December 20, 2012 By 1 Comment
ANDREW GRICE The Independent Dec 19, 2012 An attempt by David Cameron to pave the way for a British Bill of Rights suffered a setback today when a commission set up by the Government failed to agree amongst themselves. Although seven of the nine members of the Commission on a Bill of Rights agreed there is a strong argument for a UK law, two members opposed the idea, warning that it could be “dangerous, with unintended consequences“. The deadlock is likely to mean little progress on legislation to reform human rights is made before the next general election. The Conservatives are likely to offer a “British Bill” in their manifesto in 2015. But the Liberal Democrats, who do not want to dilute the commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, will seize on the split on the Commission. The review was launched by the Coalition after mounting Tory pressure to reform human rights laws after a string of controversial rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, such as saying that prisoners should be allowed to vote at general elections and blocking the extradition of alleged terrorists… Read more here
December 17, 2012 By 349 Comments
Former Prime Minister’s role as representative of Middle East Quartet comes in for fiercest criticism MATTHEW KALMAN The Independent Dec 17, 2012 Palestinian officials say Tony Blair shouldn’t take it personally, but he should pack up his desk at the Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem and go home. They say his job, and the body he represents, are “useless, useless, useless”.
Mr Blair became the representative of the Middle East Quartet – the UN, EU, US and Russia – a few weeks after leaving Downing Street. Last week, he visited the region for what he said was the 90th time since being appointed in June 2007. He spends one week a month based in Jerusalem or globetrotting on behalf of the Quartet. His office is funded by the Quartet members and his 24-hour security detail is on secondment from Scotland Yard but he receives no direct salary. After four years of renting 15 rooms at the American Colony Hotel for his full-time staff, Mr Blair put down more permanent roots in 2011 by renting the penthouse of a new office building in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Please Read MoreBut senior Palestinian officials and analysts told The Independent the move was unnecessary – his sojourn in the region should be cut short. “The Quartet has been useless, useless, useless,” Mohammed Shtayyeh, an aide to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said last week. He suggested that its constant need to reach internal consensus among its warring participants had rendered it ineffective. “Always the statement of the Quartet really means nothing because it was always full of what they call constructive ambiguity that really took us to nowhere,” said Mr Shtayyeh, who had just ended a meeting with Mr Blair. “You need a mediator who is ready to engage and who is ready to say to the party who is destroying the peace process ‘You are responsible for it’,” he said. Mr Shtayyeh is not alone. Last February, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution pronounced the body already dead in a report bluntly entitled The Middle East Quartet: A Post-Mortem. “The Quartet has little to show for its decade-long involvement in the peace process. Israelis and Palestinians are no closer to resolving the conflict, and in the few instances in which political negotiations did take place, the Quartet’s role was usually relegated to that of a political bystander,” said the report. “Having spent most of the last three years in a state of near paralysis, and having failed to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking UN membership and recognition in September 2011, the Quartet has finally reached the limits of its utility.