International civil society organizations call for immediate implementation of reforms in Syria

Over the past 12 days, peaceful protests in Syria have been faced with violence. The blood of too many people was spilled and others were arrested and beaten by security forces. As long as this violence goes on, the Syrian government’s legitimacy will diminish by the day both in the eyes of the Syrian people as in the eyes of the international community.

The commitments to reform made by the Syrian government are welcome and necessary. Until now, although some call for regime change, a majority of Syrians apparently wants to give president Bashar al-Assad a chance to reform. Hence it prefers a calm but meaningful transition from within over a sudden and radical revolution with the risk of violent escalation. However, the opportunity to reform will soon evaporate when the Syrian government continues to shed the blood of peaceful protesters. The president will lose his legitimacy and his chance to initiate reforms. Therefore it is essential, that the Syrian government stands by it’s commitment to reform and carries out the actual reforms within a short and clear time frame.

In light of that urgency, international civil society organizations call on the EU and its Member States to step up their diplomatic efforts to ensure the violence will end and a meaningful and timely reform process takes place. The government’s announcements to reform are an important start, but they lack a timetable and come short of some of the legitimate demands of the protestors.

Measures
Therefore the following measures, already called for by a group of important Syrian activists, thinkers and religious leaders, (see annex) are necessary:
– The immediate lifting of the State of Emergency;
– The immediate release of all political prisoners;
– Ensuring freedom of expression and of association in law and practice;
– Making room for political pluralism and an inclusive political system, through constitutional reform;
– Stepping up measures to fight corruption;
– Equal rights for minorities;
– Gender inequality has to be addressed right from the beginning of the reform process and should not be postponed.

Human rights violations
Moreover, it is necessary that no more human rights violations occur during protests and that those that took place are investigated:
– No violence should be used against peaceful protesters;
– Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the violence against protesters in the towns of Deraa and Sanamayn. This commission should include civil society lawyers. Those found responsible for killing protesters should be brought to a fair and transparent trial;
– No arrests without charges or trial, no disappearances. Dozens of demonstrators and activists have been arrested over the past days and some have disappeared;
– Ensure access to means of communication, such as internet and mobile phone;
– Ensure access by independent media.
The decisions taken in Syria to reform are an important step that the European Union and its Member States should indeed support. In our view, the EU as a whole has reacted rather slow and declaratory during the popular uprisings in the Arab world. Therefore we call upon the EU and its Member States to act proactively in the case of Syria. The Syrian protest movement’s legitimate demands need to be met within a clear and prompt timetable and all human rights violations must be stopped. This means the EU should not wait for other actors, such as the Arab League, but immediately deploy its diplomatic weight as well as its assistance. Moreover, the EU and its Member States should step up diplomatic efforts with all parties involved in the political process in Syria preventing that the protests and insecure situation devolve into violent conflict. Today, the window of opportunity to reform is still open, but tomorrow it may be too late.

Information
For further information please contact:
Marcel van der Heijden, mheijden@hivos.nl , T + 31(0)70 376 55 00, M +31 (0)640968348
Jan Jaap van Oosterzee, vanoosterzee@ikvpaxchristi.nl, T +31 (0)30 2333346, M +31 (0)6 48981486

Signatories:
Asuda for Combating Violence Against Women
Front Line
Hivos
Human Rights Defenders Network Iraq
IKV Pax Christi
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Justice for Iran
Kvinna till Kvinna
Middle East Citizens Assembly
MECA Pakistan Chapter
Morocco Citizens Assembly
Organisation for Women’s Freedom Iraq
Pax Christi International
V-Day Karama
WADI
Women Living Under Muslim Law

The petition is still open for organizations working in Syria and other countries in the Arab World. If your organization wants to support the petition, please contact the contact persons mentioned above.

Green Lords candidates hustings questions: my answers

[These are my answers to the official hustings questions that Green members have asked those of us applying for possible nomination to the Lords as Greens:]

 

Question 1: The purpose of the House of Lords is to scrutinise and amend legislation drafted by the House of Commons. This is highly technical work, as are the rules governing procedures and processes within the House.    Could you tell us how your background and work experience have given you the skills to work with draft legislation as a Green peer, and what those skills are?

·         I’ve served two terms as a Green Councillor (and am now stepping down). I’ve been involved repeatedly, often under great time-pressure, often at length, in drafting/amending motions for Council, policy, Committee recommendations, etc. . My experience as a politician working with draft local ‘legislation’ will greatly help in the Lords.

