Latest Developments, November 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Base talks
Radio France Internationale reports that negotiations are underway over where foreign troops will be based for a looming military intervention in Mali:

“Time and again, Mali declared there was no need for foreign troops in Bamako to secure institutions, but those troops were welcome in the North to fight Islamist forces. To which the international community responded there was no way its troops would go directly to the North, straight into the lion’s den.
Both sides have softened their position and in the end, the following solution is taking shape: foreign headquarters could be located in Koulikoro, 50km from Bamako. But Bamako’s airport will be the hub for aerial operations.” [Translated from the French.]

Ocean grabbing
The UN’s right to food expert has urged world governments to “take urgent steps to protect, sustain, and share the benefits” of fisheries and oceans:

“ ‘“Ocean-grabbing” – in the shape of shady access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations – can be as serious a threat as “land-grabbing,”’ [Olivier] De Schutter said as he unveiled a new report on fisheries and the right to food.

The UN expert called on governments to rethink the models of fisheries that they support, highlighting that small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard fewer fish. ‘Industrial fishing in far-flung waters may seem like the economic option, but only because fleets are able to pocket major subsidies while externalizing the costs of over-fishing and resource degradation. Future generations will pay the price when the oceans run dry,’ he said.”

Young adults
Reuters reports that Argentina’s lower house has voted 131 to 2 in favour of lowering the country’s voting age from 18 to 16:

“Skeptics say the new law is aimed at drumming up support for the president before legislative elections scheduled a year from now. Supporters say the measure aims to bring Argentina in line with progressive countries such as Ecuador and Brazil that have already extended voting right to people as young as 16.
[President Cristina] Fernandez-allied lower house member Diana Conti said the bill ‘is neither opportunistic nor demagogic,’ but rather seeks ‘to widen the electoral base of our democracy.’

More than a million new voters are estimated to be eligible to cast ballots now that the bill has passed both houses. The Senate approved the measure earlier this month.”

MDG blind spot
A new Save the Children report argues that the successors to the Millennium Development Goals must include a global strategy for tackling inequality, not just extreme deprivation:

“Consideration of how to tackle capital flight and to strengthen domestic taxation measures will be key to increasing domestic revenues. It is now widely accepted that illicit financial outflows (dominated by corporate tax evasion) dwarf receipts of aid.
Progressive taxation plays a critical role in raising revenues to fund social protection mechanisms and universal access to basic services, and also in establishing the social contract between states and citizens upon which effective political representation and accountability depend.
A major issue for the post-2015 framework is to what extent it should emphasise both domestic budgetary transparency and the international financial transparency between states that is necessary to combat illicit flows.”

Strangelovian world
The Environmental Defense Fund’s Gernot Wagner calls for scientific and governance measures to be taken now in preparation for the inevitable turn to geoengineering as a quick, cheap fix against climate change:

“Imagine a country badly hit by adverse climate changes: India’s crops are wilting; China’s rivers are drying up. Millions of people are suffering. What government, under such circumstances, would not feel justified in taking drastic action, even in defiance of world opinion?
Once we reach that tipping point, there won’t be time to reverse warming by pursuing collective strategies to move the world onto a more sustainable growth path. Instead, speed will be of the essence, which will mean trying untested and largely hypothetical techniques like mimicking volcanoes and putting sulfur particles in the stratosphere to create an artificial shield from the sun.
That artificial sunscreen may well cool the earth. But what else might it do? Floods somewhere, droughts in other places, and a host of unknown and largely unknowable effects in between. That’s the scary prospect. And we’d be experimenting on a planetary scale, in warp speed.”

Dirty Money
Deutsche Welle reports that there were more money laundering cases in Germany last year than at any time since the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act came into effect in 1993:

“An especially clever trick is to legalize dirty money by running it past insolvency proceedings. Lately, it’s not only commodities that are exchanged, but services between larger networks of companies which are difficult to control. Even the trade of CO2 emission certificates is now being used as a means for money laundering.
Yet another problem arises when illegally acquired money is transfered to non-involved third parties to circumvent confiscation. In 2010, the authorities succeeded in only 150 out of 600 preliminary proceedings on this front.According to a study published by the Tax Justice Network that examined 70 countries, Germany is one of the biggest havens for tax evasion – ranking even before Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg or Jersey.”

