out 21 principles that would inform their prospective abortion legislation, were the Eighth Amendment to be repealed.

Looking at this from a British perspective, it’s worryingly hard not to see shadows of our own law, the Abortion Act 1967.

When it was introduced just over 50 years ago, the 1967 Act was sold to the public and to the Westminster Parliament as a restrictive law. The evidence of half a century, however, shows this claim was utterly empty. The everyday reality in Britain today is that abortion is available on demand, for any reason, up to 24 weeks. In 2016, just over one in five British pregnancies ended in abortion.

The false assurances we heard in 1967 are echoed by certain pro-repeal politicians today, as they claim that abortion law after any removal of Eighth Amendment protections for unborn children would be modest and more restrictive than those across the Irish Sea. The truth is that, if anything, it would create a law not just as permissive and inhumane as Britain’s – but even more so.

The reason why the Abortion Act has led to abortion on demand is because section 1(1)(a) of the Act allows abortion under what we now call Ground C: when two doctors agree that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”.

‘Mental health’ reasons

Some 97 per cent of all abortions in Britain take place under this ground; 99.8 per cent of which are carried out for “mental health” reasons.

Of course, no evidence exists that abortion helps safeguard mental health. As pro-choice Prof David Fergusson reported in a longitudinal study on mental health and abortion, the “evidence clearly poses a challenge to the use of psychiatric reasons to justify abortion”. Uncoincidentally, no verification is required regarding the alleged underlying psychological condition, nor is even one of the two doctors required to be formally qualified to be able to identify such a condition.

As a consequence of this, abortion in Britain can take place for functionally any reason whatever up to 24 weeks – the explicit “upper limit” introduced in 1990. This has meant a situation of normalised laxity, which a media investigation in 2012 showed even allows for the ugly spectre of misogynistic sex-selective abortion.

This permissive abortion system has not only led to the destruction of girls in the womb, but to the deeply tragic suicides of young women. Examples include 13-year-old Ashli Blake in 2014, whose abortion helped to cover up her sexual abuse; young mother Jade Rees in 2015 after the abortion of her baby daughter, and the artist Emma Beck in 2007 after the abortion of her twin girls.

Compare the British model to the principles of the Irish Government’s Health paper on prospective abortion legislation. These state that under any legislation they introduce, abortions would be provided “without indication” (ie on demand) up to 12 weeks, but also on the grounds of “risk to health” to a pregnant woman with no gestational restriction.

Moreover, no distinction would be made between physical and mental health. This would establish the same supposedly limited “health grounds” for abortion as in UK law, but by crucial contrast, with no “upper limit” applying in such cases. This would lead to a de facto situation of abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

Sex-selective abortion

“Any reason” would include the sex-selective abortion that has been shown to be possible in British practice. The Stop Gendercide campaign started by women’s groups Jeena International and Karma Nirvana, in analysing currently debated proposals for permissive abortion on the Isle of Man, has noted that due to improvements in prenatal testing technology, foetal gender can now be detected after seven weeks’ gestation. Not only would introducing abortion on demand up to 12 weeks formally legalise sex-selective abortion in the first trimester, but providing de facto abortion on demand would enable sex-selection throughout all of pregnancy.

While the Irish Government’s proposals may seem restrictive, just as the Abortion Act did in the 1960s, long British experience shows that any legislation enacted based on their “principles” would introduce a radically permissive abortion regime all throughout pregnancy.

Ireland would suffer a system even more extreme than the British, which itself has destroyed so many lives, not only of unborn children, but of pregnant mothers. Both lives matter: every life counts.

In considering how to vote in the upcoming referendum, I hope the Irish public realises that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the Republic would go down a road even darker than that of British practice. Knowing this, I hope voters will opt instead to Vote No to maintain Ireland’s Constitution as a civilised standard of human dignity and rights.

David Alton is a member of the House of Lords and a long-time anti-abortion campaigner

Join The Rebellion And Vote No – Because Both Lives Matter

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

Unborn child and smoking kills 2

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does.

Secular and Religious Voices Unite To Urge Ireland To Vote No And To Insist That Both Lives Matter

As Ireland faces a referendum on whether to introduce British-style laws to allow the abortion of babies in the womb (and which in Britain have led to one abortion every three minutes) there has been an increase in opposition to such change from secular and religious voices.

Wendy Grace in a really succinct and well-argued article puts the case for a No vote which deserves to be shared far and wide. https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/a-no-vote-is-our-opportunity-to-do-better-for-women-and-babies-36878030.html#

Ms Grace says “We are at a key moment in Irish history where we have the opportunity to be truly progressive, unlike countries in the past, we cannot plead ignorance, with this knowledge comes a responsibility.

 

“I refuse to be part of a system that pits mother against baby. This is not equality. Abortion is the tragic sign that the real needs of women are not being met.

A No vote is our opportunity to unite together and say we can do a lot better for women, for babies, for Ireland.”

The latest poll in the Sunday Independent shows more and more people joining the rebellion: You can find it here- https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/abortion-referendum/poll-young-urban-women-giving-yes-side-referendum-edge-but-it-is-a-narrow-lead-36877996.htmlWhile Yes remains in the lead, their lead has dramatically declined since February.

Archbishop Eamon Martin has spoken out with great clarity and profession arguing that both lives matter. His interview to the Belfast Telegraph can be read at:

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/archbishop-martin-will-continue-to-push-for-pope-to-visit-northern-ireland-36882908.html

The Archbishop said: “Those who are voting can be in no doubt that this is not just the removal of an amendment in order to be compassionate in hard cases, such as rape, incest or life-threatening situations.

 

“This is the removal of the only remaining protection for unborn life in order to introduce a very liberal abortion regime which, I believe, the people of Ireland do not want.

 

“The Supreme Court has told us that once you remove the eighth amendment, there is no recognition at all for the rights of the unborn.

 

“Once that is gone, I find it difficult to believe that we would not move to probably becoming one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world.

 

“Once we elevate personal choice above the right to life, where do we stand?

 

“If we enshrine in our laws the right to choose to end life, where does that place us? I see this not as a Church versus State battle, but as an opportunity to highlight that we must choose life and not death.”

