The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya Raised In Parliament

Plight of the Rohingya raised again today – November 23rd

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in addition  to bringing people to justice, and in addition to the security that is required to enable return to Burma, does the noble Lord accept that the root cause of this was the denial of citizenship to the Rohingya people? Will he say what discussions we have had with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Government in Burma to that effect, and whether we will be imposing sanctions on members of the military who have been responsible for these depredations?

 

Lord Bates

 

The noble Lord’s point on the loss of citizenship is absolutely at the core of this. One of the recommendations made by Kofi Annan’s Rakhine advisory commission is that the 1982 law, which stripped them of their citizenship and underlies this ongoing injustice, needs to be tackled. We recognise that that is an important part of it and we want to see that situation resolved, along with the others.

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Speech in the House of Lords

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

Two months ago, the Rakhine advisory commission established by Aung San Suu Kyi, and chaired by the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, published a report that offered a way out of this morass. However, within hours of its publication, a small militant group attacked police posts, precipitating a grossly disproportionate response by the Tatmadaw, the Burmese army, leading to this current crisis.

 

In condemning the initial attacks, we should concur with the United Nations and be equally clear that the Burmese army’s response to those attacks amounts to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. As one journalist put it, the Burmese army,

 

“wants to destroy an ethnicity, not end an insurgency”.

 

When more than 600,000 Rohingya—over half the population—have fled to Bangladesh, and harrowing accounts of the most extreme barbaric human rights violations are consistently repeated by survivors, it is impossible to reach any other conclusion. Of course, this is not by any means the first violence endured by the Rohingya: they have faced severe persecution for decades and, since 2006, I have repeatedly raised it in your Lordships’ House.

 

In 2013, I cited the Human Rights Watch report that stated,

 

“what is happening to the Rohingya people”,

 

is, in its words, “genocide”.

 

In 2015, I told your Lordships that,

 

“one in five Rohingya has now fled since 2011”.—[Official Report, 18/6/15; col. 1240.]

 

A year ago, the former President of East Timor, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate José Ramos-Horta, together with the human rights activist, Benedict Rogers, wrote:

 

“A human tragedy approaching ethnic cleansing is unfolding in Burma, and the world is chillingly silent … If we fail to act, Rohingyas may starve to death if they aren’t killed by bullets first”.

 

As the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, reminded us, so often we say “never again”, only to watch it happen all over again, from Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, Darfur to the genocide—it was named as such by the House of Commons—of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.

 

I hope that the noble Lord will tell us what action Her Majesty’s Government are taking now to address the immediate humanitarian crisis, described by the UN Secretary-General as “catastrophic”, to address impunity and to gain urgent unhindered access for international aid organisations and human rights monitors. Does he agree that although much international criticism has focused on Aung San Suu Kyi—undoubtedly, she should have done more—she does not control the army? The person with the power to order the troops to stop the carnage is the commander-in-chief, General Min Aung Hlaing. If the violence is to end, the decision to immediately cease their operations in Rakhine state lies squarely with him. Have Her Majesty’s Government told General Min that, in the light of all the evidence available, we will make a referral to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity to be laid against him and those who have perpetrated these crimes?

 

What are we doing to promote the citizenship rights of Rohingyas and to facilitate their safe return to their villages in due course to rebuild their homes and their livelihoods, and to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, and of course in due course to promote a reconciliation process? Will we work for a global arms embargo of the kind that the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, mentioned? Will we work at the Security Council for targeted sanctions on military-owned enterprises? On what basis will we introduce a resolution before the United Nations Security Council to address this crisis?

 

Lastly, I urge the Minister to hold regular meetings with groups in London with expertise in Burma—most particularly Burma Campaign UK, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as representatives of the exiled Rohingya community—to discuss the crisis and to encourage clear statements about the rights of minorities from Daw Suu, especially during the visit of Pope Francis when he visits Burma next month.

 

Having travelled to Burma four years ago and met Daw Suu—on the day after I visited a village where Muslims had been driven out during an arson attack—and having addressed civil society activists in Rangoon and hosted in this place Burma’s courageous Cardinal Bo, an outspoken voice for the Rohingyas and other minorities, I had hoped that Burma was on a path of progress. Yet I cannot ignore the truth that the country now faces the worst human rights crisis in many years, not only for the Rohingyas but for the Kachin, Shan and others. In responding to this emergency, we must not neglect Burma’s other tragedies that continue to unfold. But this catastrophe requires specific and urgent action. Like all other noble Lords, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

 

Truth Should Speak To Power – the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act. Text of a Speech Delivered Outside Of The British Parliament On The 50th Anniversary Of Legislation That Has Claimed More Than 8 Million Lives. Ireland’s Response. Dr.Alveda King’s Statement. CARE for Life Meeting. Rob Flello On Why Labour Should Rethink.

Photograph of Projection on to Marble Arch

Also see:

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/martin.luther.kings.niece.in.abortion.protest.todays.unborn.babies.are.yesterdays.blacks/117304.htm

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155763270241054&id=586216053

http://avvenire.ita.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=1641cb75d

https://righttolife.org.uk/news/press-release-abortion-act-1967-commemorated-50th-anniversary-silence-67-event/

https://lifecharity.org.uk/news-and-views/silence-67-50th-anniversary-abortion-act-commemorated-outside-parliament/

 

Silence for 67

 

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2017 50th Anniversary4

Speech Delivered Outside of Parliament On the 50th Anniversary Of The Abortion Act: “Truth Should Speak to Power” – followed by one minute of silence

To hear the speech go to the web site of Right To Life:

https://righttolife.org.uk/comment-opinion/silence-67-lord-altons-speech-50th-commemoration-abortion-act-1967/

50 years ago, at 11:05am on the morning of Friday the 27th of October 1967, the Speaker of the House of Commons declared that Royal Assent from Her Majesty the Queen had been given to David Steel’s abortion Bill. The Abortion Act 1967 would come into effect six months later on the 27th of April 1968.

 

Since then, 8,894,355 abortions have been carried out, and at least that number of unborn children have lost their lives. I say ‘at least’, because of course some single abortions will have been carried out on twins, or triplets, or other multiple pregnancies.

 

8,894,355. That is a monstrous figure.

 

To put that in context, the Second World War, the worst and most bloody conflict ever visited upon this country, claimed 450,290 British lives. Abortion has caused more human destruction in the UK than Nazi Germany, and in all the conflicts and tragedies of our history, only the Black Death has extinguished a greater proportion of our nation. The number is three times the population of Wales – it represents a life lost every 3 minutes; 20 every single hour.

 

And upon whom is this everyday violence visited? No-one less than the most innocent, and most vulnerable members of our society: children in the womb.

 

Whilst the abortion lobby who support and wish to extend this practice and the related abortion industry who benefit from it deny this, it is a stark moral reality.

 

As a matter of biological fact, it is simply undeniable that from conception, from the time that a human sperm fertilises a human ovum, a new human being begins to exist. As with every member of every mammalian species.

 

What abortion involves then is not a mere removal of ‘potential life’, or a ‘blob of cells’. It is the wilful killing of the smallest and most helpless member of the human family in the very place she should be safest: her mother’s womb.