Contentious project
Le Soleil reports that an Australian-owned mining project in Senegal is proving rather unpopular with the local population:

“Come to see how things are coming along for Grande Côte Opérations, a company specialized in the extraction and separation of sand, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, was greeted, along with his delegation, by angry crowds, demanding more participation in the project. According to the spokesman for the youth of Diogo, Mansour Diop, the protesters want more jobs and a better handling of compensation for their ancestral lands which have been given over to the company.
In their view, the rate of compensation has been too low. Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said he was sympathetic to the claims of people who have seen their agricultural land expropriated by this large-scale project.” [Translated from the French.]

Latest Developments, September 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Non-intervention
Agence France-Presses report that a top NATO general has said the alliance currently has no intention of taking military action in Syria:

“ ‘The political process has to be pushed forward, sanctions need to take effect. At the moment, this situation cannot be solved by the military in a responsible way,’ [Germany’s Manfred Lange] told a briefing.
He added that with little prospect of action at the United Nations ‘it is clear that the Alliance doesn’t have any military plans on Syria.’ ”

Haven links
The Guardian reports that 68 British lawmakers have “directorships or a controlling interest in companies linked to tax havens”:

“It soon became apparent that many Parliamentarians who are able to influence tax laws have taken up positions as directors and non executive directors in major companies with offshore links.
There are 27 Tories – six of whom are MPs – 17 Labour peers, three Lib Dem peers and another 21 are either crossbench or non-affiliated peers.”

Questionable secrecy
The Associated Press reports that a US federal appeals court’s judges seemed “skeptical” about the need for CIA secrecy on the use of drones for targeted killings:

“The CIA initially refused to admit or deny that it had any relevant records and said that merely confirming the existence of material would reveal classified information. That refusal to confirm even the existence of a record is a Cold War-era legal defense known as the Glomar response after the Glomar Explorer, a ship built with secret CIA financing to try to raise a Soviet submarine from the ocean floor.
But [government lawyer Stuart] Delery told the court that the government was no longer making that claim.

But he said the spy agency can’t provide the number, nature or categorization of those records without disclosing information protected under [Freedom of Information Act] exemptions.”

Launderers anonymous
The Economist calls “depressing” a new study into the extent that countries comply with their pledges to get tough on shell companies:

“Posing as consultants, the authors asked 3,700 incorporation agents in 182 countries to form companies for them. Overall, 48% of the agents who replied failed to ask for proper identification; almost half of these did not want any documents at all. Contrary to conventional wisdom, providers in tax havens, such as Jersey and the Cayman Islands, were much more likely to comply with the standards than those from the [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], a club of mostly rich countries. Even poor countries had a better compliance rate, suggesting the problem in the rich world is not cost but unwillingness to follow the rules. Only ten out of 1,722 providers in America required notarised documents in line with the [Financial Action Task Force] standard.”

Know your clients
The Wall Street Journal reports that US regulators are proposing new rules to crack down on money laundering over the objections of the financial sector:

“Under current practices, banks verify data only on larger foreign-controlled accounts and on some accounts that the banks, using their own guidelines, deem high risk. Banks and other financial institutions also already file some reports, including reports on suspicious activity and transactions over $10,000 under the Bank Secrecy Act.
But Treasury officials are proposing vastly expanding the universe of covered activity in a bid to deter criminal activity and terrorist financing and stop firms from taking on shell companies without knowing ownership details. Treasury wants financial institutions to understand who owns or controls an account and keep detailed records that law-enforcement officials can access.

The department may eventually extend the rules to mortgage lenders, casinos, gemstone dealers and others. These nonbank businesses already face some anti-money-laundering program requirements under U.S. law, though they are not nearly as extensive as for banks.”

Piracy insurance
Reuters reports that a decrease in piracy off the coast of Somalia means “tougher times” for London-based providers of marine kidnap and ransom insurance:

“Brokers and insurers say a key factor in the downturn is the spread of on-board armed security, which has allowed shipowners to negotiate discounts of up to 50 percent on their premiums in recognition of the reduced risk of being hijacked.
Guards equipped with guns are seen as the best deterrent as no ship carrying them has ever been seized, although critics say they risk escalating conflict with heavily-armed pirates.
Governments including Britain last year dropped their opposition to armed maritime guards, triggering a big increase in their use. [Special Contingency Risks’ Will] Miller says about two thirds of his clients now deploy armed security, compared with just 10 percent in 2010.”