Archbishop Martin said that abortion was “not a matter of private choice but of the common good”. “Society can never tolerate the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life, and I am conscious that many of my brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations and in other faiths hold a similar view.”

He also stated his belief that the outcome of the referendum was not a foregone conclusion and that many people are still undecided.

“I would like to think that when people go in to vote that they will pause, listen to their heartbeat, look at the fingerprints, and realise they have had these since they themselves were in the womb.

 

“I would love them to think of two lives as they make their decision.”

The Irish Times also has a report on a host of pastoral letters read out in parishes across the Republic this past Sunday. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/bishops-warn-against-abortion-on-demand-1.3487675

Underlining that this view is echoed across denominations, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, has trenchantly spelt out his opposition to the proposed changes https://www.donegalnow.com/news/bishop-derry-raphoe-rt-rev-ken-good-referendum-eighth-amendment/223252.

He says:

“Often, in the past, the protection of vulnerable women and children in Ireland left a lot to be desired, but legislating now to allow the lives of the most defenceless among us to be terminated is not the answer.”

 

For the Child In The Womb there is no such thing as “a safe abortion”…

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Join The Rebellion: 8  million reasons for voting no… Opposition echoed by Ireland’s former Taoiseach

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/former-taoiseach-says-ireland-should-be-proud-of-eighth-amendment-1.3423831 <https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/h-9FCK13nCqQRY3cvbRYw?domain=irishtimes.com&gt;

8 million Reasons For Voting NO: Click on this link –

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/8894355-reasons-why-ireland-should-continue-to-uphold-the-sanctity-and-dignity-of-every-human-life-because-every-life-matters-count-the-missing-britons-and-the-people-of-ireland-would-be-2/

 

DavidAlton.net

New pro-life website launched in Ireland as abortion referendum looms. Click on:

https://www.ourfuture.ie/

Poster1

Read Lady O’Loan’s moving account of why she  believes we cannot be indifferent to the right to life of the child in the womb:

https://www.irishcatholic.com/every-child-conceived-no-matter-short-life-loved-god/

And Hear Why Both Lives Matter…

Northern Ireland

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Lady O’Loan’s Bill to ensure conscience rights for medical practitioners completed Day One of its Committee Stage on March 23rd:

Baroness O’Loan’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activites) Bill

The Bill will clarify the law to ensure conscience protections are in place for medical practitioners to protect them from discrimination, enabling them to fully participate in their chosen professions and care for patients to the best of their ability. The Bill will give the right to withdraw from end of life treatment, activities under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and abortion.

Under the existing law, some medical professionals are not protected from unjust discrimination. GPs, as…

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Alfie Evans and the Rights of Parents

Alfie Evans1

ALFIE EVANS

I am not alone in believing that when British law can displace the rights of parents then British law must be changed.

I said exactly that at the time of the death of Charlie Gard and repeat it again now as little Alfie Evans battles for life.
The earlier case of Ashya King graphically illustrated that experts can get things wrong – but, even more importantly, every parent has a fundamental right – and I would say duty- to fight for and care for the child to whom they gave life.


Alfie is today still fighting for his life despite extubation, beyond the expectations of the team treating him.

As the relationship between the hospital and Alfie’s family has clearly broken down, their request to take Alfie to another hospital seems unarguable.

So is the case for changing the law to give parents the definitive last word in such cases.

As Asperger’s Link To Nazi Eugenics Is Highlighted – What Chesterton had to say about Eugenics, Resurrection, and New Life

Asperger Helped Nazis Kill Children – The Times -April 19th 2018

Asperger

 

I am shocked, but not surprised, by this story in The Times.

The medical and scientific establishments became umbilically linked to the eugenics of the Nazis. Their belief in racial purity subverted both medics and scientists who promoted the cold blooded murder of people with disabilities. 

Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political and religious dissenters, like St. Maxilillian Kolbe, followed them to the concentration camps. But people with disabilities were the first to be singled out and it’s no coincidence that the Reich, with its visceral hatred of difference, led the way in promoting abortions and euthanasia. 

Nazis and euthanasia

Heilanstalt Schönbrunn, Kinder

Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934 (Photo by SSphotographer Friedrich Franz Bauer.)See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_T4  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_euthanasia_in_Nazi_Germany

In 1929 Hitler said at the Nazi Party Conference in Nuremberg, “that an average annual removal of 700,000-800,000 of the weakest of a million babies meant an increase in the power of the nation and not a weakening”

———————————–

The political classes in England – egged on by campaigners like Marie Stoppes -came perilously close to doing the same thing. G.K. Chesterton described them as “dazed dupes” and Chesterton trenchantly set out the case against this barbarism in “Eugenics and Other Evils.”

chesterton-eugenics-and-other-evils

Today, the heirs of Asperger promote a false scientism that kills 90% of babies with Down’s Syndrome and justifies the stabbing to death, by injecting the heart of a full term baby. This is a complete abnegation and repudiation of the ancient Hippocratic Oath and the foundational principle of good medical ethics that a doctor should do no harm.

  Consider for a moment some of those who are said to have experienced Asperger’s Syndrome – including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Alfred Hitchcock and Benjamin Franklin – and you get a glimpse of how much poorer humanity would have been if each of these had been eliminated. 

Then ask yourself who and what we will have lost through Asperger’s eugenics and the eugenics promoted and practised today by his twenty first century followers. Perhaps it’s time to rename the Syndrome after someone who experienced it and who blessed humanity by their presence in the world.”

DavidAlton.net

Easter 2018

What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection:

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via dolorosa

Good Friday 2018.pngCarrying their cross

Why the United Kingdom should start acting on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East

On Good Friday, Christians will pray and – in many churches – also walk the way of the cross – the Via Dolorosa – a tradition dear to those who attend the Easter services.

The Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows, the way of grief, the way of suffering – is commemorated in the fourteen stations of Jesus’ suffering. Pausing at each we try to understand what was happening on the way to Mount Calvary – the place where the most inspiring figure in history was executed. To more than a billion believers, He is more than just an inspiration. Having suffered greatly Himself, the Son of God represents redemption to all of mankind.