 

And it is done by the most barbaric means. Whether it is tearing her body apart piece-by-piece by strong plier-like instruments in ‘Dilation and Evacuation’ or by a powerful suction machine in ‘Vacuum Aspiration’, or whether it is simply starving her to death by chemically-induced miscarriage, abortion is an act of the cruellest destruction.

 

In some cases of later abortion, in order to prevent the baby from being born alive, it is actually recommended practice by the RCOG – the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – that the surgeons inject a salt solution into the baby’s heart to cause her a fatal heart attack. This also softens her bone tissue, making it easier for them to dismember her body.

 

This savagery actually takes place in Great Britain in 2017. At a time when we pride ourselves on our liberalism, our humanity, our civilisation, our compassion. In an age where human comfort for the average Briton has never been easier, and the welfare of almost every individual has at least been paid lip-service by the existence of a welfare state and a modern economy, however flawed in practice either of those might be.

 

We are told that this callous killing is justified. We are told, this is about a woman’s ‘autonomy’, and her ‘right to choose’.

 

But we know by common sense that our autonomy is obviously limited by the effect that it has on others. The ‘choice’ to not be a mother no more justifies the killing of a child in the womb than it justifies leaving a baby outside the womb to die of exposure.

 

No-one has the ‘right to choose’ to end the life of another human being, and so no-one has the right to have an unborn child destroyed.

 

Rather, we all have the duty to make sure that every member of our society is properly cared for, and that their right to life – recognised by international treaties to which our country is signatory as applying to every human being, to every member of the human family – that the right to life of everyone is given adequate legal protection.

 

The humanity of the unborn child, the barbarity of abortion, and the shallowness of pro-abortion rhetoric, is obvious to those who choose to inform themselves; who choose to see the reality of so-called ‘choice’.

 

What we mark today then, is nothing less than the greatest shame of our nation. The fact that we neuter the protections in our laws for our tiniest countrymen and countrywomen is a horror and disgrace on a massive scale.

 

And this is before we even begin to recognise the millions of children who have died in developing countries, where our Government has used millions of pounds of taxpayers money in foreign aid for the funding of abortions and to lobby Governments to coarsen their own laws. Millions of lives have been lost because we are, as one person put it, years ago, “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death”.

 

Even this, for some, is not enough. The abortion lobby has only deepened its occupation of the political and medical establishment over time. The leaders of several Royal Colleges, the BMA, and a significant proportion of Parliamentary members, favour removing what few protections remain in our laws, through so-called ‘decriminalisation’.

 

This would mean abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

 

It would be easy to lose hope in light of this massive scandal, in the face of such entrenched and established interests, in the teeth of injustice on such an immense scale.

 

But we may not.

 

As those who recognise and champion human dignity, it is our role to stand for every silenced voice, for every individual light extinguished by the darkness of human selfishness and ignorance.

 

Our forebears who fought against chattel slavery, child labour, and the denial of civil and political rights to vulnerable minorities did not give in to the sometimes overwhelming and powerful opponents of their missions.

 

Neither will we.

 

That is why those of us who stand here today are present, together. We are here to signify that we are not going away, that we are not going to remain quiet whilst injustice occurs, and we are not going to stop working, and educating, and campaigning, and fighting, till we live in a society where the humanity, dignity, and rights of every member of our nation are together recognised.

 

I have been in this battle for decades of my life, and I may never see the day when the abolition of abortion occurs. But I know that one day it will, and to the next generation, I say:
I don’t want you to be standing here in another 50 years lamenting another 8 million lives lost. The torch of compassion and human progress is now passing to you.

 

We must work to end this killing in your lifetime, and we can only do that if every person here takes seriously the role they must play in making sure that this happens.

 

With courage, with integrity, with a passion for the best principles of our civilisation firing our efforts, let us rededicate ourselves to making sure that by the time the centennial commemoration of the Abortion Act is marked, our society will be one in which human equality and dignity is so fully respected and protected, that the violence of abortion will be consigned to where every human abuse and cruelty ultimately belongs: in the dustbin of our history.

 

We mourn today the failures of our society in capitulating to the hopelessness and cruelty of industrialised death. Yet we steel ourselves to work for the day when we succeed in establishing a lasting justice and a true peace.

 

As truth speaks to power today may our indignant sorrow be outdone by courageous hope, and may our current and future efforts secure a Britain in which those who succeed us are able to celebrate the ultimate and glorious triumph of human life.

 

Also see:

 

https://davidalton.net/2017/10/04/a-poignant-anthem-for-the-unborn-child-50-years-and-8-million-lives-ended-who-can-sound-the-depths-of-sorrow/

 

At 11.04am on Friday October 27 some of us gathered outside of Parliament  to mark 50 years since Royal Assent was given to the 1967 Abortion Act. A law which was intended to allow abortion in certain circumstances became an elastic law, a law with catastrophic consequences. At the time only a handful of MPs recognised it as a dangerous and slippery slope. 

Those 29 MPs who voted against its Second Reading did so because they contested the repeated claims that the law would only be used in extreme and tragic circumstances. They were right.

 In the half century that has elapsed since its passage a staggering 8,894,355 unborn babies have lost their lives – one death every three minutes; 20 lives ended every hour.

With routine and repeat abortions, what was once a crime has become a lucrative industry.

The sums are staggering. Over the past decade, an eye-watering £757,832,800 of taxpayers’ money has been paid to the private sector abortionists. The Times reported that the boss of Marie Stopes International (MSI) – which we pay millions of pounds to carry out abortions in Britain and overseas – received a phenomenal £420,000 in one recent year alone (four times the Prime Minister’s salary). Twenty-two of their employees were paid more than £100,000.

As these operatives oversee the tragic, industrialised destruction of human life and fuel the conveyor belt that abortion has become, what are the implications for the unborn child, their mothers and society?

Last year the Care Quality Commission criticised MSI after finding dead unborn babies in open bins. Think, too, of the 32-year-old Irish mother Aisha Chathira, who, in 2012, died from a heart attack in a taxi caused by extensive internal blood loss after she had an abortion in an MSI facility in London.

But beyond the death toll, much else has flowed from this law.

The medical profession has been subverted, with the Hippocratic Oath quietly dropped from medical courses because of its explicit condemnation of abortion. Preferment in gynaecology and obstetrics has become virtually impossible for those who refuse to comply. 

Conscience has been subverted, as evidenced by the dismissal of two Catholic midwives in Scotland who refused to become complicit in ending the lives of unborn children.

Free speech has been subverted, with speakers like Tim Stanley refused a platform at Oxford University because of his pro-life views. Non-compliant journalists, pharmacists, environmental scientists, blue collar and social workers have been forced from their jobs, while Jacob Rees-Mogg was recently told he should resign from Parliament for daring to defend the right to life. Political parties have made it a question of ideology. All of which smacks of a coercive liberalism worthy of a totalitarian state.

Once the sanctity of human life has been thrown into open trash bins it leads to one enormity after another: the creation and destruction of more than three million human embryos, with only four per cent seeing the light of day; the grotesque manufacture of animal-human hybrid embryos; and attempts to legalise euthanasia.

