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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

No Rights For Humans

‘I have travelled in many countries. I have seen many civil wars and revolutions and wars. I have never seen such cold blooded murder, organised disciplined murder, planned murder.’ Fulvio Grimaldi, eyewitness to Bloody Sunday.

Anthony McIntyre • 16.01.03

It was with an acrid taste in my mouth that I found former British prime minister, Ted Heath being paraded in front of the Saville Inquiry in London to be questioned about his part in the Bloody Sunday killings of 31 years ago. It was a bitterness accentuated by awareness that this is as far as it goes; that we will not see this massacre denier on trial in the Hague alongside Milosevic. There seems no eminently good reason why Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb president, can face trial - and conviction, she pleaded guilty - at the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and Ted Heath can come, chauffer-driven, and handcuff-free to a venue in London - ultimately to walk away. One thing is certain: no matter what verdict Saville arrives at Heath will not spend one night in the cells. As the Daily Telegraph joyously observed ‘it is almost inconceivable that any criminal charges will arise.’

And yet we are left to stomach the nauseating hypocrisy of those who wish to lecture the rest of the world on human rights proclaiming their determination - Madeline Albright's lamentable attempt at mitigation notwithstanding - to ensure that many a year will have passed before Biljana Plavsic, once the ‘Iron Lady of the Balkans’ and Bosnian Serb president between 1996 and 1998, leaves the greyness of her confinement to emerge blinking into the sun of society. The complaint here is not that Plasvic does not belong where she is, merely that she should have a lot more so called political leaders to keep her company throughout the long prison evenings, whiling away the time exchanging tales of machete or napalm attacks, dropping tranquilised and powerless victims into the sea from helicopters, castrations, executions, rape and torture; along with a nightcap - that old favourite of the war criminal - disappearances. With enough of them confined and with ample time on their hands they could maybe even devise and patent a new board game, Secret Grave Hunt.

In the case of the head of a British Government which murdered people whom it claimed were its own citizens and subjects of its queen, the Incredible Sulk, as Tom Utley claims to have once labelled Heath, will most likely view the matter at worst as a minor irritant, one of these laborious procedures that have to be grudgingly undergone to placate the discourse of human rights. If sufficiently shrewd he will view it as an opportunity to perform considerably better than he ever did at the despatch box during prime minister’s parliamentary question time. The Inquiry affords him an opportunity for more publicity than he has had for quite some time. Not a bad return for one more akin to Galtieri than Mandela. And, ironical as ever, human rights abusers find sufficient numbers of humans to bail them out.

In a recent commentary piece the same Tom Utley of the Daily Telegraph complained that 'for the first time in British history, a former prime minister is to be hauled before an official tribunal and made to account for his actions when he was in office 30 years ago.' Utley's piece was replete with language and inflexions strategically devised to mobilise bias in favour of Heath. The readers were treated to a sympathy symphony, the chords of which undulate to the rhythmic beat: 'poor health ... suffered a fall ... frailty ... old man'. Having said all that, Utley rapidly dispensed with the sentiment and cut to the chase. 'It is absolutely monstrous that any former prime minister, old and frail or not, should be subjected to the interrogation awaiting Sir Edward in the weeks ahead.' In other words the elite and powerful in society are to be granted eternal immunity for anything they might have got up to while in office. In a bid to shield the logic of this Utley declares that ‘there has already been one official inquiry, conducted by Lord Widgery in 1972, when the evidence was much fresher in everybody's minds. That inquiry was not the whitewash that so many have said it was.’ One suspects that had Widgery found that all the victims committed suicide under the direction of some republican Jim Jones of the People's Temple infamy, Tom Utley would have found reason to concur.

After that nonsense, it probably seems self-indulgent to probe Utley’s reactionary musings any further. But one further comment, at least, is worthy of attention because it underscores just how Utley's own logic brings him right up to the wire only to see him at the moment of truth recoil like a vampire, having had a cross thrust into its face: ‘Mr Blair may live to rue the day when he set up the Saville Inquiry, and treated his predecessor at Number 10 in the way that he treated General Pinochet.’ This, for those seeking justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday, is the unpalatable crux because it is exactly the manner in which Blair, fortunately for Tom Utley, is going to treat Heath. And is it not a travesty that Pinochet was ever allowed to walk away rather than face justice in Spain for the crimes against humanity that he was indisputably guilty of while smashing Chilean democracy? Utley should rejoice rather than recoil at the prospect.

The difficulty for him lies in an unwillingness to understand the obvious. Just as Julius Streicher stepped into nothingness from a Nuremburg gallows cursing and blaming in equal measure the people he had murdered, Utley too finds it incomprehensible that the victims of the authoritarian coterie for whom he slavishly wielded his pen should ever be allowed to question it about its abuses. Writing in March 2001 of Margaret Thatcher’s stroke induced illness being met with glee in some British circles he claimed that he ‘could just about understand it if she had been a homicidal maniac or a woman who rejoiced in the suffering of others.’ What, we may wonder is so difficult to understand about that?

The nemesis now haunting the generals, dictators, state murderers, torturers, presidents and prime ministers who massacred civilians, wears the clothes of human rights, democracy and transparency. But for those whom it stalks, that very attire - even in the anodyne form of Saville - makes it appear like the grim reaper. Small wonder that Tom Utley could write ‘all Tories worthy of the description should be strongly against human rights.’ All the more reason for the rest of us to support such rights and to be strongly against Tories.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

17 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


No Rights For Humans
Anthony McIntyre


The Fight For America's Soul

Julie Brown


The Bloody Streets of New York
Mike Davis


The Left Betrays the Iraqi People by Opposing War
Nick Cohen


Missive To America
Annie Higgins


The Letters page has been updated.


12 January 2003


Political Violence and Questions of Legitimacy
Christina Sherlock


Acquiring Transmission Points
Anthony McIntyre


The Blood Stays on the Blade

Seaghán Ó Murchú


Identity Under Siege
Paul de Rooij


No War On Iraq
Davy Carlin


Picket In Support of Human Rights Activists




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