Over the centuries, Christians have lived in the…

View original post 1,500 more words

Chemical Attacks In Syria and Maundy Thursday House of Lords Debate on Syria:  A Modern Day Calvary. Why those who have slaughtered Christians, Yazidis and other Minorities in an orgy of Genocide must be held to account and brought to justice. Times newspaper report April 16th 2018 – how Rita Habib was tortured, and raped by four different owners as part of ISIS genocide  

 

 

April 16th Statement in Parliament on Syria

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, in the snake pit of competing interests and proxy wars in Syria, it will have been of little comfort, as the noble Lord said a few moments ago, to hear the words “Mission accomplished”, certainly for the relatives of some 400,000 people who have died and the 12 million displaced in Syria. I too would welcome more from the noble Baroness about what diplomatic action we are going to take to try to bring a conclusion to this terrible conflict.

I would also like to return to what she said about the veto that has been used in the Security Council and the accountability to which people will be held, whether they are responsible for genocidal crimes against humanity, in the case of Daesh, or for chemical weapons being used, in the case of the Syrian regime. What are we doing to create new mechanisms, such as the establishment of a regional court, the creation of which does not need a decision to be taken by the Security Council, and which could be established by the United States, France, the UK and our allies so that those who have been responsible for these depredations will be brought to justice? Surely what marks us out from people like Assad or, for that matter, Daesh, is our belief in the upholding of the rule of law.

 

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Leader of the House of Lords)

 

I entirely agree with the noble Lord’s sentiment. Russia has used its veto six times on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria since 2017, including, as I mentioned, the recent veto of the draft resolution which would have established an independent investigation. Of course, we have used other mechanisms. Through the EU, we have brought sanctions against those involved in the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and we will continue to try to work through international bodies to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes are brought to justice.

Rita Habib

Christian Woman enslaved for 3 years – Times newspaper report April 16th 2018 – how Rita Habib was tortured, and raped by four different owners as part of ISIS genocide  

Christian Persecution

Today’s Maundy Thursday House of Lords Debate on Syria 

http://www.dailyglobe.co.uk/comment/a-modern-day-calvary/

A modern day Calvary ….

 

 3.09 pm 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who has been a friend for more than 40 years, for securing this timely and important debate today and for the compassionate and consistent way in which he has championed the cause of the Syrian people. It is a privilege to follow so many moving and powerful speeches.

 

In September 1980, during my first visit to Syria, I met Hafiz al-Assad, the Syrian President from 1971 to 2000, and father of Bashar al-Assad. The meeting took place on the day on which the eight-year Iran-Iraq war began—a forgotten conflict that claimed the lives of more than 1 million people. 

 

Since then, through wars and proxy wars from Iraq to Yemen and through the emergence of barbaric militias and violent ideologies, the region has been convulsed and disfigured by an orgy of unspeakable violence, and those responsible have believed that they will never be held to account.

 

For eight long years now, as we have heard, Syria has been ravaged, with an estimated 500,000 fatalities, of whom 200,000 are thought to be children. In his moving remarks, the right reverend Prelate told us that we should never give up on hope. He is, of course, right. The one thing left in Pandora’s box was hope.

 

The practical situation on the ground is this. Since 2011, this war has left more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million internally displaced and another 5 million clinging to life as refugees in camps and countries far away from their homeland, mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. From Aleppo to Damascus, from Eastern Ghouta and Homs to Palmyra, and now in Afrin, we have watched as internal and external forces have reduced homes, hospitals, schools and communities to rubble. In particular, we have seen appalling depredations committed by ISIS and, subsequently, hundreds of Islamic State fighters fleeing Raqqa, once the group’s de facto capital, but their dispersal does not represent defeat for an ideology that continues to preach hatred and to practise genocide.

 

As Ministers have conceded, in 2013 the United Kingdom lost its ability to shape events, with Iran rapidly filling that void, followed by Russia in 2015. With Turkey’s intervention in 2018 in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, as we heard, a further 98,000 people have been displaced. Last week, Christian Aid, in a report issued to Members of your Lordships’ House said that there have been widespread reports of arbitrary arrests, threats of violence and looting of civilian property by the Free Syrian Army—a group the United Kingdom Government have previously told us that they support.

 

The consequences for Syria have been lethal for millions of people, not least in the slaughter of the region’s minorities. On Monday, I attended the opening of a poignant exhibition being staged here in Parliament highlighting the genocide against the Yazidis, who have been subjected to nauseating obscenity and barbarism, rape, enslavement and murder. Nearly 10,000 Yazidis are believed to have been killed or captured by ISIS, with more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and women believed to be currently enslaved in Syria. Christians have also experienced a genocide that began with the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century and continues to this day.

 

The predators change but the existential threat to the minorities has not. 

 

The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo says that two-thirds of Syrian Christians have either been killed or driven away from his country. 

 

I serve as a pro bono member of the board of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and have been deeply moved by the accounts of many who have given evidence to the charity. The suffering that they have experienced was described last night at a Passiontide Wednesday service at St Patrick’s, Soho. One of those who has given evidence told me the story of a Christian family: a mother and 12 year-old daughter which were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door to their home.

 

On 23 July 2014, I wrote in an opinion piece in the Times that,

 

“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

 

But as Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar and Christians fled for their lives, the world chose not to wake up and the genocide continued. A 16 year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, subsequently met parliamentarians, including myself, and described crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves.

 

Following the failure of your Lordships to pass an amendment laid before the House on 20 April 2016 by myself, my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws and Lady Nicholson, the House of Commons subsequently unanimously approved a Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP describing the existential slaughter of these minorities as a genocide and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. It is on this question of justice—about which I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and copied the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on Tuesday of this week—that I want to concentrate the remainder of my remarks.

 

In 2016, David Cameron said,

 

“there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/6/16; col. 168.]

 

However, the Foreign Office has declined to do so and refused to act on that vote. This has made us derelict in our obligations under the 1948 convention on genocide, which places on us as a signatory a duty to prevent, to protect and to punish. It is the word genocide that could have changed the fate of the nameless thousands of victims and survivors of mass atrocities in Syria and Iraq.