The sloganeering culture of death endlessly demands rights but ignores duties towards the weak and vulnerable. It elevates “choice” above all other considerations, debasing language and brooking no opposition.  

This culture claims to be on the side of equality and non-discrimination. Yet it takes no action when little girls are aborted merely because of their gender or when a disabled person can be aborted up to and even during birth (as 90 per cent of all babies with Down’s syndrome are). 

This culture builds on the eugenics promoted by the campaigner Marie Stopes, who railed against the “diseased and feeble minded” and “the very lowest members of the community”. It also builds on the remarks of peers, in the 1967 House of Lords debate, who described children with disabilities as “Mongols”, “spastics”, “monstrosities”, “abnormal”, “subnormal”, “retarded” and “defective”.

This culture refuses to break the financial link between the abortion industry and independent counselling, and to provide help for women caught in crisis. It prefers to bribe Northern Irish woman with offers of £1,400 for every baby they abort in England rather than give them equivalent funding or help to save the child or to promote adoption.

It extends its tentacles into other societies by denying charities – like Samaritan’s Purse – funding for their humanitarian work in West Africa unless they agree to undertake abortions, and by funding programmes like the brutal one-child policy of forced abortions in China.

This culture ignores the inconvenient findings of scientists like Professor KJS Anand, one of the world’s leading experts on foetal pain, that in the light of “incontrovertible” evidence “it seems prudent to avoid pain during gestation”. It refuses to look at the accumulating evidence of the physical and psychological effects of abortion on women.

It creates its own untruthful narrative, illustrated by the recent remarks of the president of the Royal College of Gynaecologists that abortion is just like having a bunion removed. When George Orwell wrote in 1984 that “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” he had people like her in mind.

This, then, is where the 1967 Abortion Act has taken us and these are the arguments that will be ignored as media cheerleaders celebrate these 50 years with distorted and one-sided programmes that caricature opponents as misogynist, unthinking, unfeeling bigots.

But as the scales are falling from people’s eyes, the tide of history is turning; and, looking to the future, these heart and head arguments are slowly changing minds.

As we contest the belief that the ending of a life is just another choice, the anti-slavery movement’s patient and dedicated reformers and abolitionists can teach and inspire us. 

It took decades to shift opinion, and for Parliament to accept that it wasn’t simply a “choice” to own another human being as a slave. Martin Luther King’s niece, Dr Alveda King, who had two abortions that she now bitterly regrets, tells us that in our generation “the right to life is the greatest human rights cause of our times”.

Opinion polls repeatedly show that the public want the law made more restrictive – and not decriminalised. Hundreds of MPs – not 29 – now want the Abortion Act reformed and many are pro-life. They simply need to be more PC: politically courageous.

Yes, I wish that more people believed in the transcendent nature of the sanctity of human life, but I admit that this is dependent on a belief in God. However, the good news for the unborn is that science has caught up with faith and is the game-changer. In an editorial, Nature magazine spelt it out clearly: “Your world was shaped in the first 24 hours after conception. Where your head and feet would sprout, and which side would form your back and which your belly, were being defined in the minutes and hours after sperm and egg united.”  

And every time the scan allows us to gaze through a window into the womb we know that this is no bunion but a new member of the human race.

Prove to me that life does not begin at conception and I will change my mind about protecting that new life. Until then, I will continue to insist on Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that everyone “has the right to life” – and hope that before another 50 years have passed, our laws and attitudes will reflect these truths.

Lord Alton of Liverpool is an independent crossbench peer. Visit davidalton.net

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The Rt.Hon Ann Widdecombe has called for church bells to be tolled to commemorate the ending of the lives of more than 8 million unborn children.

The campaign continues to stop the Act being extended to Northern Ireland – where 100,000 people are alive who would be dead if the law of Great Britain applied.

 100 lives

 

To watch an EWTN interview at Walsingham to mark the 50th anniversary click:

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCu6iAjRjSA

 

or to download to your computer: 

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw550hYqOE8mblR2ZGthR2ZOTUU/view?usp=sharing

 

For further information click here:

https://davidalton.net/2017/10/04/a-poignant-anthem-for-the-unborn-child-50-years-and-8-million-lives-ended-who-can-sound-the-depths-of-sorrow/

Silence for 67

Silence for 67: 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act commemorated outside Parliament

This morning, crowds gathered outside Parliament to commemorate the 8.8 million babies whose lives have been lost to abortion since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Prolife organisations stood side by side to mark this sombre occasion, with a minute’s silence from 11:04am; the moment Royal Assent for the Bill was declared 50 years previously.

Prior to the silence, cross-bench peer, Lord Alton of Liverpool, gave a speech to those gathered, reflecting on the brutal legacy of the Abortion Act in the UK.

It has been estimated that since the Abortion Act came into effect, 8,894,355 abortions have taken place in the UK.

Speaking at the event, Lord Alton of Liverpool said:

“What we mark today, is nothing less than the greatest shame of our nation. The fact that we neuter the protections in our laws for our tiniest countrymen and countrywomen is a horror and disgrace on a massive scale…

We are here to signify that we are not going away, that we are not going to remain quiet while injustice occurs and we are not going to stop working and educating and championing and fighting until we live in a society where the humanity, dignity and the rights of every member of our nation are together recognised.”

Sarah Barber, 29, who attended the event said:

“It was so encouraging to be out today with other young prolifers and to hear Lord Alton’s speech. You really got a sense of the handing on of the batton and that we’ve got to work at this together. I think it’s heartbreaking and difficult to get your head around the fact that 8.8 million people are not alive today because of the Abortion Act. That’s the same as the population as London. We should imagine London being deserted to really get a sense of what the world has lost.”

Life’s Director of Education, Anne Scanlan said:

“We are heartened that so many prolife organisations have joined us today and so many loyal supporters from across the country have come to commemorate the 8.8 million lives lost through abortion and the generations of women who are mourning the loss of their children.

After 50 years of ‘choice’, we do not see freedom, liberty and equality as promised. Instead, we see women face the same struggles but with little ‘choice’ on offer from society, other than abortion.

Life will continue to help and support all women facing difficult and unplanned pregnancies as we have done for the last 47 years.”

2017 50th Anniversary4

 

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My uncle Martin stood up for human dignity. Pro-lifers must do the same today

On the 50th anniversary of legal abortion, let us resolve that no amount of discomfort will prevent us from defending the unborn

We are gathering today to commemorate a tragedy without parallel.

Seven years ago I spoke at a meeting in your Parliament, having just visited  Westminster Abbey, and having seen the stone statue above the West Entrance immortalising my uncle, Martin Luther King Jr, for his great work for justice.

I told your legislators that the pro-life movement stands for justice and is “the new civil rights movement”.

As a mother of six children, with personal experience of abortion, and which I came to deeply regret, I learned the hard way that abortion was not the answer to my problem. It was the problem.

Today, I feel morally obligated to speak out about how human dignity and life itself has been systematically rejected by some in society for an entire class of individuals— unborn children.

