Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’
The Associated Press has a summary of unrest in the Middle East:
Syria’s vice president calls for a transition to democracy in a country ruled for four decades by an authoritarian family dynasty, crediting mass protests with forcing the regime to consider reforms while also warning against further demonstrations. Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was speaking at a national dialogue. Key opposition figures driving the four-month-old uprising boycott the meeting, refusing to talk until a deadly crackdown on protesters ends.
Army troops firing in the air clash with stone-throwing protesters in the strategic city of Suez after crowds block a key highway to push for faster reform efforts, including probes of alleged abuses during the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Suez has been hit by days of unrest over calls for swifter action against Mubarak-era officials. In Cairo, protesters block access to the Egyptian capital’s largest government building and threaten to expand sit-ins to other sites.
Elsewhere the Torygraph reports:
“In scenes that would have been remarkable before four months of protests and violent suppression, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad allowed public criticism to be aired at a televised conference and promised “multi-party democracy” in response.
“The bullets are still being fired in Homs and Hama,” said one participant, the writer Tayyeb Tizini, of two major cities that have seen repeated demonstrations. “Laying the foundations for a civil society requires the dismantling of the police state.
“That’s an absolute prerequisite, because otherwise the police state will sabotage all our efforts.” He also called for the freeing of “thousands” of political prisoners, some who he said had been in prison for years.
But the convention was boycotted by many more leading dissidents and opposition figures with links to the street protests, calling its final purpose into question. “I thought 1,500 people died for more than a dialogue between the regime and itself,” one activist wrote on Twitter. “
We often think we have it hard in the West, but the reality is different. Particularly when you consider what happens to you in China if you step out of line. You get beaten up or jailed. That’s what happened to Chen Guangcheng, AFP reports:
“WASHINGTON — A blind Chinese activist who exposed abuses in Beijing’s population control policy was beaten unconscious by dozens of men led by a communist party official, his wife said in a letter released Thursday.
Human rights groups earlier reported an attack on activist Chen Guangcheng in February, but the account from his wife — who said she was also severely abused and remains under house arrest — offered graphic new details.
Wife Yuan Weijing said that 70 to 80 men stormed their home in February. She said around 10 beat her husband for more than two hours while the others trashed the place, taking away a computer, video-camera and even flashlights.
“Some of them twisted his arms forcefully while the others were pushing his head down and lifting his collar up tightly. Given his poor health condition of long-time diarrhea, Guangcheng was not able to resist and passed out after more than two hours of torture,” she wrote.
The letter was released by ChinaAid, a US-based rights group. It said it received the letter on Wednesday.
Yuan said the couple was not allowed medical treatment. She said she was covered with a blanket and beaten, which she believed caused her broken ribs. She said she could not see for five to six days and still cannot stand up straight.
Yuan said that the assailants were led by a local communist party vice secretary and included policemen, although they did not wear uniforms or show legal documents.
Yuan said that authorities have stepped up pressure on them since the beating, with their five-year-old daughter also under house arrest and Chen’s mother followed constantly by three men.
Previous attempts to verify the couple’s condition independently were unsuccessful. Reporters from Western news organizations said they were roughed up in February when they tried to reach Chen’s home in the city of Linyi.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer blind since childhood, served more than four years in prison after he exposed widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilizations under China’s policy of restricting most families to one child.
He was released in September and put under house arrest. He later made a daring video, also released by ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke up.
“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.
Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.
His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.
“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”
Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.
On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.
The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.
“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “
Officials at the UN offices in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, have handed over human rights protesters to the Bahraini security forces according to information coming out of Twitter and Demotix:
“Three Bahrain women, Asma Darwish,Sawsan Jawad and Zainab Alkhawaja have been arrested as they began a hunger strike calling for immediate action to be taken by the UN, on political prisoners in Bahrain. “
So instead of helping the women, the UN officials hand them over to the very people they should be protecting them from. Despicable.
As the regime in Bahrain puts medical staff in the dock, they’ve managed to do what only the worst dictatorships, mad monarchs and authoritarians do, lock up a poet.
“MANAMA — A Bahraini court sentenced a young Shi’ite poet to one year in prison on Sunday for taking part in illegal protests and incitement against the Gulf state’s monarchy.
Ayat al-Qurmouzi, 20, was arrested after she recited a poem mocking the Bahraini king and demanding he step down, during protests led by the country’s Shi’ite majority that gripped the kingdom in February and March.
A relative confirmed her sentence, saying Qurmouzi’s family had feared for her safety in detention.
Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, called in troops from its fellow Sunni-led Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia to help it crush the pro-democracy protests in March.
Qurmouzi is one of about 400 people, most of them Shi’ites, who the Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq says have been put on trial for their roles in the protests.
Some 50 people have already been given sentences ranging from short prison terms to execution, the group says.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in a statement on Sunday that Qurmouzi and others had been ill-treated in custody. “
The Guardian covers it here.