 

Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, conducted a study on the perception and effects of determining genocidal atrocities using the words of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide”. The results of the study revealed that:

 

“It was not until the term ‘genocide’ was applied to the crimes, that force was used to stop them … When the term ‘genocide’ is used to describe crimes against humanity, use of force is possible. When the crimes are only called ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is a sure indicator of lack of political will to take forceful action to stop them”.

 

“Genocide” is a word that makes so much difference. 

 

Only by recognising the mass atrocities committed as genocide will victims be able to receive an adequate level of justice. Furthermore, the recognition of genocide matters for their humanitarian assistance, justice and much more besides. 

 

The Minister will be aware of the impact that the current policies have had on issues such as, for example, asylum. Less than 1% of those allowed into the UK under the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme come from the groups that I have described as affected by genocide. Everyone affected by war suffers, but either genocide is a crime above all crimes or it is not. Labelling victims simply as “religious groups” is also, in terms of the implementation of things such as asylum policies, a form of reverse discrimination.

 

In addition to the failure to determine the ISIS atrocities perpetrated against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, the atrocities perpetrated by other actors within the regime also have genocidal traits, such as the use of chemical weapons and the intentional starvation of the population. They are most certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity. But what links all these atrocities is a culture of impunity. Do we have the will or the capacity to hold those responsible to account and to bring them to justice? That is the central question. Genocide is the crime above all crimes, and it must be our starting point in upholding internationally agreed law and in determining our priorities in all areas of public policy.

 

The case of the ISIS genocide against these minorities is a simple one. 

 

Daesh fighters have been systematically perpetrating mass atrocities, including killing members of religious groups such as Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and others, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of these groups, deliberately imposing conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. 

 

Intent does not have to be inferred from these atrocities. Daesh has been expressing this genocidal intent through social media and in its recruitment and propaganda newsletters and videos. 

 

The crucifixion and death of one young man was boastfully posted on the internet. He was crucified for wearing a cross. From the same town local girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIS returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ homes with a videotape of them being raped.

 

The UK Government cannot justify hiding behind the long-standing legacy of genocide denial. Ministers say, “It is clearly a matter for judicial authorities to determine whether a genocide has taken place”, and then fail to put in place a mechanism for doing that. They say, “Perpetrators will pay the price”. They have talked about “the long arm of justice” and give the example of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosnian men and youths were massacred. 

 

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, spoke at a colloquium on genocide which I convened in your Lordships’ House last week. As Sir Geoffrey made clear, a trial of genocide is not easy, as is clear from the case of Ratko Mladić which, for reasons I shall give, was a surprising choice for the Government to cite. 

 

What options do the Government have in seeking to justify their position for leaving genocidal determination to the international judicial system?

 

 There is the International Criminal Court but vetoes and hostility by key members of the Security Council sadly make it unlikely that the ICC would be a realistic mechanism to deal with these events.

 

Another mechanism might be something like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, whose role the Government regularly now cite. But, to be clear, the ICTY was an ad hoc tribunal with a limited jurisdiction. The court was established after a commission of experts, established by the UN Security Council, determined in its interim report that “ethnic cleanings” were perpetrated. This was before it prepared a final report confirming that genocide and other mass atrocities had been perpetrated. This determination of genocide by the commission of experts was the key to establishing the ad hoc tribunal and ensuring that the perpetrators were brought to justice. 

 

It was the interim determination by the commission of experts and not the ICTY’s final judgment that was the first and most important step towards justice. 

 

This point needs to be fully understood. If there is no special ad hoc tribunal or no existing court capable of making an adjudication, there will be no consideration of the atrocities that would result in a final judgment acceptable to the UK Government.

 

Secondly, as Gladstone once observed, justice delayed can be justice denied. 

 

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, confirmed in a reply to me last week that Mladić was arrested 16 years after he was charged and convicted only in November 2017—two decades after his genocidal atrocities had taken place. 

 

If a perpetrator is never charged with genocide, he will not be convicted of genocide, so the UK Government will not gain the final judgment necessary to make a genocidal determination.

 

 I have never argued that the UK Government should undertake the role of being a court to make the final determination. But they can make a qualified determination, subject to evidence and final judgment. 

 

It is the interim determination of genocide that can trigger further steps, as in case of the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and elsewhere. 

 

This is precisely the approach taken by the Dutch Government, now temporary members of the Security Council, and it is in the provisions of my Private Member’s Bill before your Lordships’ House.

 

Under the genocide convention, the Government have a duty in law to act, and act they must. 

 

Syria desperately needs an end to violations against the civilian population, including summary executions, hostage-taking, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. 

 

It needs the release of children, women, the elderly and the disabled from detention centres.

 

 It needs an end to siege tactics, to ensure that there is immediate and timely access to, and provision of, humanitarian assistance. One day it will need both the right to return and protection. 

 

If ever future genocides and crimes against humanity are contemplated, the world needs to see that perpetrators of such crimes will be held to account and that any final settlement will not include amnesties for gross violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

 

All those who have suffered in Syria’s bloodletting deserve nothing less.

 

 3.24 pm

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https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/netherlands-joins-un-security-council-to-shine-light-on-is-genocide-excellent-article-by-ewelina-ochab-on-the-role-holland-is-playing-in-bringing-perpetrators-of-genocide-to-justice-and-why-we-shou/

Yazidi Exhibition Staged in Parliament This weekYazidi exhbition

 

 

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Prince of Wales’s Easter message highlights suffering of Christians: March 30th 2018

By John Newton and John Pontifex

 

HRH The Prince of Wales has expressed his support for Christians suffering for their faith around the world in a video message released today (Good Friday, 30th March). 

The Prince spoke of his concern for all those persecuted on religious grounds – and highlighted the problems faced by Christians in particular.

He said: At this time of Easter, when our minds are recalled to the suffering of Our Lord 2,000 years ago, we think especially of those Christians who are suffering for their faith in many places around the world. 

“I want to assure them that they are not forgotten and that they are in our prayers.”

The video follows The Prince’s meetings with Church leaders from the Middle East, where Christians and other religious minorities have been targeted for their beliefs.

The Prince met Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been overseeing the care of more than 100,000 Christians driven out of their homes on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains and Melkite Archbishop John Darwish of Zahlé and Furzol, Lebanon, who is helping Syrian Christian refuges receiving no help from other sources.