Like my uncle Martin, I too have a passion for justice. And I see the cause of the unborn through the same vision of justice that Dr Martin Luther King Jr laid out, half a century ago.

I see absolutely no difference between the denial of rights to people because of their skin colour and the denial of rights to people because of their age or condition of dependency.

There is no doubt that the pro-life movement is the civil rights movement of our century because it is the fundamental right of every one of every race to live. Of what use are all our other rights if we can simply choose to deny a person the right to be born in the first place?

My uncle challenged a culture which said African Americans were not worthy of respect or of human dignity.

We were spat upon. We were told to go to the back of the bus. We were deemed unworthy to eat or drink with others. We were clubbed and beaten. And we were lynched. We were killed because we were regarded as less than fully human.

So it is with the lives of unborn babies – who are womb-lynched – today.

Today’s unborn are yesterday’s blacks – best kept out of sight and out of mind lest they remind us of the injustices we commit.

In 1967, the year before my uncle was murdered, the UK Parliament voted to legalise abortion.  Since then, more than 8 million human lives have been lost.

What does 8 million look like?

None of us have ever seen 8 million people. It is an unimaginable number.

In World War II the UK lost around 450,000 people. To equal the number of deaths the UK has suffered through abortion, the UK would have to fight World War II sixteen times.

This is death on a scale the world has never seen. In my own country, there are around 700,000 abortions every year. 59 million since Roe v Wade. 59 million.

Some of you will remember that back in the 1970s and 1980, supporters of abortion used to excuse this mass killing with talk of how an early pregnancy wasn’t really a human being.

“A clump of cells”, they said.

Scientific endeavour has since shown this to be a lie. The most deadly lie in human history, easing our consciences as untold millions have been denied the chance to take a breath. To hold their mother. To love. Still today, this lie is repeated in an effort to dehumanise. And if history tells us one thing about mass killing, it’s that it is always preceded by dehumanisation.

We must now decry this lie from the rooftops. We must unite in proclaiming the settled scientific truth that a unique and distinct human life is present from conception. But let us find a language of protest that is inclusive to the many women who feel coerced by their circumstances into walking through the doors of the killing fields of an abortion clinic.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr was right when he said: “The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety.” That is true for all of us – whatever our colour, class, or creed: when we sacrifice our children we sacrifice and destroy our future.

Uncle Martin was right, too, when he said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Only by being pro-woman and pro child; pro life and pro love, will we drive out the darkness of our culture of death.

The challenge today is to touch people’s hardened hearts – hearts that the Bible tells us are inscribed with God’s law.

We can try to deny our consciences, indoctrinate or medicate our minds so that we can’t or won’t think, but a sense of right and wrong has been given to each and every one of us. It is that very moral awareness that challenged America’s culture on racism. And I believe it is that same moral awareness that can challenge and change any culture on abortion.

On this day of such overwhelming significance, let us resolve that no amount of personal discomfort will prevent us from defending our children. Let us each ask ourselves: If not me, who? If not now, when?

After the inevitable abolition of abortion, as future generations look back on this dark era, let our names be counted among those who peacefully resisted.

This is a message recorded for the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act

 Dr.Alveda KingDr.Alveda King3

Labour’s new intolerance of the pro-life cause

From The Spectator”

Rob Flello

27 October 2017

 

I didn’t want to write this piece. I supposed I always hoped that Labour would come back to its roots; back to being a broad-church drawn from diverse backgrounds and cultures united in solidarity with workers and the poor, standing up for free speech and the weakest, most vulnerable in society. But as time has passed the drumbeat of intolerance has only grown louder.

Labour used to be a party where conscience and difference were respected. A party where Jim Dobbin (of fond memory) and Harriet Harman could link arms against economic injustice while being diametrically opposed on matters of social policy. It is a sad irony that, while so many orthodoxies of the Labour tradition fell away in pursuit of electability, certain new dogmas have emerged that never had anything to do with the Labour movement. Dogmas that are policed much more ruthlessly than the principles of economic justice ever were. One dogma above all: the pro-abortion position.

Labour’s abortion lobby was always the noisiest of any party in Westminster. But in recent years I have seen I flip from passionate advocacy to coercion and bullying. Whereas pro-life Labour was tolerated under Blair, now any suggestion that human beings should be afforded some protection before birth is met with almost lynch-mob level opposition. I’m thinking in particular of the two last votes on abortion while I was still an MP.
Votes like this are supposed to be conscience votes. This means there shouldn’t be a whip – no party line. But the last two votes on abortion have witnessed senior figures in the Labour party and the trades union movement telling Labour MPs how to vote and taking careful note of anyone who dared exercise their conscience.

With the current climate as it is, it’s impossible to imagine Ruth Kelly being selected and making cabinet. Shirley Williams, too, one of the two women who voted against the 1967 Abortion Act, which was passed 50 years ago today. She’d never make it. And as for James White – who tried to amend the same Act in the 1970s after realising that it was being interpreted beyond the wildest dreams of the Parliament which passed it – forget it.

The climate of intolerance extends even to questioning the contradictions the pro-abortion position throws up. For example, if it is always a woman’s right to choose, what if the woman chooses not to have a girl? If it is ok for a woman to choose to end the life of a baby after diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, then how can Labour hold themselves out as the pro-disability Party? If an unborn child is just a clump of cells then why does my Party want more support for those who suffer – and I mean suffer – from the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy? If it ever became possible to determine sexual orientation before birth, would Labour defend the choice to abort a gay child? None of it makes sense; especially against the backdrop of scientific developments.

Perhaps the most damaging thing for the pro-life movement is that it is so easily characterised as just a faith issue, giving rise to the view that opposition to abortion is based upon religious assumptions. This is the biggest misconception of the whole debate. For example, contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church does not assert that a human being is a human person from conception.

Personhood is a complex philosophical concept, and variously defined. Some argue for personhood at conception, some argue for personhood at the age of reason (infancy). Here there are legitimate disagreements. Where we can no longer disagree is around the science of foetal development, which is clear. With the benefit of embryological breakthroughs of the last 40 years, we know that a new and unique human being comes into existence at ‘conception’. Christopher Hitchens, no friend of the Catholic Church, summed this up: ‘As a materialist, I think it has been demonstrated that an embryo is a separate body and entity’. This neatly exposes the illogic of the ‘my body, my choice’ sloganeering. There are two bodies but seemingly only one gets a choice.

So, if what is growing in the womb is unquestionably a human individual – and scientifically it is – then abortion is the killing of a human being. This is not controversial. Even Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the abortion provider BPAS, and supporter of sex-selective abortion, agrees that abortion is an ‘act of killing’. And if what is growing in the womb is unquestionably a human individual, it is perfectly rational to assert that it ought to be treated as a ‘candidate member of the human family’ to quote Hitchens again. This, in a nutshell, is the pro-life view.

Even if you don’t take the view that the right to life of the developing child should be paramount, it seems to me absurd to argue that this human being should have no rights at all. From BBC polling last week, this would be the majority view. If there is no place in the modern Labour party for this view, then the party has lost its soul.