·         I am a much-published philosopher of language. So I am used to engaging in extremely detailed – some might even say nit-picking – work, over tiny nuances of meaning, intent, sense and otherwise.

·         For more directly-relevant information, see: http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=421

Question 2: Are you in favour of abolishing the monarchy?

Yes. For some detail on how, see: http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=429  

Question 3: Do you agree that promoting workers’ co-operatives is an important aspect of laying the foundations for a green society? If you do, how would you work for this in the House of Lords?

 I am an active member of the Co-operative movement, and formerly belonged to a workers’ co-op (in a grocery). The most important way in which as a Lord I’d work to promote workers’ co-ops is: by amending (and introducing!) legislation easing the way for co-operatives and reducing the scope for big-business. E.g: I’ve been instrumental in successful motions at Conference to expand the role of mutuals and co-operatives in the financial sector, and radically to reduce the role for private commercial banks.   Ultimately, legislation revoking the right to limited liability in corporations which behave unethically will be the best way of ‘nudging’ people toward workers’ co-ops as an alternative.

Question 4: How would you support growth in renewable energy provision and wide-spread conversion to electric cars?

 I was instrumental in the move toward ESCOs in Norwich and Norfolk Green Party policy and now practice (See http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=422 & http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/27-02-2011-norwich-energy-company-em.html ). At the national level, the answer on how to grow renewables is basically the Green New Deal.

 In terms of electric-cars: Here, great care is needed. A fleet of electric-cars would be better than a fleet of petrol-cars, provided that they were run on renewable energy (and not, e.g., on nuclear-based-electricity!). But do we want to devote precious time and money to pushing for electric-cars, or instead to focus on (e.g.) planning-policy to drastically reduce the need to travel? On balance, I’d favour the latter.

Question 5: If elected, what will you do, if anything, to further the cause of the immediate abolition of the House of Lords and the creation of a democratically-elected second chamber of the British parliament?

Unlike most Green candidates for the Lords, I have made crystal-clear my strong commitment to working as a Lord to abolish the Lords (http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=421 ). For detail on how I’d do this, see http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=429

 

Compass: Greens join up!

See the link below: It’s great that Compass decided to do this. Now at last there is a venue in which we can explore the great deal that we have in common, across Parties.
I think that Labour people in Compass will be surprised, even shocked, by how pro-equality, etc., most of us in the Green Party are.
As has been pointed out, all that you need to do to get an idea of this is to look at the Green Manifesto for the last election and compare it to Labour’s. Virtually everyone in Compass would certainly prefer the former to the latter.
So: Now we can start building a progressive alliance that can challenge Cameron and Clegg next time.

Whence/whither the Green Party?

Here is a short list of some of the main developments to have taken place in the Green Party in this country in the last few years:
1) This is quite interesting: A couple of years ago, there would hardly have been a page like this on the ‘Daily Telegraph’ website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/green-party/
2) My piece from OPEN DEMOCRACY responding to Caroline’s election as MP last year: http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=616
3) Here is possibly the most important substantive thing that the British Green Party has done for the world in the last few years: the concept of the Green New Deal, originated by Caroline’s intellectual soulmate and report-writer Colin Hines, in concert with a bunch of other luminaries including of course Caroline herself: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news-archive/3493.html
4) My take on the issues facing the Green Party recently/currently organisationally etc.:

5) The Party has rejigged its science policy fundamentally in the last 18 months. Here is an installment: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/apr/29/green-party-science-policy Here is the most recent achieved state of affairs: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/02/the-green-party-now-has-a-science-policy-i-can-be-proud-of/ [I chaired the debate in question, which was surprisingly consensual.]
6) Here is the most important thing to have happened internally in the Party in the last few years: the leadership referendum, which required a two thirds majority, which was achieved with room to spare. Without this achievement, of which I was one of the movers, Caroline surely wouldn’t have been elected as MP: http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2007/12/leadership-referendum-result.html

Potential health consequences of the nuclear explosion at the Fukushima reactor in Japan

Important information for anyone potentially affected: The Low Level Radiation Campaign website carries basic advice for people living downwind of the releases of radioactivity.

On BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, 13th March, Dr. Chris Busby spoke about the potential health effects of the Fukushima explosion. Listen at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00zd8g4/The_World_This_Weekend_13_03_2011/ (the site may prompt you to download software to enable you to listen. Dr. Busby’s interview is 9 minutes into the broadcast).