The meetings with Archbishops Warda and Darwish were organised with help from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need which supports the local Churches’ work.

The charity’s last Persecuted and Forgotten? report, which examines human rights’ violations against Christians around the world, highlighted the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, concluding that the resulting exodus could threaten the continuing survival of the region’s ancient Churches.

In his message, The Prince of Wales pointed out causes of optimism for the faithful, including the return of Christians to their homes in northern Iraq and elsewhere.

He said: “I have also heard that in the darkness there are small shafts of light, signs of Resurrection and of hope that, slowly but surely, Christians who have had to flee from their homelands are beginning to return and to rebuild their shattered homes.”

According to figures released last Sunday (25th March), 3,249 Christian houses on the Nineveh Plains have been restored out of 12,217 and 37,086 Christians have returned home.

The Prince noted that for centuries different faiths – particularly the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism – “lived side by side as neighbours and as friends”. 

He said that in Lebanon, Muslims join with Christians at the Shrine of our Lady of Lebanon to honour Mary, adding that she “occupies a unique and elevated position in both Christianity and Islam”.  

The Prince of Wales said: “Over the years, I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life – or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country – and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.”

He added: “All three Abrahamic faiths have known and continue to know the bitterness of persecution when religion has fallen into the barbaric grip of those who distort and misrepresent faith.”

The video message, which also forms part of The Prince of Wales’s ongoing dialogue with Church leaders in the UK, was recorded at his official London residence, Clarence House, earlier in March. 

Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill [HL] 23 March 2018. Why Nuala O’Loan’s Bill Is Right

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Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill [HL] 23 March 2018

Full debate:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2018-03-23/debates/BB7AB7EB-BE1F-4D9D-8E9B-CE227AB1D4C2/ConscientiousObjection(MedicalActivities)Bill(HL)

Extracts from the debate:

Baroness Nuala O'Loan

Baroness O’Loan: My Lords, I have listened with great care to the various speakers who have articulated their views on this group of amendments. It has been a very profound and interesting debate and I thank all contributors.

As I said at Second Reading, the Bill does not seek to limit access to abortion. It could never result in a patient who had expressed a wish not to be resuscitated in an advance decision being forcibly treated. It would not result in treatment, hydration or nutrition being withdrawn from someone who wanted to live. For the avoidance of doubt, it is only about enabling medical practitioners to withdraw from treatment which they perceive for moral or philosophical reasons, or for reasons of belief, to lead inevitably to death, whether of a living person or of an unborn child. It is not about doing things to patients; it is about some medical practitioners not having to do some things.

I want to allude for a moment to the various contributions on the subject of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, said. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, that Parliament could not have envisaged the way in which the abortion law would develop. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, chose the narrow meaning on the basis that it was more likely to have been in the contemplation of Parliament when the Act was passed. She acknowledged the existence of a broader interpretation. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, very clearly said, we have the right, as a Parliament, to change things. I am suggesting that we need now to contemplate the situation in 2018, not the situation in 1967, so it is not about refusing ​people access to treatment. There have been suggestions that it is about denying patient autonomy. A patient does not have and never has had the right to compel a particular practitioner to do a particular medical procedure. However, they have the right to a service and the right, if they want it, to a second opinion, and that must continue.

3.00 pm

Treasury statistics show that the NHS deals with over 243 million patients a year—1 million every 36 hours—which is an astonishing figure. It is a vast organisation, which undoubtedly has the capacity to provide reasonable accommodation for those of its medical practitioners who are conscientious objectors in these limited areas. The NHS, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, again said, employs almost 1.2 million people. It is therefore possible to allow midwives and doctors who have conscientious objections to termination of a pregnancy to care for the 700,000 women who give birth in our hospitals in England and Wales every year, helping those for whom conception is difficult or seems impossible, as the noble Lord, Lord Winston, has done with such success over 70 years, and working in gynaecological departments, helping women who suffer from a huge range of gynaecological conditions, some of which are very disturbing and interfere with their ability to walk and move around freely, and so on.

We have a shortage of obstetricians, gynaecologists and midwives and, of course, nurses. Part of the reason for that is that people do not apply for jobs in these areas. I have heard this from many practitioners. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, suggested that I did not produce evidence. I suggest that she rereads my Second Reading speech, not least the reference to the inquiry that was conducted here in Parliament on conscientious objection to abortion and its consequence.

It has been suggested that in the context of management jobs, such as clinical leads, it is necessary to require that there be no right of conscientious objection because abortions must be scheduled, and so on. However, it is not quite as simple as that. I think we can agree that no one person, however brilliant they are, has absolute professional capacity in every area affected by their area of clinical responsibility. Solutions are possible—and exist, and are practised—to address any difficulties. So, for example, a clinical lead has deputies, and such a person might be the one to take responsibility for that area of activity, allowing the person who has a conscientious objection to abortion to withdraw, but to progress through their careers into management while providing a service in all the areas; for example, of obstetrics and gynaecology, to which I referred a minute ago, facilitating and enabling conception, care of pregnant mothers, delivery of those 700,000 births each year and the care of those suffering from gynaecological diseases and other conditions.

It would be most helpful if we could discuss further the amendments in this group to see whether we can agree how reasonable accommodation might be achieved or provided for and so improve the service available to patients while protecting practitioners. I think we can reach a situation, given the good will that has been ​expressed in this House, by which we could ensure that services will not become difficult to access because of it, and that services will still be there.