I fear that as the next few years pan out we will see more cases of totalitarianism and intolerance in the Labour party. We have seen glimpses of the ugly face of intolerance of those who support Israel, intolerance of those perceived as Blairite, intolerance of anyone who refuses to accept the ludicrous notion that a child has no rights merely because that child happens to be in the womb. That’s unless the party takes a hard look at itself, and deliberately acts to create space for debate around conscience issues.
A recent initiative has been started by Mike Kane MP to reclaim the long noble tradition of Catholic Labour. How it is received will be very telling.

Rob Flello was Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South until May 2017

 

============================================================================

An interview At Walsingham to mark the 50th abortion anniversary of the Abortion Act this Friday.

To watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCu6iAjRjSA

or to download to your computer:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw550hYqOE8mblR2ZGthR2ZOTUU/view?usp=sharing

 

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

 

October 27th 2017 – 50 tragic years of abortion – “1 every 3 minutes in the UK”. 8, 894,355 Lives Ended

1967.jpg

Silence for 67

At 11.04am on Friday October 27 some of us will gather at Parliament  to mark 50 years since Royal Assent was given to the 1967 Abortion Act. A law which was intended to allow abortion in certain circumstances became an elastic law, a law with catastrophic consequences. At the time only a handful of MPs recognised it as a dangerous and slippery slope. 

Those 29 MPs who voted against its Second Reading did so because they contested the repeated claims that the law would only be used in extreme and tragic circumstances. They were right.

 In the half century that has elapsed since its passage a staggering 8,894,355 unborn babies have lost their lives – one death every three minutes; 20 lives ended every hour.

With routine and repeat abortions, what was once a crime has become a lucrative industry.

The sums are staggering. Over the past decade, an eye-watering £757,832,800 of taxpayers’ money has been paid to the private sector abortionists. The Times reported that the boss of Marie Stopes International (MSI) – which we pay millions of pounds to carry out abortions in Britain and overseas – received a phenomenal £420,000 in one recent year alone (four times the Prime Minister’s salary). Twenty-two of their employees were paid more than £100,000.

As these operatives oversee the tragic, industrialised destruction of human life and fuel the conveyor belt that abortion has become, what are the implications for the unborn child, their mothers and society?

Last year the Care Quality Commission criticised MSI after finding dead unborn babies in open bins. Think, too, of the 32-year-old Irish mother Aisha Chathira, who, in 2012, died from a heart attack in a taxi caused by extensive internal blood loss after she had an abortion in an MSI facility in London.

But beyond the death toll, much else has flowed from this law.

The medical profession has been subverted, with the Hippocratic Oath quietly dropped from medical courses because of its explicit condemnation of abortion. Preferment in gynaecology and obstetrics has become virtually impossible for those who refuse to comply. 

Conscience has been subverted, as evidenced by the dismissal of two Catholic midwives in Scotland who refused to become complicit in ending the lives of unborn children.

Free speech has been subverted, with speakers like Tim Stanley refused a platform at Oxford University because of his pro-life views. Non-compliant journalists, pharmacists, environmental scientists, blue collar and social workers have been forced from their jobs, while Jacob Rees-Mogg was recently told he should resign from Parliament for daring to defend the right to life. Political parties have made it a question of ideology. All of which smacks of a coercive liberalism worthy of a totalitarian state.

Once the sanctity of human life has been thrown into open trash bins it leads to one enormity after another: the creation and destruction of more than three million human embryos, with only four per cent seeing the light of day; the grotesque manufacture of animal-human hybrid embryos; and attempts to legalise euthanasia.

The sloganeering culture of death endlessly demands rights but ignores duties towards the weak and vulnerable. It elevates “choice” above all other considerations, debasing language and brooking no opposition.  

This culture claims to be on the side of equality and non-discrimination. Yet it takes no action when little girls are aborted merely because of their gender or when a disabled person can be aborted up to and even during birth (as 90 per cent of all babies with Down’s syndrome are). 

This culture builds on the eugenics promoted by the campaigner Marie Stopes, who railed against the “diseased and feeble minded” and “the very lowest members of the community”. It also builds on the remarks of peers, in the 1967 House of Lords debate, who described children with disabilities as “Mongols”, “spastics”, “monstrosities”, “abnormal”, “subnormal”, “retarded” and “defective”.

This culture refuses to break the financial link between the abortion industry and independent counselling, and to provide help for women caught in crisis. It prefers to bribe Northern Irish woman with offers of £1,400 for every baby they abort in England rather than give them equivalent funding or help to save the child or to promote adoption.

It extends its tentacles into other societies by denying charities – like Samaritan’s Purse – funding for their humanitarian work in West Africa unless they agree to undertake abortions, and by funding programmes like the brutal one-child policy of forced abortions in China.

This culture ignores the inconvenient findings of scientists like Professor KJS Anand, one of the world’s leading experts on foetal pain, that in the light of “incontrovertible” evidence “it seems prudent to avoid pain during gestation”. It refuses to look at the accumulating evidence of the physical and psychological effects of abortion on women.

It creates its own untruthful narrative, illustrated by the recent remarks of the president of the Royal College of Gynaecologists that abortion is just like having a bunion removed. When George Orwell wrote in 1984 that “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” he had people like her in mind.

This, then, is where the 1967 Abortion Act has taken us and these are the arguments that will be ignored as media cheerleaders celebrate these 50 years with distorted and one-sided programmes that caricature opponents as misogynist, unthinking, unfeeling bigots.

But as the scales are falling from people’s eyes, the tide of history is turning; and, looking to the future, these heart and head arguments are slowly changing minds.

As we contest the belief that the ending of a life is just another choice, the anti-slavery movement’s patient and dedicated reformers and abolitionists can teach and inspire us. 

It took decades to shift opinion, and for Parliament to accept that it wasn’t simply a “choice” to own another human being as a slave. Martin Luther King’s niece, Dr Alveda King, who had two abortions that she now bitterly regrets, tells us that in our generation “the right to life is the greatest human rights cause of our times”.

Opinion polls repeatedly show that the public want the law made more restrictive – and not decriminalised. Hundreds of MPs – not 29 – now want the Abortion Act reformed and many are pro-life. They simply need to be more PC: politically courageous.

Yes, I wish that more people believed in the transcendent nature of the sanctity of human life, but I admit that this is dependent on a belief in God. However, the good news for the unborn is that science has caught up with faith and is the game-changer. In an editorial, Nature magazine spelt it out clearly: “Your world was shaped in the first 24 hours after conception. Where your head and feet would sprout, and which side would form your back and which your belly, were being defined in the minutes and hours after sperm and egg united.”  

And every time the scan allows us to gaze through a window into the womb we know that this is no bunion but a new member of the human race.

Prove to me that life does not begin at conception and I will change my mind about protecting that new life. Until then, I will continue to insist on Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that everyone “has the right to life” – and hope that before another 50 years have passed, our laws and attitudes will reflect these truths.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool is an independent crossbench peer. Visit davidalton.net

=========================================================================================================================================================

The Rt.Hon Ann Widdecombe has called for church bells to be tolled on Friday October 27th at 11.00 am as the enactment of the Abortion Act is commemorated – with the ending of the lives of more than 8 million unborn children.

