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Britain’s democratic fabric is being eroded

An article published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) warns:

The saying goes that if a frog is put into a pan of water and the heat is gradually raised, it will never react to the rising threat and die as a result.

This fable will likely resonate with those observing the state of democracy in the UK today.

Some of the problems highlighted by HRW are:

The government’s disdain for parliament is also evident in its handling of the pandemic. The government has used decrees and fast-track laws in ways that cut parliament out of the law-making process and make it harder for MPs to scrutinise how the laws that affect our lives are being used.

The ways in which the UK government has undermined the country’s independent legal system is long and growing. It wants to water down the power of British courts to review government decisions. Both the prime minister and home secretary have pilloried the legal profession, dismissing human rights lawyers as “activists”, “lefties” and “do-gooders” merely for doing their jobs

However, there are democratic problems not only with Boris Johnson’s conservative government. For example, Spelthorne Borough Council has recently lost half of its Labour Party councillors, who resigned in protest at the party’s direction. One of them says: “We were elected by voters who support the policies in Labour’s manifesto and we cannot in good conscience remain in the party when these policies are not being honoured.” Also, remember the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, which included threat of mutiny from the military (similar to what happened to Olof Palme before he was murdered in 1986).

And can you really say that a country is democratic if it strives to decriminalize torture and allow authorities to kidnap and murder? Hear what Yanis Varoufakis says about the UK justice system and the treatment of Julian Assange. We can not pretend any longer that this is a real democracy.

Pandemic used as an excuse to give up privacy

The ongoing pandemic is used not only as a bad excuse for reducing democracy, for example by cancelling referendums. It is also used as an excuse to give up privacy. We have now seen an example of how this can be abused. Read on BBC about how the government of Singapore cheated their people in a programme called TraceTogether. Note that the new legislation that is now proposed, does NOT return to the original purpose of TraceTogether. To be able to use the system against serious crime like terrorism sounds fair, but remember how the accusation of terrorism has been misused before and still is. Singapore works closely with the USA regarding surveillance, where whistleblowers can be equated with terrorists and a questionable concept of a war on “domestic terrorism” is under way. One result is eroding public trust, which can for examle make future health responses more difficult.

Rapid decline of democracy

In several western countries, we are witnessing a rapid decline of democracy.

From the USA, increased censorship of the president and many others is reported. Twitter now motivates this by how messages can be interpreted. Just like after the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago, overreactions to the events can be more destructive than the events themselves. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls on the platforms to be more transparent and consistent in how they apply their rules, but seems to miss that government agencies are involved with the tech giants and ordinary people have no say in such decisions. Anyone who has been censored on by the tech giants knows how difficult and meaningless it is to try to contact them. Even the president appears to have no control of some government agencies. Whatever we think of Donald Trump, we need to realize that it is certainly not democracy if an invisible government together with huge corporations are imposing censorship to undermine their president, who said he would “drain the swamp”. In Wilhelm Agrell’s article in Swedish from 2017, with the translated title “Against the deep state, no one can win”, he writes that:

No one can control the guards anymore. If anyone ever could.

What Donald Trump has challenged are thus not clowns in Langley or easily drained small puddles on the edge of the Washington swamp, but the deep state in its most developed and expanded form. In such a power struggle, in the long run there is only one possible winner…

Another example is Sweden, which now has a new pandemic law, strongly criticized for giving the government dictatorial powers. There is a risk that such temporary laws can be extended and abused.

International Criminal Court “simply indefensible”

Before our eyes, the confidence in institutions which should uphold the rule of international law is falling apart.

Craig Murray has read the report that closes down the investigation of British war crimes in Iraq. He calls the International Criminal Court (ICC) “simply indefensible” and comes to the conclusion:

Unfortunately, the decision of the ICC to close down its investigation into War Crimes committed by the British in Iraq is the last straw for me in continuing to harbour any hope that the ICC will ever be anything more than an instrument of victors’ justice.

One of the many comments on his blog says:

A whitewash is worse than no wash at all. The ICC is diplomatically lying through its teeth, which undermines any credibility it might try to claim in the future. It has demonstrated itself to be fraudulent. It would have been far better for its credibility to release a simple statement saying “Under threat, physical or otherwise, the ICC has decided not to pursue investigation of the UK’s failed war crimes prosecutions. We refer you to the MoD and the British Prime Minister’s office.”

See Craig Murray’s important blog post.

Dangerous development in the Nordic region

In the Nordic region, there are many signs of a dangerous development where parts of the military seem to be out of democratic control. Many of those who were entrusted to defend their people seem to be doing something else. In Denmark, it has been exposed that their military is spying on its own people and friendly neighbors (which is in line with earlier revelations by Edward Snowden). In Norway, even parts of the Norwegian military are worried about the military escalation directed from abroad and perceived as unnecessarily provocative (link to article in Norwegian). And the Swedish military seems to have developed into an “escort service” for foreign military, which is something the Swedish minister of defence seems very happy with (links to content in Swedish). From Finland it is reported that a “cooperation deal” has been made with NATO, which could violate the Finnish constitution.