There are some 60,000 abortions in the NHS each year; the rest are conducted in private clinics, so that number is actually a small percentage of the totality of the work of practitioners in obstetrics and gynaecology, where we have those 700,000 births a year and all the other work I have referred to. The Bill does not take away the duty of the NHS to provide services. That duty will remain. All that will be required of the NHS is reasonable accommodation for a limited number of people, which of course is recognised and accepted by all the royal colleges. Some of the amendments in this group seek to remove from protection all the proximate forms of assistance or co-operation, such as supervision, planning and delegation, through which a medical practitioner may be implicated very closely in the activity to which they conscientiously object. But, as has been said, supervising, planning or delegating the doing of X means making sure that X is done and, most importantly, that X is done right. The aim of the Bill is precisely to protect conscientious objectors from coercion through this type of involvement in matters intrinsic to the taking of life or the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

Having listened carefully, I believe that as a Parliament and as a country we can afford and manage to provide protection to those for whom conscience makes activity designed to end life untenable. Forcing people to act against their conscience, leaving them in a position in which they never know when they will have to do something to contribute to the ending of life; accepting that hostility and exclusion are legitimate reactions to an avowed and profoundly held belief—for some a religious belief, for others a philosophical one—cannot be right. I have been told by Members of this House and many others of the ostracisation which can make life so very difficult for those who want to provide medical care to sustain and enable life, and to manage the dying of those who must die, with the greatest possible levels of palliative care. In a society that is proud of its historical contribution to the evolution of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, it is unacceptable if we do not have a proper, modern and appropriate law of conscientious objection.

In concluding, I urge those who have tabled these amendments to talk to us so that we can discuss a way forward that would meet their concerns As tabled, these amendments would not enhance the situation of all those who are regulated by the organisations in Clause 1(2)—we will come back to that important part of the Bill—nor would they enhance the experience of patients. Patients would still be able to accept the same services. It is possible to provide autonomy for patients and protect the conscientious objection of medical practitioners. They are not mutually exclusive—a recognition, perhaps, of the human rights of which the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, so eloquently spoke.

Interventions:

If she has a conscientious objection to it, then she should not be obliged to do it, because the 1967 Act specifically said that people did not need to do it. Acts of Parliament should not force people into doing things against their conscience—that is not the function of Parliament.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The noble Lord, Lord McColl, makes a very good point. Indeed, a case was referred to earlier in Committee concerning Barbara Janaway, who was exactly what the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, described, a medical secretary. She said she would not, “set the ball in motion”, as a result of which she lost her job and the courts upheld that she should not be able to continue in that post. The debates in 1967 in the House of Commons did not consider cases such as that, because it was not envisaged that that might be a problem. That is surely why the noble Lord is right in saying that although the Supreme Court may rule in a particular way and say that that is where the law now stands, it is the job of Parliament to say that perhaps the law now needs to be change.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

 

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is right in his interpretation of the Bill. It lays no duty on any other person to carry out that delegation and he is correct that there would be other people working in the service who would doubtless carry on as they do now. One abortion takes place every three minutes in this country, which is 20 every hour, 600 every working day and more than 200,000 every year. There have been more than 8 million abortions since 1967. Clearly, there is no shortage of people willing to participate in such procedures, but this Bill is about those who are unwilling to participate in them.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

 

My Lords, in his remarks just now the noble Lord, Lord Winston, invited me to contribute at this point in the Committee’s proceedings. I spoke at Second Reading and I do not intend to repeat what I said then. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, will not be surprised that I oppose his amendment. Nevertheless, over the nearly 50 years that we have known one another, I have always been grateful for the respect he has shown to an alternative view to the one he puts now and has put in the past. I was particularly grateful to him when this became a matter of policy in my former party. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, also resisted it becoming party policy because, as he said, it would polarise attitudes and mean that some people could no longer follow some issues of conscience because of party diktat.

Some 51 years ago, when I was at school, I wrote to the then leader of the noble Lord’s party, the late Jo Grimond, asking whether the Abortion Bill, which the noble Lord had placed before the House of Commons, was a matter of party policy or conscience. I was given the forthright reply: there are different views about this and it is a matter of conscience. It was never a problem for me, as the only new member of the parliamentary Liberal Party in 1979, to serve under the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and, indeed, to be his Chief Whip. The reasonable accommodation—how we accommodate one another—which I mentioned in my earlier intervention is at the heart of what this debate should be about. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, made some telling and helpful points in his contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, said: “This isn’t the way to go about this”, but he would agree that, 50 years later, many things have come to pass that were never anticipated during the debates in 1967. A proper review—perhaps outside the proceedings of this Chamber—of the legislation, its implications and the ways we can protect people such as Mary Doogan, is long overdue.

She spoke in your Lordships’ House and her case goes right to the heart of today’s debate. She is, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, said, an extraordinary woman who was involved in delivering over 5,000 babies and said in an interview:

“It is not about religion. It’s about conscience”.

She went on:

“It goes against everything we stand for … the women I cared for would never ever have known my views on abortion”.

This is very important. Here is someone who has been driven out of her calling in life. She did not go into midwifery to carry out abortions; she went into midwifery to deliver babies. Although I understand the reasons why the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, found as she did—my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood was right to refer to the judgment earlier—it is up to this place, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, told us, to then deliberate and decide whether the law should be allowed to continue to stand in that way.

Consider for a moment the changes in the law since 1967 and how they impact on people who may have a profound conscientious objection to the law. One is, for instance, the extension of the Act in cases of disability right up to and even during birth, on the grounds of things such as club foot, hare lip and cleft palate, let alone Down’s syndrome—90% of all babies with Down’s syndrome are now aborted. If I were working as a medic and was told that I had either to participate in—to be hands-on—or to facilitate such things, I would rather lose my job than do that. This is where I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, who said that such people should not join the service. Who do we lose if we take such an attitude to people who, yes, have a different view from the noble Baroness but nevertheless make an extraordinary contribution to the health service?

Baroness Flather

This is a very interesting point. Should they leave the service or not? I had a very recent experience when my husband was taken ill; he was dying and was taken to hospital. We had to make a decision about whether to keep his breathing going. My sons and I were there discussing this matter and it was a very difficult time for us. The doctor in charge came and spoke to us and told us what the situation was. We decided it was not the right time to prolong his life. If the doctor had then said, “I’m sorry, I have to get someone else to do this necessary job. I can’t do it because I object to it”, that would have been terrible. You can say that he should have prepared for that in advance, but how can he prepare for everything in advance? You do not know when a dying person will come into hospital.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The noble Baroness is of course right; you cannot ever say with any certainty what will happen and how long someone will live. My noble friend Lady Finlay intervened on that point earlier and, at Second Reading, my noble friend Lady Richardson gave another good example, which I can come back to.