 

 

To watch an EWTN interview at Walsingham to mark the 50th anniversary click:

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCu6iAjRjSA

 

or to download to your computer: 

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw550hYqOE8mblR2ZGthR2ZOTUU/view?usp=sharing

 

For further information click here:

https://davidalton.net/2017/10/04/a-poignant-anthem-for-the-unborn-child-50-years-and-8-million-lives-ended-who-can-sound-the-depths-of-sorrow/

 

===========================================================================To see the presentation of talks given at Fulwood and Upholland,  Lancashire on Friday October 13th and Saturday October 14th to commemorate 50 years of abortion – 1 every 3 minutes, over 20 every hour in the UK – click here

Fulwood 2017 A Matter of Life And Death

At the meeting  at Upholland, near Wigan, in Lancashire, (October 14th) David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool)  said that attempts to “no platform” pro- life speakers and to silence the arguments about the sanctity of human life “smack of an illiberalism worthy of a totalitarian State.”  He said that it revealed a desperation on the part of opponents who know that “the tide of history is running against them.” He told the annual SERRA Conference that fifty years ago, this month,  when abortion was legalised only 29 MPs voted against it, whereas today hundreds support the pro-life cause or want significant change made to the law. He spelt out the “significant and eye watering multi-million business that the abortion industry has become – often oblivious to the devastating effects on many women and the tragic industrialised destruction of human life” (Details can be seen by clicking on the following link:

https://davidalton.net/2017/10/04/a-poignant-anthem-for-the-unborn-child-50-years-and-8-million-lives-ended-who-can-sound-the-depths-of-sorrow/

His remarks follow a well-attended meeting held in Lancashire last night (October 13th) when the Crossbench Peer, said that since abortion was legalised 50 years ago there had been more than 8 million abortions – and that every one of them was a tragedy. He said that over 20 abortions take place every hour in the UK – one life is ended every 3 minutes. He focused on the scientific evidence that life begins at conception and said that law and human rights legislation should reflect this. He said that phenomenal sums of money are made by the abortion industry and that women’s lives have been put at risk. He attacked attempts to prevent freedom of speech and the erosion of conscience. 

============================================================================

A Poignant Anthem To Share In Memory Of Lives Lost

Don’t Let 50 Years and 8 Million Abortions Pass Without Marking This Tragic Anniversary In Some Way. 

 Please Consider Joining the One Minute of Silence in Parliament Square at 11.05 am on Friday October 27th – commemorating the moment this Bill became law; and the Vigil at 5.30pm at Westminster Cathedral on Friday October 27th  and the CARE Rally at the Emmanuel Centre in Marsham Street, Westminster,  on Saturday October 28th at 2.00pm.

Share with others these details and encourage them to listen to two pieces of music which can be accessed through the following links.

 The first is by Graham Kendrick, who published and recorded “Who Can Sound The Depths of Sorrow?”  twenty years after the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act, and as attempts were being made in Parliament, 30 years ago, to reduce the number of abortions. 

It was sung in the Royal Albert Hall by thousands of pro-life supporters as more than 3 million white petals cascaded onto those who were gathered there. Each petal marked a life ended. 

It was recently sung during a commemorative pilgrimage to Walsingham.

This powerful anthem for the unborn remains as poignant and, sadly, as relevant as on the day it was first sung. Listen to it again by clicking here:  

 

Earlier this year another musician, Vin Garbutt,  died.

 He was, in many respects, the ultimate protest singer – singing songs that challenge everything from Fascism to environmental degradation, racism to exploitation of workers, while never accepting “no go areas” like society’s attitudes towards the unborn child .

 Vin Garbutt was a great folk singer who refused to sing songs that betrayed his beliefs. Never tamed by coercive liberalism, despite six acclaimed appearances at the Cambridge Folk Festival and numerous awards he was never invited back to Cambridge after daring to sing two outspoken songs about the vulnerability and fate of unborn children. Vin Garbutt’s believed that through folk music “you hear songs about real things – coal mines, and shipyards closing down” – and that in singing and speaking about abortion and the unborn your music becomes part of “an underground movement of social songs of injustice”. He was effectively driven underground because he saw the ineluctable logic of defending human dignity and human life at every stage.  

 I hope that those who can’t get to hear songs like The Secret and Little Innocents might ask themselves why no radio station plays these songs.  Are these truths that we simply cannot bear to hear – or questions that we cannot allow to be asked?

   Get a flavour of why the BBC and media outlets have suppressed so much of Vin Garbutt’s music by listening to this song about Lynda and her son Kevin. It’s about being diagnosed with a pre-birth disability – which in a country that routinely kills 90% of all babies with Down’s Syndrome is a song that needs to sung and heard.

Click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXvCtJYSHu8&app=desktop

Also, click here to see:

https://davidalton.net/2017/08/16/parliament-forces-government-to-pay-northern-irish-women-1400-to-end-the-lives-of-their-children-official-ruling-that-100000-people-are-alive-today-in-northern-ireland-thanks-to-their-abortion-law/

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

 

Will Genocide Victims Be Enabled To return To Their Ancient Homes?  Will the International Community and State Governments Fail Them yet Again?

DavidAlton.net

Will Genocide Victims Be Enabled To return To Their Ancient Homes?  Will the International Community and State Governments Fail Them yet Again?

chjristian genoicde3At a conference held this week in Rome, about the persecuted Christians driven out of their homes in northern Iraq in the ISIS campaign of genocide, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, warned that Iraq’s ancient Christian community is struggling for its very survival – and has made an urgent call for the rights of all minority groups to be respected. 

The Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Conference considered practical steps that can be taken to allow these communities to return. What was really striking was the courageous faith and fortitude of those who have suffered so grievously. Those who have experienced their Good Friday are still full of Resurrection expectations as they seek to rebuild their lives in a region where they have lived as Christians for…

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Will Genocide Victims Be Enabled To return To Their Ancient Homes?  Will the International Community and State Governments Fail Them yet Again?

Will Genocide Victims Be Enabled To return To Their Ancient Homes?  Will the International Community and State Governments Fail Them yet Again?

chjristian genoicde3

At a conference held this week in Rome, about the persecuted Christians driven out of their homes in northern Iraq in the ISIS campaign of genocide, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, warned that Iraq’s ancient Christian community is struggling for its very survival – and has made an urgent call for the rights of all minority groups to be respected. 

 

The Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Conference considered practical steps that can be taken to allow these communities to return. What was really striking was the courageous faith and fortitude of those who have suffered so grievously. Those who have experienced their Good Friday are still full of Resurrection expectations as they seek to rebuild their lives in a region where they have lived as Christians for almost 2000 years – and where they pray in the Aramaic language – the language of Jesus.

 

 

The conference was organized by the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It brought together politicians, ambassadors, entrepreneurs and other parts of the international community seeking to enable the return of Christians to their ancient homelands.