The crash of a nuclear bomber on Greenland in 1968 is a reminder of the risks caused by military activities, which are sometimes kept secret from the people. Danes who were were working for a military contractor from Denmark believe their cancer illnesses have been caused by exposure to plutonium scattered by the crash. Afterwards, it has been revealed that nuclear weapons had also been deployed on the ground. The Danish government had in fact given tacit permission for nuclear weapons. All of this was done in contravention of Denmark’s nuclear-free zone policy and behind the back of their people.

Set of four B28FI thermonuclear bombs of the same type as those in the accident at Thule

State actors taking many lives in Iran

Iran recently executed a dissident, Rouhallah Zam, on vague charges after he was likely detained while on a visit to Iraq and forcibly returned to Iran. It is claimed that Iran executes the most people in the world per capita (link to article with shocking photos). This includes also juveniles, which we have highlighted in particular on Accoun before, because it is against international law.

For years, many murders where other governments are believed to be responsible have also taken place in Iran. The latest is the deadly attack by a hit-squad on nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which is widely believed to increase the risk of an open war with Iran.

The tensions with Iran have also resulted in shooting down two civilian airliners: IR655 in July 1988 by USS Vincennes (for which the captain and the air-warfare coordinator were later awarded) and PS752 in January 2020 by Iran themselves (for which there appears to have been arrests of a person who posted a video of the missile strike and of low-level officials).

Gothenburg Democracy Day 2020

Last week, two board members of Accoun had the pleasure to participate in Gothenburg Democracy Day 2020, which was held online. One topic we brought up was transparency, because we have seen how the Swedish transparency principle is about to erode – on central level as well as local level (link to content in Swedish) – and believe transparency is important to prevent crime and abuse of power.

During the day, Ten Priorities for the Future of Democracy were identified:

1) Education, starting as early was possible, about democracy to
avoid complacency and allow new generations and immigrants
to create their own interest and varieties of democracy
2) Linking modern Direct Democracy with education by providing
political workshops in schools/for adults
3) Develop a Global Charter for Truth Mentoring Program
4) We need Dialogue, we need Time, we need Curiosity – that
develops understanding
5) Everyone must realize how Serious the Situation is, and do
whatever one can – at local level or wherever one can – to
safeguard democracy against its enemies.
6) Include as many people in democratic process as possible: the
young and the foreigners by giving them the right to vote, or at
least let them bring up issues to the local parliament, and
everybody by introducing a city card giving access to all city
7) To involve young people and to narrow the gap to the power
8) Participation on equal footing!
9) UN 2.0 – time to revamp!
10) Transparency and having access to all information on
every level

The Swedish silence about Assange

It has been known for years that Julian Assange was given a special treatment, in a negative sense, in Sweden. However, there is a collective silence in Sweden, especially in government and parliament, regarding the abuses done to Assange. Hardly anyone there will stand up for the rights of Assange. An exception is Amineh Kakabaveh, who has asked a critical question about Assange (all links in this post are to content in Swedish).

The famous journalist Günter Walraff says about the Swedish culture of silence:

– The treatment of Assange can be seen as a yardstick, a litmus test for the future global boundaries of journalism and freedom of speech. It’s a scary perspective. Nils Melzer calls the ongoing treatment of Assange in Belmarsh Prison a deliberate form of psychological torture. Normal prisoners, including those convicted of murder, may receive children and relatives. They may hold confidential talks with their lawyers. Assange is denied all this. You consciously create difficulties in his daily life. You want to make him desperate through a conscious form of disorientation. The strength of the abuse is constantly increasing. Assange is barred from attending the trial on normal terms. In the courtroom, he is placed behind a glass wall, much like an animal to be observed and at the same time kept separate from humans. He can be isolated eleven hours a day. He is not even allowed to hug his own children. And he was denied contact with his lawyers for several months.

– All this is about depriving him of his dignity, of breaking him down as a human being.

The biggest revelation of Assange and WikiLeaks is perhaps the treatment of Assange himself, which shows that our freedom of speech, and thus our democracy, failed this “litmus test”. It also reminds of how Swedish authority cooperated with Gestapo.

Read the interview by Arne Ruth with Günter Walraff .

TPNW ratified by 50 nations

After many years of hard work by ICAN and others, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has been ratified by 50 nations and will enter into legal force on 22 January 2021. It is not surprising that other nations with nuclear weapons don’t participate in this process. However, even many nations that have officially been against nuclear weapons are now opposed to TPNW, sometimes despite the opinion of an overwhelming majority of their people. It makes one question, if democracy is really workning in some of these countries. Also some countries that have suffered from nuclear weapons, including the testing of weapons, are now opposed to TPNW, for example in the Pacific. And authorities have tried to cover up contamination. This highlights the state of an opressed world. But at least 50 nations were nevertheless able to ratify TPNW. Congratulations to them!