 

Baroness Flather

 

My noble friend Lady Finlay’s example is perfectly correct. It was not the same as my example. My example is that my husband had got to a stage where he really did not know what was going on. My noble friend’s example is of course totally different—and it is a very good thing that people have hospices to go to.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

 

We are agreed about that. The point I made at Second Reading when my noble friend Lady Richardson intervened on a similar point is that we do not need to go heroic lengths—that is the phrase people often use—to keep alive someone who would otherwise be dying. I think we sometimes confuse these two things. Let me return, if I may, to the particular point about abortion.

 

Baroness Tonge

Very briefly, by way of personal explanation, I hope I did not imply that people should leave the service if they were required to perform an abortion. I was saying that there are many specialties to go into in medicine. My goodness, you can do anything in medicine, from management and pen-pushing right down to—well, I will not say “down to” because it would demean whoever I got down to. There are many branches of the medical profession; there is no need to go into obstetrics and gynaecology in the knowledge that you will have to do things totally against your conscience.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

`I was very grateful that the gynaecologist who saw my own children into the world did not support abortion. That gave my wife and I great confidence in the lady who was our gynaecologist. I think there should be scope within the service for people to have alternative views. If the phrase “don’t join the service” that the noble Baroness used were to apply, it would mean that people like that would not be able to join the service in the first place.

Another change that has taken place in these years is that it was never envisaged in 1967 that abortion would happen on a regular day-by-day basis on the scale on which it is taking place. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, often said that it would occur only in rare and exceptional circumstances. There are now examples of some people who have had eight abortions under the National Health Service. You have to ask the question the noble Baroness often asks: “Why is not more done earlier to find alternatives to this?” That too should be in the scope of an inquiry into the workings of the 1967 Act, and so too should be the issue of gender abortions. If I was working in the National Health Service and was told that I had to facilitate the ending of the life of a little girl merely because she was a little girl, I would say no. The 1967 Act surely does not allow for that, and yet we know that there have been such cases and that the authorities decided not to take any legal action. Indeed, there was a vote in another place on a Bill to outlaw such gender abortions. It was lost by 201 votes to 292, so this is not the realms of fantasy. Noble Lords have to ask themselves precisely what their red line would be in regard to questions such as this.

 

I conclude by giving two opinions from people who have thought about these things in great detail. One is from Professor Andrew Tettenborn, who said:

 

“The point matters a great deal. Many NHS hospitals now put abortion and other controversial procedures out to tender (a matter itself a cause for concern … and so organisation rather than participation is increasingly what will be demanded from … unwilling staff”.

 

I also refer the Committee to the review of Dr Mary Neal, senior lecturer in law at Strathclyde University, who said:

 

“The core purpose of any conscience provision is to protect individuals from having to share in moral responsibility for something they consider to be seriously wrong. Since the current law leaves some of those who would share in responsibility unprotected, it fails to fulfil this core purpose”.

 

So when the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said in 1967:

 

“The Bill imposes no obligation on anyone to participate in an operation”,

 

I believe he was sincere. When he also said that the “conscience” clause,

 

“also gives nurses and hospital employees a clear right to opt out”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/1967; col. 1318.],

I believe that is what he intended. I do not believe he intended that people such as Mary Doogan should lose their job. That is why my noble friend’s Bill is so important.

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  • Lord Mackay of Clashfern
  •  It is trying to fit the system to accommodate, so far as possible, the real objection people have. It is not just an objection to being hands-on; they are thinking about killing human life. I think all of us would think, if that idea were correct, that that was a very dangerous operation to have regard to.
  • Baroness Thornton

I take exception to that idea. There are people in this Chamber who do not agree with that definition of killing human life at that stage of an embryo’s growth.

I am not saying that this is right; I am trying to describe what I believe to be the conscientious objection. I am not saying that it is proper. I have not applied for the health service, unfortunately, so I do not need to say what the extent of my conscientious objection would be, but there is no doubt in my mind that that is the nature of the conscientious objection, although people may have slightly different views about how far it extends. That is why the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Winston—I acknowledge his wisdom—is the best way forward, subject of course to making sure that it was used not in a discriminatory way but in trying to accommodate the full extent of the objection within the framework of the administration of the health service.

Does the noble and learned Lord accept, though, that the narrow case of Mary Doogan and the midwives in Scotland—she had after ​all been involved in more than 5,000 live births, bringing children into the world—illustrates what could never have been in the minds of legislators in 1967, as one can see in the Hansard of that period, and how much things have changed in the intervening years? That is not just about changes in attitude and culture; to pick up the point that the noble Baroness just made to the noble and learned Lord, there are those among us who believe that life begins at conception and that the science is right, and therefore that the law is right in saying that, for instance, as he referred to earlier, only for the first 14 days can experiments take place on the human embryo. That must be 14 days after something, and the law states that explicitly. That is not an unreasonable position, although I accept that these are contested positions. How therefore do we find, in a society where we respect difference, that there can be contested positions without discrimination falling on those who carry out those contests?

That is why probably the best solution that I have seen so far is to try to accommodate a contract on which you enter such conscientious objections as you have. I can see that that may limit the opportunities within the health service that a person with a conscientious objection has, but then that may be part of what you have to do.

Does the noble and learned Lord therefore think it is a good situation for us to be in that, for instance, people who have religious views or who are atheists and are opposed to taking the life of an unborn child in the womb are by and large pretty well excluded now from gynaecology and obstetrics?

The noble Lord, Lord Winston, says from a sedentary position that that is not true. If he can give an example to me of, for instance, people who hold deeply committed Christian evangelical views or who are committed Roman Catholics or, for instance, Orthodox Jews who would support, for instance, the taking of life up to birth, as the law now allows since 1990 in the case of Down’s syndrome, I would be surprised, but I would be interested to hear those names.

 

The present Bill seeks to introduce a restatement of the law concerning conscientious objection. As far as I am aware, there has been no specific Bill in Parliament with a title such as this, even though it is restricted to medical practice. Conscientious ​objection springs from conscience—the moral sense of right and wrong—and it is a principle of human rights recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. For 70-odd years, we have regarded this as a basic human right, not an excepted privilege from the norm.