 

 

Cardinal Parolin said that Pope Francis “From the outset, has followed with deep concern the tragedy of the thousands of families forced to abandon their own cities and villages due to the invasion of the so-called Islamic State, starting in June 2014…” 

 

He praised the work undertaken by ACN  in providing shelter for fleeing families  “in the three years since the ISIS invasion, which has enabled the many uprooted Christian families to endure this situation with dignity and in security.”

 

And he said that the ACN “reconstruction project… is yet another sign of the concern you have shown, with a sense of urgency and with remarkable efficiency and organisation.”

 

Echoing Pope Francis, the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad described the attacks by extremist Islamist groups on the Nineveh plain’s Christians as “genocide”.

 

Patriarch Sako said: “The real reason behind this kind of discrimination is the hatred of the radical Muslim persecutors towards the Christians, which has driven them to wipe away our heritage, destroy our homes and even to remove us from the memory of Iraqi history.”

 

The Chaldean Patriarch highlighted five areas where immediate action was needed – education, political support, security and stabilisation of liberated areas, humanitarian aid, and defeating fundamentalism and terrorism.

 

The Patriarch’s five points echoed Cardinal Parolin’s call for social harmony so that all religious and ethnic groups in northern Iraq could live in peace.

 

 

In the week before the Rome Conference the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a Resolution calling for those responsible for the genocide against minorities such as Christians and Yazidis to be brought to justice. See:

 

http://dailysignal.com/2017/09/28/un-resolution-major-step-toward-justice-victims-isis-genocide/

 

 

The UN SC Resolution is a significant step forward.  One practical problem, though, is that Iraq doesn’t have the concept of genocide in their domestic Statutes and it is doubtful whether it has enough qualified lawyers to be able to deal with cases of this kind – which is why  a referral to the International Criminal Court or a specially constituted Regional Tribunal would have been preferable.

 

During the Reconstruction Conference reference was made to the right, in international law, for these communities to return to their homes.  

Article 13 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights is clear (Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country).

 

Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is also clear (Article 12 1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence…. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country).

 

These Articles lay a duty on the international community – countries like the UK and US and the European Union) to facilitate reconstruction and return.  Aticle (44) of the Iraqi Constitution makes reference to the rights enjoyed by its own citizens under the UDHR and ICCP: “that all individuals have the right to enjoy the rights stated in international human rights agreements and treaties endorsed by Iraq that don’t run contrary to the principles and rules of this constitution.”

 

Despite Resolutions being passed in the US Congress, the British House of Commons, the European Parliament, and many other legislatures, State Governments  and the international community utterly failed to act and honour its commitments under the Genocide Convention to prevent and to protect and it is only now waking up to its duty to punish the perpetrators.

The right to return and to lead settled lives in their ancient towns and villages on the Nineveh Plain  was restated again and again at the Rome Conference – the question for State Governments and the international community is, will they fail these ancient communities yet again?

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2017/08/16/genocide-of-christians-and-yazidis/

https://davidalton.net/2017/07/05/july-4th-2017-debate-on-the-house-of-lords-select-committee-report-on-the-middle-east-time-for-new-realism-the-plight-of-yazidis-and-christians-facing-genocide/

https://davidalton.net/2017/01/10/december-and-january-questions-raised-in-parliament-pakistanburmas-rohingyassudannorth-korea-hong-kong-egyptsaudi-arabia-murder-in-aleppo-25-killed-outside-cairos-coptic-cathedral/

Government Challenged About The Treatment of Refugees in Libya and Allegations that Shots Were Fired on Search and Rescue Vessels – following an open letter to the Prime Minister from Médecins Sans Frontières – Parliamentary Replies September 25th

 

Mediterranean refugees.jpg

Three Questions Put To the Government About The Treatment of Refugees in Libya and Allegations that Shots Were Fired on Search and Rescue Vessels – following an open letter to the Prime Minister from Médecins Sans Frontières (see text below)

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1509):

Question:
Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, during his recent visit to Libya, the Foreign Secretary discussed reports that the Libyan Coastguard threatened and fired upon search and rescue vessels. (HL1509)

Tabled on: 11 September 2017

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are aware of such reports. During his visit in August, the Foreign Secretary raised the Libyan Coastguard with Prime Minister Serraj, underscoring the importance of respecting human rights and international law. We have made clear that all vessels must operate in accordance with maritime law and any behaviour that threatens legitimate search and rescue activity is not acceptable. The Libyan Coastguard training package – which the UK is helping to deliver – aims to help develop a corps of professional Libyan Coastguard personnel with the skills required to manage search and rescue activities properly, whilst respecting human rights and international law.

Date and time of answer: 25 Sep 2017 at 16:12.

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1509):

Question:
Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, during his recent visit to Libya, the Foreign Secretary discussed reports that the Libyan Coastguard threatened and fired upon search and rescue vessels. (HL1509)

Tabled on: 11 September 2017

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are aware of such reports. During his visit in August, the Foreign Secretary raised the Libyan Coastguard with Prime Minister Serraj, underscoring the importance of respecting human rights and international law. We have made clear that all vessels must operate in accordance with maritime law and any behaviour that threatens legitimate search and rescue activity is not acceptable. The Libyan Coastguard training package – which the UK is helping to deliver – aims to help develop a corps of professional Libyan Coastguard personnel with the skills required to manage search and rescue activities properly, whilst respecting human rights and international law.

Date and time of answer: 25 Sep 2017 at 16:12.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1508):

Question:
Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to the letter from Joanne Liu, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, that was sent to the Prime Minister on 6 September concerning the conditions faced by people detained in Libya. (HL1508)

Tabled on: 11 September 2017

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are aware of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ open letter to the Prime Minister and share their concerns about the standards of treatment those in detention face. This is why we are providing assistance to improve conditions in detention facilities as well as encouraging Assisted Voluntary Returns, and will continue to do so. This activity is specifically designed to protect migrants’ human rights and improve conditions. It is underpinned by the ‘do no harm’ principle and we have checks in place to make sure that is the case. The key is to break the business model of smugglers and to prioritise interventions upstream in countries of origin and transit to reduce the need of migrants to leave their home country or move on from a safe third country in their region.

Date and time of answer: 25 Sep 2017 at 15:36.

Dear Lord Alton of Liverpool,

 

Given your interest in refugee issues, I thought you might be interested to see the attached letter from Joanne Liu, International President of Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), sent to the Prime Minister on September 6th.

 

It highlights the appalling conditions faced by people trapped in Libya, which are sadly exacerbated by the policies of European states – the UK included.

 

As you may be aware, the Foreign Secretary recently visited Libya to praise the work of the UK-trained coastguard. But he failed to mention that the Libyan Coastguard has put lives at risk at sea by threatening and even firing upon search and rescue vessels – MSF included. He also failed to address the appalling conditions inside Libyan detention centres, where UK policies are helping to trap desperate people.

 

On a recent visit to these detention centres, MSF UK’s Executive Director Vickie Hawkins saw these people and heard their stories. They included a 12-year-old boy from Mali, picked up by the Libyan coastguard after watching his parents drown in front of him in the clear waters of the Mediterranean. He was returned by that coastguard into a detention centre which is completely unfit for unaccompanied minors. He was sat alone in a detention centre surrounded by adult males. 