Tintin in the doghouse
Reuters also reports on the cooling relationship between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the fictional journalist/adventurer Tintin whose first adventure was set in the former Belgian colony and portrayed the inhabitants as “fat-lipped, childlike savages”:

“Earlier this year a Congolese man studying in Belgium tried and failed to have the book banned on the grounds of racism. Some stores in Britain have banished it to the top shelves, where only adults can see it.
Even Tintin’s creator Herge later re-wrote parts of the story, toning down the more extreme stereotypes which sprang from Belgium’s colonisation of Congo, which was brutal even by the standards of the day.”

New thinking needed
The New School for Social Research’s Tarak Barkawi argues the nation-state, which he describes as the “historic vehicle of the rise of Western world power,” is increasingly unable to deal with today’s global problems:

“More generally, in a context of economic decline, Western politicians have little to offer their citizens but more austerity. So they pander to petty nationalisms and prejudices. In the United Kingdom, British conservative politicians have stoked racism against immigrants. Much like militant Islam, they offer little but hate to their constituents because they have no positive, attractive policy.
The result is perverse. In a globalised world, the UK desperately needs migrants who contribute everything from investment to hard work to its economy. It also needs foreign students to keep its university sector – one of its most successful export industries – financially viable for British students. But anti-immigrant populism – much of it directed at Africans and Muslims – has led to a clampdown on foreign students. Universities are being incorporated into the UK’s border control regime. Foreign students have options; they and their money are likely to start going elsewhere in greater numbers.”

Latest Developments, August 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Long-awaited cleanup
The New York Times reports that “after years of rebuffing” requests for assistance, the US has started cleaning up the toxic legacy of its war with Vietnam:

“Forty years after the United States stopped spraying herbicides in the jungles of Southeast Asia in the hopes of denying cover to Vietcong fighters and North Vietnamese troops, an air base here is one of about two dozen former American sites that remain polluted with an especially toxic strain of dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases.

The program, which is expected to cost $43 million and take four years, was officially welcomed with smiles and handshakes at the ceremony. But bitterness remains here. Agent Orange is mentioned often in the news media, and victims are commemorated annually on Aug. 10, the day in 1961 when American forces first tested spraying it in Vietnam. The government objected to Olympics sponsorship this year by Dow Chemical, a leading producer of Agent Orange during the war. Many here have not hesitated to call the American program too little — it addresses only the one site — and very late.”

Migrant roundups
Human Rights Watch takes Greece to task for “ongoing sweeps targeting suspected migrants based on little more than their physical appearance”:

“Since August 4, 2012, more than 6,000 foreigners presumed to be undocumented migrants have been taken into police stations for questioning, and more than 1,500 arrested for illegal entry and residence with a view to deportation to their countries of origin.

Greek police must have specific cause to stop and question people beyond the appearance of their national origin. Mass expulsions are strictly prohibited under international law. Greece is also legally bound not to return refugees to persecution or anyone to risk of torture.”

Ethical banking
Reuters reports that as global food prices surge, some German banks are restricting food-related investments:

“Germany’s second-largest bank declined to give details about the reason for its decision to remove agricultural commodities from an exchange-traded fund (ETF), but German lobby group Foodwatch said the decision was because of ethical concerns.
‘Commerzbank is reacting to the debate about a series of studies which show that investment in this type of commodity fund pushes food prices upwards and so contributes to the hunger crisis in many parts of the world,’ Foodwatch said.”

The price of interoperability
The New York Times reports that US efforts to establish a Persian Gulf missile defense system involve selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to the region’s regimes: 

“Three weeks ago the Pentagon announced the newest addition to Persian Gulf missile defense systems, informing Congress of a plan to sell Kuwait $4.2 billion in weaponry, including 60 Patriot Advanced Capability missiles, 20 launching platforms and 4 radars. This will be in addition to Kuwait’s arsenal of 350 Patriot missiles bought between 2007 and 2010.
The United Arab Emirates acquired more than $12 billion in missile defense systems in the past four years, documents show. In December, the Pentagon announced a contract to provide the Emirates with two advanced missile defense launchers for a system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, valued at about $2 billion, including radars and command systems. An accompanying contract to supply an arsenal of interceptor missiles for the system was valued at another $2 billion, according to Pentagon documents.
Saudi Arabia also has bought a significant arsenal of Patriot systems, the latest being $1.7 billion in upgrades last year.”