Dr. Busby said the reassurances being issued now by official sources and by apologists for the nuclear industry are exactly the same as those issued 25 years ago, at the time of Chernobyl. Risks were understated, as show by subsequent epidemiological studies.

Statements about allegedly low health risks are based on rates of gamma radiation measured at the site perimeter. These take no account of radiation from alpha-emitting radionuclides such as Uranium and Plutonium. It is of particular concern that the number 3 reactor at Fukushima which is now in a problematic condition is fuelled with Mixed-Oxide fuel containing Plutonium. 

The health consequences of exposure to radioactive releases from nuclear plant cannot be accurately assessed by making radiation measurements based on absorbed dose. The authorities already downplay risks on the basis of the false radiation risk model advised by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). This is an exact replication of the responses to the similar Chernobyl explosion. The effects of the Chernobyl accident have been devastating and continue to affect the health of the exposed populations as far away from Chernobyl as Europe and the USA. A major volume published in 2010 by the New York Academy of Sciences reveals a death toll of approaching 1 million persons by 2005.

Absorbed dose readings (milliSieverts) cannot be employed as measures of risk because some radioactive substances act from within the body, with especially high risk imparted by those that bind to DNA (e.g Strontium-90 and Uranium). Dose to the local tissue or DNA can be enormous while the average dose recorded by a Geiger counter may be barely detectable. (More information)

            If significant amounts of radioactivity from the Fukushima plume approach populated centres in any country  (e.g. the western USA) the European Committee on Radiation Risk advises:

1. Do not believe assurances from radiation protection advisors working for any government. They are based on an obsolete model. This is a potential Chernobyl level event and must be seen as extremely serious.

2. If possible obtain a Geiger Counter or a similar radiation detector or readings from someone who owns one. If the readings increase to more that twice the normal background in your area or to a level of more than 300nSv/h (300nGy/h)  then:

3. Get away as soon as possible to a clean area. If it is not possible to evacuate, stay indoors and keep all the doors and windows closed for as long as the radiation levels are higher than normal. Try to keep the house sealed as far as possible.

4. Drink bottled water, use only tinned milk. Avoid fresh garden produce. (We acknowledge that this is difficult advice for the people of Japan, where local produce is economically important.) Await further bulletins from www.llrc.org and www.euradcom.org

 

Contact: Prof Chris Busby, Scientific Secretary ECRR +44 7989 428833; +44 1970 630215; 

Email: Mireille de Messieres: admin@greenaudit.org

Richard Bramhall: bramhall@llrc.org

POLITICAL REFORM and the ALTERNATIVE VOTE

a Public Meeting on #Yes2AV and beyond, with:
 
Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party Leader
 
Ian Gibson, former Norwich MP.
 
All welcome to discuss reform of the voting system, reform of Parliament and reform of politics in general.
 
Thursday 31st March, 5 for 5:30pm, Chantry Hall, Chantry Road (next to Assembly Rooms).
 
Refreshments served from 5pm.
 
…Come and join me and fellow Greens there!

Tory lies: AV & the BNP

“Mr Cameron…wants to highlight the potential boost to minority parties such as the British National Party.”
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1364373/Tory-crisis-talks-threat-AV-defeat-amid-warnings-apathy-gift-Yes-vote-victory.html#ixzz1GT9cpLUL

 
PM Cameron is apparently preparing to outright-lie in his increasing desperation over potential defeat in the May 5 referendum. For the truth is the very opposite of his big lie. As I’ve shown in detail (See http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/02/18/two-reasons-why-libdems-might-not-benefit-from-av/ & http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=430 & http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=432 & http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=434), AV is the worst of all possible systems for the BNP. Which is presumably why the BNP are vigorously and paranoidly opposing it…
William Hague has already pioneered the big lie that AV will help the BNP: See http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=433 . Hague’s position in British politics is increasingly vulnerable: one of the reasons why he may have to go as Foreign Secretary is because of his bizarre lie a fortnight ago that Gaddafi was flying to Venezuala, which was clearly calculated simply to smear Chavez. Does Cameron really want to start looking as bad and frequent a liar as Hague?
 
Cameron would be well-advised not to try to use the BNP card against AV. It will haunt him, if he does. For, once more: the truth is that AV, being a system in which voters can gang up on unpopular Parties, will help ensure that the BNP never gets elected to Westminster – and moreover, if introduced in local government elections, would lead to the defeat of virtually all their Councillors.