On top of that, Bahrain’s rulers are prosecuting medical staff, in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention:
“Manama, Bahrain (CNN) — Dozens of doctors and nurses went on trial Monday in Bahrain, accused of taking control of a hospital during anti-government protests, storing weapons and keeping people prisoner.
The doctors, their lawyers and international human rights activists say the defendants were tortured to extract confessions against a background of demonstrations in the kingdom.
Eleven male doctors appeared in court Monday, their heads shaven, alongside at least five female doctors. They appeared stressed and anxious.
One of the doctors tried to tell the judge that his confession had been extracted under torture, but the judge told him to stop and that he would be able to give evidence later in the trial.
Human rights groups have accused the government of widespread attacks on doctors and other medical workers.
“We documented a systematic attack on medical staff in Bahrain including the beatings, torture and disappearances of more than 30 physicians,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.
“We found doctors were simply providing ethical and life-saving medical care to patients whom Bahraini security forces had shot, detained and tortured,” Sollom said.
Physicians for Human Rights, a group that shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to ban landmines, says it sent investigators to the Persian Gulf kingdom and interviewed 45 patients, doctors, nurses and witnesses.
The report details attacks on “physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas and unidentified chemical agents,” the group said in an April report.
Its report echoes those released earlier by Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders.
Amnesty International highlights the plight of medical staff in Bahrain that are scheduled to go on trial on Monday.
It seems that the Iranian state is getting people accustomed to the idea of a nuclear test, or at least that is one plausible reading coming out of this piece in the Guardian.
Apparently, a Tory MP has sexually assaulted a woman, and guess who he blames? The woman. Then he proceeds to cast doubt on the veracity of the victim’s account of the assault. I am sure if UCU members read the Indy article with a critical eye they will see a message there.
Another EDL thug.
It’s not a complicated document, rather a simple A4 sheet, dating from 17th August 2005.
WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM
The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.
Working definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.
Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
• Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
• Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
• Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
• Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
• Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
• Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property—such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries—are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.”
I think anyone that follows the Middle East would appreciate how the despots and dictators in that region have manipulated, exploited and used the Palestinians as a political football, for their own purposes, but even I was surprised at this story in the Guardian:
“Israeli troops have clashed with protesters on the Syrian border for the second time in less than a month, with several dozen reported injured and claims that up to 20 had been killed.
The violence had been widely predicted after organisers called for a symbolic March on Israel to mark 44 years since the beginning of the six day war in 1967.
However, the clashes were smaller in scale than the last time pro-Palestinian activists confronted Israeli soldiers along borders with Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon.
The Syrian village of Majd al-Shams was again the focal point with an estimated 1,000 Syrians and Palestinians surging to within 20 metres of the fenced off border over six hours. They threw stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli troops as snipers fired rubber-coated bullets and live rounds at some activists,
One demonstrator who was wounded that day told the Guardian the Lebanese militia Hezbollah had given him $50 to turn up at the border and $900 to have his gunshot wounds treated by physicians. He said he had been planning to return to Maroun al-Ras yesterday until the rally was cancelled.
But as the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on protests show, protesters are only allowed to gather when the state allows them. The Golan area of Syria is off-limits without state permission.”
The situation in Syria is still very serious, yet in the West comparatively little is heard of Syrian’s dire circumstances or the true level of State organised murder.
In the Western media, the regime’s violent is under reported and not given the prominence that it should have.
This is another example of how the dictatorship in Syria treats people:
“BEIRUT — The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.
What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.
Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.
And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.
It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments. “
One time radical and firebrand, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone with the money.
He is backing the murderous President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not too surprising, because if he didn’t, he would lose the support of the Iranian regime and their money.
Since the uprising against the Syrian dictators some 1100 people have been killed by the regime and their thugs, according to Sawasiah, ABC News reports:
“Human rights activists in Syria say the two-month crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters has cost the lives of at least 1,100 people.
The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah says it has the names of 1,100 people reportedly killed during the unrest that broke out in mid-March.
Most were from southern areas in Hauran Plain – including the city of Deraa where the protests first began two months ago.
The human rights group says it in fact has heard reports of another 200 civilian deaths but has no names to base the figures on.
The death toll in Syria rose sharply after the protests spread from Deraa to other parts of the country.”
Yahoo News has more on Nasrallah’s speech:
” “We call on all Syrians to preserve their country as well as the ruling regime, a regime of resistance, and to give their leaders a chance to cooperate with all Syria’s communities in order to implement the necessary reforms,” he said in the speech broadcast by his party’s Al-Manar television.
The speech, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after a 22-year occupation, was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the village of Nabi Sheet, a Shiite stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
It was the first time the reclusive Hezbollah chief commented on the protests in Syria, which along with Iran is a major backer of his Shiite militant party.
“The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria… is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries,” said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.
“CAIRO — Saudi authorities have re-arrested an activist who defied a ban on female drivers in the conservative kingdom, a security official said Monday.