Contentious lake
The Financial Times reports that oil and gas exploration by a British company has “reignited” a border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi:

“Malawi’s late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, awarded an exploration contract to UK company Surestream Petroleum during mounting tension over entitlement to the lake last October. Surestream was one of seven companies to bid for hydrocarbon exploration licenses in the Lake Malawi basin.

Tanzania intends to officially claim part ownership of the lake, demanding that Malawi cease all oil and gas exploration activity until the issue is resolved. Tanzanian officials say the clash between the two governments could escalate and jeopardise stable relations if the lake’s exploration produces significant oil and gas discoveries.
Samuel Sitta, East African cooperation minister and former acting prime minister for Tanzania, recently said Tanzania was ready to respond to military confrontation.”

London laundering
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on a new Private Eye investigation that portrays Britain as “the centre of an embezzlement industry that steals billions from the world’s poor”:

“The regulation-free tax havens where stolen loot is stashed and the bankers who wash the money are still a long way from proper regulation.
Private Eye points out that Lord Green, a current trade minister and member of the Treasury team deciding how to reform Britain’s banks, was chief executive of HSBC during the years it was turning over hundreds of millions of pounds of dirty money.
When Private Eye asked one former policeman why the bankers aren’t getting arrested for money laundering, the answer was simple: ‘They are untouchable’.”

Corporate questions
Freelance writer Oliver Balch points out that, while there may be a business case for development, there may not be a development case for business:

“Moreover, the private sector’s solution to development evolves from capitalist orthodoxy. Developing countries, the argument runs, need more consumer-driven capitalism, not less. With the world’s natural resources depleting fast, a rethink here can justifiably be demanded. [Unilever CEO Paul] Polman talks of ‘decoupling’ economic growth from environmental impacts. It’s a nice idea, of course, but hugely difficult in practice. Only one fifth of Unilever’s energy is renewable, for example – and that’s from a market leader.”

Dodging responsibility
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth’s Nnimmo Bassey looks into the ability of foreign oil companies to avoid fines imposed on them by West African governments:

“Nations that depend on export of primary resources for revenue are essentially rent collectors as they often depend on external agencies or corporations to exploit resources found in their territories. As rent collectors they have limited control over what the actual operators do in the field as the operators actually present themselves (and are seen) as benefactors of the rentier states. And the states in turn are ready to pay scant attention to human and environmental rights abuses perpetuated by these operators. Examples abound in the case of Nigeria where human and environmental rights abuses have been documented continuously over the past decades. It is thus no news when these corporations ignore court orders or blatantly challenge government agencies that attempt to enforce any form of redress.
Companies will keep calling the bluff of Nigeria and other countries to which they pose as benefactors while in reality they are rapists. This will only stop with strengthening of citizens driven democracy, legislative activism and systemic change.”

Latest Developments, August 1

In the latest news and analysis…

ATT postponed
Inter Press Service reports that six years of preparatory meetings were not enough for the US, China and Russia, as they requested “more time” in the quest for an international accord on regulating the global arms trade:

“The ‘killed’ Arms Trade Treaty is now to be referred to the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee in October, where it will be submitted to a majority vote.
The process will take a long time, [Amnesty International’s Alberto] Estevez warns.
‘It might well take two to three years at least, and that would mean that the ATT would not enter into force until 2014 or 2015,’ he told IPS.
‘A key question remains whether the largest exporter of arms – the U.S. – wants to be part of the game,’ Estevez added.”

The future of development
Agence France-Presse reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has named the 26 members of a panel established to recommend a “new development vision” to replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015:

“Ban on Tuesday named personalities ranging from Queen Rania of Jordan and German former president Horst Kohler to Tawakel Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her activism in the uprising in Yemen, and the mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas.

The corporate world is represented by Paul Polman, the Dutch chief executive of Unilever and Betty Maina, chief executive of Kenya’s Association of Manufacturers.”

Robin des Bois
Sky News reports that France is today becoming the first EU country to introduce a financial transaction tax:

“It was first proposed by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who suggested a 0.1% levy on all share purchases involving France’s biggest companies.
The country’s new leader, Francois Hollande, has been sharply critical of the financial services industry and decided to double the tax to 0.2%, while applying it to all publicly traded businesses with a market value over 1bn euros.
That means anyone buying shares, including credit default swaps, in 109 companies will have to shell out the extra euros to the French Treasury.”