The question for the Committee is whether it is appropriate in principle to treat conscientious objection in a narrow test or in a wider test. The Bill advocates a wider test than that which has gone before. However, because it does so and because what went before has been said to be a narrow test, the Committee has to decide what the present principles should be in terms of tests. We are here not to vindicate the judgment of the Supreme Court but to exercise legislative judgment about what is fair and reasonable in applying human rights in our society.

Doogan was specifically about the relationship between Sections 1 and 4 of the Abortion Act 1967. Was the conscientious objection provision in Section 4 consistent in its scope with what was envisaged in Section 1? This Bill puts that aside. It effectively replaces Section 4 of the Abortion Act and, if necessary, on Report that section can be repealed by an amendment to this Bill. So we are not rehearsing history here; we are establishing what is right for the future.

In the judgment of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, agreed to by the other judges, Doogan expressly declined to look in detail at the Human Rights Act. It was a decision based on the co-extensiveness of parts of the statute. It does not dictate what this House should or should not do.

What should we do? First, Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which is now part of our legislative framework, applies to our deliberations. Article 9 expressly enacts a freedom of belief, religion and conscience. It is not a sideline addition; it figures in all these declarations. What is meant by conscience?

Does the noble Lord, whom I would be happy to call my noble friend, agree that in the case of Doogan the court looked at the Article 9 point? It dealt with that. Alas, I have given my copy of the law report to Hansard, but I am sure that he is aware of the decision and accepts that the court looked at Article 9.

I read the Doogan judgment with equal care to my noble and learned friend Lord Brown, but the fact is that here we are considering a test which was not considered in Doogan. It is different wording and a different context of statue. The point that I was making a moment ago was that Article 9 creates a right to exercise conscience.

Article 9.2—I invite your Lordships to listen carefully—says that that right prevails unless it is,

“necessary in a democratic society”,

to introduce limitations for specific reasons, one of which is the protection of the rights of others. I heard nothing in the Second Reading debate to evidence the ​fact that it is “necessary” to limit this test for conscientious objection. We are dealing with evidence, not policy opinion.

Let us compare the House of Lords exercising its legislative function with the Supreme Court. It specifically declined to decide between wider and narrower tests on the basis of societal interest and the supposed threat of one side or the other, because, it said, it would be speculation. The amendments, in effect, invite us to speculate that, without them, the rights of others would suffer to such an extent that we would have to change the law. That is a very tough hurdle to overcome. If there is no evidence before the House of Lords, and in the debate so far there has not been—

I thank my noble friend for giving way. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, mentioned evidence several times but did not actually tell us what that evidence was. So I am unclear as to what the evidence is that is being prayed in aid of in this private Member’s Bill. In fact, my noble friend has just made a statement about the restriction of rights, but the amendments are about retaining the situation as it is at the moment, which guarantees certain rights and provides a balance.

 

I respect my noble friend’s opinion. The point I am making is that we are not here talking about a balance between different rights. We are talking about the restriction of one set of rights in favour of another because it is “necessary”. But how is it necessary to reject this legislation in favour of the past test?

Let me turn for a moment to the question of responsibility. When I used the phrase “the moral sense of what is right and wrong”, it bespeaks the exercise of responsibility through conscience. The narrow test that is proposed—hands-on against hands-off—does not appear to be conscience based but proximity based. Where is it reasonable to draw the line and upon what principle do we draw it? If it is proximity, where does the moral sense of conscience fall away? Does it fall away because you are lower down the supply chain in the treatment? Let us compare medical abortion to a surgical abortion. Is the pharmacist who draws up the drugs outside the responsibility list? Is the person who brings the drug from him or her to the treatment room to give to the patient in or out of the system? Is it only the person who gives the drug to the patient? Many abortions are of that kind—abortifacient. The surgical abortion, which you understandably think of first, is a different exercise. This Bill covers both.

I appreciate from the speeches that have gone before that I am putting forward a different proposition from that which was feted by anyone at Second Reading. To pass this Bill we have to obey the Human Rights Act. To obey the Human Rights Act, we have to think objectively on the basis of adequate material. Without it, the right of conscience should not be prescribed by law as we would be required to do under the Human Rights Act. Moral responsibility rarely comes before us to consider. It is all a question of balancing our view against the conscience-holder’s view. It is what is right in our legislative regime.​

I regret that I was not able to attend Second Reading. I admire the scope of the speeches that were made, particularly that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, whose commitment to reason and reasonableness are of great value to this House, particularly on moral issues. He was right when he said that we should not make the staff involved in this kind of process do that which is contrary to their conscience and belief.

Background to the Bill:

February 2018: The former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, writes in The Times on why medics – such as midwives – should not be forced to act against their beliefs and why Baroness Nuala O’Loan is right to seek a change to the law. 

February 2018: The Daily Mail Highlights the cost of conscience in contemporary Britain:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5373943/Catholic-midwife-ousted-refusing-oversee-abortions.html

Click here to read Lord Mackay: 

It is not right to force medics to act against their beliefs _ Law _ The Times

SEE

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2018/02/19/why-we-must-protect-the-conscience-rights-of-medical-professionals/

Call the Midwife: Don’t Sack Them for Refusing to be complicit in ending the life of the unborn child.

Baroness Nuala O'Loan

 Baroness O’Loan: read here Lady O’Loan’s poignant account of what has motivated her to challenge unjust laws: 

https://www.irishcatholic.com/ireland-crossroads-will-vote-protect-future-generations/

Scottish midwives who lost their jobs

 Call The Midwife: Dont Sack Them – for refusing to collaborate in the killing of babies.

“On Wednesday this week, I met Mary Doogan, one of the two Scottish midwives who lost their jobs…….The call of the midwife is an incredibly high calling. It is a call to bring new life into the world. To tell such women that they must facilitate the taking of the lives of babies in the womb or lose their jobs is not the hallmark of a liberal or tolerant society.” – David Alton in Parliament.

Click here to read what was said in Parliament:

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/25/katie-ascough-the-right-kind-of-pc-politically-courageous-rather-than-politically-correct/

and see Philippa Taylor:

http://www.cmfblog.org.uk/2018/02/20/back-to-the-backstreets-with-abortion/

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