 

She also met a Nigerian woman who had lived with her husband and children in Libya for the last four years. Her husband had been in Libya for over eight years, working in Tripoli with no intention of travelling to Europe. Yet she had been picked up off the street by a militia, thrown into a detention centre and left in complete limbo ever since. She’s had one call to her husband in the ten months she’s been locked-up. He’s saving all the money he can to buy her freedom.

 

While MSF does not challenge the right of the UK or any other governments to manage migration, we do believe that this must be done in as humane a way as possible rather than merely pushing it beyond our borders. Sadly, all the evidence we have seen shows that the UK’s current policy is simply compounding the misery and suffering of migrants and refugees. These people are fleeing Libya and current policies from the UK and EU are pushing them back into the horror from which they are attempting to escape.

 

We have written to the Foreign Secretary to raise our concerns, and would be very happy to meet with you to discuss this further, should that be of interest.  Please do let me know if so.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Andre Heller Perache

Head of Programmes, MSF UK

 

On behalf of

 

Vickie Hawkins

Executive Director, MSF UK
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
Lower Ground Floor, Chancery Exchange, 10 Furnival Street, London EC4A 1AB
Tel: +44 (0)20 7404 6600 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7404 4466

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid in more than 60 countries.

Letter to:

The Rt. Honourable Theresa May, MP

Prime Minister

Office of the Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London

SW1A 2AA

06 September 2017

Re: European governments are feeding Libya’s business of suffering

Dear Prime Minister,

What migrants and refugees are living in Libya should shock the collective conscience of Europe’s citizens and elected leaders.

Blinded by the single-minded goal of keeping people outside of Europe, European funding is helping to stop the boats from departing Libyan waters, but this policy is also feeding a criminal system of abuse.

The detention of migrants and refugees in Libya is rotten to the core. It must be named for what it is: a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion. And European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation. People cannot be sent back to Libya, nor should they be contained there.

MSF has assisted people in Libyan detention centres in Tripoli for over a year, and has witnessed first-hand the scheme of arbitrary detention, extortion, physical abuse and deprivation of basic services that men, women and children suffer in these centres.

I visited a number of official detention centres last week and we know that these official detention centres are just the tip of the iceberg.

People are simply treated as a commodity to be exploited. They are packed into dark, filthy rooms with no ventilation, living on top of one another. Men told us how groups of them are forced to run naked in the courtyard until they collapse from exhaustion. Women are raped and then made to call their families back home asking for money to be freed. All the people I met had tears in their eyes, asking again and again, to get out. Their despair is overwhelming.

The reduced numbers of people leaving Libyan shores has been lauded by some as a success in preventing loss of life at sea, and smashing smugglers’ networks.

But with the knowledge of what is happening in Libya, that this should be lauded as a success demonstrates, at best, pure hypocrisy and at worse, a cynical complicity in the organised business of reducing human beings to merchandise in human traffickers’ hands.

The people trapped in these well-documented, nightmarish conditions in Libya need a way out. They need access to protection, asylum and increased voluntary repatriation procedures. They need an escape to safety via safe and legal passage, but to date, only a tiny fraction of people have been able to access this.

This horrific violence against them must stop; there needs to be a basic respect for their human rights including access to sufficient food, water and medical care.

Despite declarations by governments that improvements need to be made to peoples’ immediate conditions, this is far from happening today.

Instead of confronting the vicious cycle that their own policies are creating, politicians have hidden behind unfounded accusations towards NGOs and individuals who attempt to help people in dire straits. During its Search and Rescue operations at sea, MSF has been shot at by the European-funded Libyan coast guard and repeatedly accused of collusion with traffickers. But who is colluding with criminals here? Those seeking to rescue people, or those enabling people to be treated like a commodity to be packed and sold?

Libya is just the most recent and extreme example of European migration policies which go back several years, where a primary objective is to push people out of sight. The EU-Turkey deal from 2016, what we have seen in Greece, in France, in the Balkans and beyond, are a growing trend of border closures and push backs.

What this does is close options for people who seek safe and legal ways of coming to Europe and pushes them further and further into the smugglers’ networks, which European leaders insist they want to dismantle. Safe and legal avenues for people to cross borders are the only way to eliminate the perverse incentives that allow for smugglers and traffickers to thrive whilst at the same time fulfilling border control objectives.

We cannot say that we did not know that this was happening. The predation on misery and the horrific suffering of those trapped must end now.

In their efforts to stem the flow, is allowing people to be pushed into rape, torture and slavery via criminal pay offs a price European governments are willing to pay?

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Joanne Liu International President Médecins Sans Frontières

Overcrowding In Prisons and the Need To Provide Opportunity For Reform Raised In Parliamentary Debate

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September 7th 2017   12.31 pm  House of Lords debate on the Overcrowding of UK Prisons

My Lords, in April it was reported that in the previous 12 months there were 344 deaths in prison, up by 19%, of which 113 were self-inflicted. Self-harm incidents increased by 24%; assault incidents were up 27%; and assaults on staff were up by 38%. All this was described as,

“a relentless decline in safety”.

Prison officers cannot be expected to deal effectively with this crisis when their own numbers have been reduced over the past seven years, from 25,000 to 18,000. Compromised safety, the associated violence and the availability of drugs, especially psychoactive drugs such as spice—even entering prisons by drones—and plummeting morale among staff, is not an environment conducive to reform, rehabilitation or a reduction in reoffending.

Half of 15 to 17 year-olds in young offender institutions have the literacy or numeracy levels expected of a seven to 11 year-old. This pattern repeats itself among prisoners who have no qualifications, about half of whom are functionally illiterate. Victor Hugo was right when he said, “He who opens a school door closes a prison.”

Prisoners whom I met during a visit to Birmingham prison told me that, unless we break the Gordian knot that ties them into a pattern of reoffending and reimprisonment, their lives will become utterly devoid of hope. What is happening to the Government’s proposals for getting prisoners into jobs after release, for ensuring that prisoners learn English and maths and for league tables to evaluate progress on education? Where do education, training, secure schools and young offender institutions fit into the long-term strategy?

I have drawn the Minister’s attention to the 60% of prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months in custody who go on to commit further crimes and to the overall reoffending rate of 45%—one of the highest in Europe—reflecting the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe, with 148 prisoners per 100,000 of the population.

This is not just about a failure to promote reform or to work out how many prisoners can be crammed like sardines into a tin. Consider also the danger of prisons being used by jailed hate preachers acting as self-styled “emirs” to capitalise on gang culture to recruit susceptible inmates. Or consider the consequences of open-ended sentences for non-violent prisoners, who are captives of a system that seems too often to have forgotten them. We then see some of the other dimensions of jails that have become simmering cauldrons of unrest.

As others have said, we need an entirely new culture in our prisons and a different attitude to the way in which we run them—one that passes, as the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord McNally, said earlier, the Churchill test of civilisation. These are just some of the reasons why we should all be grateful to my noble and learned friend, Lord Brown, for laying this Motion for debate before your Lordships today.