Security focus
Reuters reports that, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to talk publicly about democracy and economic potential during her trip to Africa this week, her real concern will be security:

“Instead, attention has focused on AFRICOM, the unified U.S. Africa Command that the Pentagon established in 2007. It is playing an increasingly important role as the United States pumps resources into training African militaries.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, said Washington’s emphasis on security, coupled with the lack of new economic initiatives, had shifted the balance in U.S. ties with Africa.
‘It is militarization by default,’ Pham said. ‘Part of the reason is the U.S. interest in fighting al Qaeda, and part of it is because of the weakness of our African partners which are unable to contain these threats themselves.’ ”

Looting Africa
The UN Economic Commission for Africa reports on a new study that accuses foreign multinationals of illicitly transferring back to rich countries most of the $1.5 trillion they make in Africa each year, thereby “draining hard currency reserves from the continent, stimulating inflation, reducing tax collection and deepening income gaps”:

“The report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Scale and Developmental Challenges is adamant about the role of multinational corporations in what some call Africa’s greatest economic sabotage, because it ‘perpetuates Africa’s economic dependence on other regions’, it says.
It adds the depletion of investments and stifling of competition caused by these illicit transfers actually undermine trade and worsen the socio-economic fabric of poor communities in Africa, leading to shorter life expectancy due to limited spending in providing social services such as health care, according to the Information and Communication Service of ECA.”

DPAs
Compliance Week reports that the British government is looking into following the US lead on so-called deferred prosecution agreements, which “require corporate reforms and other penalties in exchange for holding off on pursuing a conviction”:

“The U.K. Ministry of Justice published a much-anticipated consultation paper recently on whether to adopt DPAs in an effort to fight corporate bribery and corruption without having to win a conviction in every case.

The U.K.’s Solicitor General and Serious Fraud Office are firmly in support of adopting the use of DPAs in Britain. As the consultation paper points out, enforcement agencies often rely on companies to self-report wrongdoing due to a lack of tools and resources. Without the ability of prosecutors to offer a plea deal, however, companies have little incentive to self-report, especially if doing so may result in a criminal conviction.”

Ease of doing business
The Associated Press reports that “liberal company laws” make New Zealand an attractive place for shady business enterprises:

“Like those before him, [American fraudster and launderer Jeffery Lowrance] found that about $130 and a little online paperwork let him set up a shell company in New Zealand without stepping foot in the country or having any financial presence. He registered First Capital Savings & Loan to an Auckland address but ran his scheme from Panama.

Some say New Zealand has yet to get serious about stopping abuse. Financial blog naked capitalism has repeatedly accused New Zealand of playing the equivalent of the arcade game ‘Whac-a-Mole’ by knocking down illegitimate operators as they pop up but not dealing with the systemic problems that give rise to the abuse.”

Haitian gold
Al Jazeera reports that with 15 percent of Haitian territory under license to North American mining companies or their partners, there are concerns over who will reap the benefits Haiti’s potential gold rush:

“Many Haitians we spoke to are divided on the issue. Some locals like Jean Igo, who has been unemployed for months, says he would welcome a job working in a mine. However, after he allowed a Canadian company to drill on his land he is now having second thoughts about doing business with foreigners.
‘I don’t trust doing business with them. They did not give us a good guarantee. They gave us a little cash but it was nothing. They promised they would give people jobs operating the machines and they did not fulfill any of their promises.’ ”

Latest Developments, July 27

In the latest news and analysis…
 
Things left unsaid
Reuters reports on the commander of US Africa Command’s assessment of the current situation in Northern Mali and the role he sees for his country’s military within that context:

“[General Carter] Ham repeated U.S. offers to broadly assist regional efforts to try to resolve Mali’s crisis, which has displaced around 420,000 people, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
But he said putting U.S. troops on the ground could be counterproductive and refused to comment on the possibility of Washington using drones for air strikes similar to those carried out on militant targets in Yemen or Pakistan.”
 
Feeling fine
Reuters also reports that a Mexican investigation into HSBC’s “lax controls against money laundering” has ended with a fine that amounted to 0.16 percent of the bank’s 2011 profits:

“Last week, a [US] Senate panel alleged that HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world’s most dangerous places, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats.
The Senate report slammed a ‘pervasively polluted’ culture at the bank and said between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7 billion into the bank’s U.S. operations.”
 
Fishing deal
Agence France-Presse reports that, after 15 months of negotiations, the EU and Mauritania have signed a new accord on access for European fishing boats to Mauritanian waters:

“The EU will contribute an annual 113 million euros ($138 million) in financing to Mauritania’s fishing industry, up from the 76.5 million it gave under the previous accord, [Mauritanian negotiator Cheikh Ould Baya] said.
That four-year protocol agreement on fishing will expire Tuesday.

According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.”
 
Climate complicity
New York University’s Alex Evans explains what he meant when he tweeted earlier this week that Greenpeace was “part of the problem rather than part of the solution”:

“Land grabs aren’t just happening on the ground in poor countries around the world; they’re happening in the sky as well. Consider this: the global carbon market was in 2010 worth $142 billion. That’s $13 billion more than total global aid flows in the same year. A hugely valuable new asset class has been created – literally out of thin air. And low income countries haven’t been given any. Despite the fact that their per capita emissions are a tiny fraction of everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, as richer countries keep pumping out the emissions, the size of the carbon budget that we’ll have to share out once we do finally decide to talk about it, keeps getting a little smaller every day. And, breathtakingly, this approach is described by Greenpeace and others as fair.”
 
Dodging Robin Hood
Bloomberg reports on some of the ways investors are likely to try to avoid France’s new financial transaction tax, which is set to take effect next week and whose revenues will go towards AIDS research:
 
“To escape the tax, many institutional investors will turn to so-called contracts for difference, or CFDs, offered by prime brokers that let them bet on a stock’s gain or loss without owning the shares. Traders have used it successfully to skirt the U.K.’s stamp duty.

Those who want to stay invested in France will find a way to avoid paying the tax, said Sam Capital’s Dietmar Schmitt.
‘There will be enough options to avoid the stamp duty in France,’ he said. ‘There are many loopholes. The people who are making the laws don’t understand the business.’ ”
 
Imperial crimes
In the wake of the British government’s admission that Kenyan prisoners were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, independent journalist Emanuel Stoakes calls on Britain to acknowledge its “many imperial crimes” or stop pretending to care:
 
“But all that happened in the past, and Britain has progressively behaved in a more civilised manner, many would argue. This may be broadly true, despite the dirty tricks evinced in the 2009 cable. Nonetheless, in responding to the Mau Mau case the UK has an opportunity to demonstrate its growing commitment to human rights as a moral, not just a policy-based, obligation. By showing some rare magnanimity, to echo the sentiments of Bishop Tutu on the subject, the UK can somehow begin to apologise for its past. By contrast, to deploy legal technicalities or to claim that too much time has passed would be to yet again fall back on expedient cruelties to avoid doing what is right.
Yet that latter, ignoble choice appears to be the one that Britain has once again taken: representing the government, Barrister Guy Mansfield QC argued without irony that for the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial would be ‘contrary to principle and the balance of fairness.’ Astonishing.”
 
Legal hoops
Legal Times reports that US federal lawyers are contending with legal obstacles in attempting to revive the prosecution against former Blackwater employees they believe “wrongly killed” at least a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007:
 
“A federal judge in December 2009 dismissed the government’s high-profile, controversial manslaughter case, saying that the prosecution was unlawfully built on protected statements that the guards made after the shooting. The prosecution, [trial judge Ricardo] Urbina concluded, was tainted with information that the prosecutors should never have used.

The big issue in the case remains this: keeping the prosecution team walled off from any protected, confidential information the Blackwater guards provided after the shooting.
An assistant U.S. attorney, John Crabb Jr., is on the so-called ‘filter team,’ reviewing evidence and witness statements before the trial prosecutors can review the material. Prosecutors and filter team lawyers and investigators recently returned from Iraq. There, prosecutors did not interview witnesses before filter team members spoke with them, Crabb said.”
 
Extracting transparency
European parliamentary advisor Benjamin Fox argues that British Prime Minister David Cameron is not following through on the commitments he made in last year’s Nigerian speech on greater extractive industry transparency:
 
“The perversity of the government’s position is that developing nations would need far less aid if they were allowed to get a decent chunk of revenue from exploiting their own resources. Today, even in a climate where there are no reporting requirements for extractive companies, Africa’s income from its resources is six times the amount it receives in aid.
On political, economic and moral grounds, the case for project-by-project reporting is unarguable. We should be able to see where extractive companies are operating, whether they are paying a fair price and whether governments are selling their people short by giving their country’s mineral wealth away too cheaply.”