Manal al-Sherif was accused of “violating public order” and ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.
The 32-year-old al-Sherif launched a campaign against the longtime ban last week by posting a video clip on the Internet of herself behind the wheel in the eastern city of Khobar.
Through Facebook, the campaigners set June 17 as the day all women should drive their cars. The page, called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for the call. The campaign’s Twitter account also was deactivated.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.
Al-Sherif was initially detained for several hours on Saturday by the country’s religious police and released after she signed a pledge agreeing not to drive.
She was re-arrested on Sunday at dawn, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “
Update 1: The 17th June 2011 could be an interesting day in Saudi Arabia:
“This law is simply a backward, visceral objection to the thought of a woman behind the wheel, a physical embodiment of a volition which is too offensive to enact. It is about maintaining some semblance of control, the erosion of which it is thought would be complete if women were allowed to drive.
There is this odd view of women in the kingdom as being always on the cusp of dissolute behaviour – reminiscent of an attitude towards slaves who would rebel and murder their owners if not kept perpetually oppressed. This is a ghastly spiral, where the worse the victim is treated, the worse they are likely to be pre-emptively repressed. When arguing against allowing women to uncover their heads or faces in public, some (men and women) respond that if that if this were to pass, women would surely walk around in semi-nudity.
It doesn’t occur to these people that public codes of dress do not exist in most other Arab countries, and women still manage to dress in a culturally appropriate way. Women are allowed to drive throughout the conservative Arabian Gulf, and these societies have not imploded in moral degradation.
The Saudi driving ban is a social, rather than political, issue, over which the authorities would rather not incur the religious establishment’s wrath or create controversy. But if there is one lesson Arab rulers would do well to heed, it is that withholding rights raises the chances of an explosion of dissent.
The arrest of Sharif certainly appears to have done nothing to dissuade the Women2Drive campaign from going ahead; if anything it seems to have garnered it more publicity. There are reports that the religious police are teaming up with traffic forces to patrol and stymie the campaign. If these are to be believed, then Saudi Arabia is in for a first-of-its-kind confrontation on 17 June. “
Women in Saudi Arabia can’t even drive their own cars, without a driver or a relative to do that job for them. Many are effectively prisoners in their homes, still some brave women are fighting back:
This is their channel on YouTube, ksawomen2drive.
Update 1: Manal al-Sherif has been detained for driving herself, AP has more:
“RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Authorities detained a Saudi woman on Saturday after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her.
Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience.
“This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country” learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video. “At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?”
Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif was detained by the country’s religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom’s rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed.
Al-Sherif was released hours later, according to the campaign’s Twitter account. The terms of her release were not immediately clear.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.
Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, and no woman can sit on the kingdom’s Cabinet. Women also cannot travel without permission from a male guardian and shouldn’t mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers. “
“111 trade union leaders and members, including the President of the IUF-affiliated TEKGIDA-İŞ along with four other national officers of the union and 12 branch presidents, and current and former officers of the national centers DISK and KESK, have been indicted on criminal charges in connection with an April 1 demonstration in Ankara in support of 12,000 tobacco workers whose jobs and acquired rights were eliminated overnight.
The charges carry prison terms of up to 5 years.
The trials, which begin on June 3, are a massive attack on trade union rights and the rights of all workers. ”
The IUF has more:
“The Turkish government has filed criminal charges against 111 union leaders, members and supporters which carry prison terms of up to 5 years in connection with a 2010 demonstration in Ankara. The Ankara action was in support of 12,000 workers made redundant overnight following the privatization of the state tobacco monopoly TEKEL.
Following the sale of the TEKEL tobacco manufacturing activities to BAT in February 2008, the state retained control over the 40 warehouses where leaf and semi-processed tobacco was stored. IUF-affiliated Tekgida-Is, which represents the workforce at TEKEL, continually sought negotiations with the government over the future of the 12,000 warehouse workers, who were offered only insecure contracts at half their former wages and no rights or benefits. In December 2009, their employment was abruptly terminated.
Three months of union protests in Ankara brought no results, but as a goodwill gesture the union ceased public action and waited for a response to their demands for new employment with acquired rights – as required under Turkish law.
When the government failed to offer anything concrete, TEKGIDA-IS and their many supporters demonstrated again in Ankara on April 1, 2010. They were beaten and pepper-gassed – and now they face prison. “
(H/T: Eric Lee)
Below is the minutes of a meeting at the London School of Economics which discussed taking money from Gaddafi’s Libya. A copy of this is on the web, I put it here as a matter of public record.
“THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
20 October 2009
A meeting of the Council was held on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 in BOX, 5th Floor, Tower 3
PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.
BY INVITATION: Mr Mike Bragg (Staff Consultative Council), Mr Roger Mountford (Nominated Officer, LSE Enterprise).
IN ATTENDANCE: Ms Jenny Bone, Ms Barbara Bush, Mr Adrian Hall, Professor David Held (until Minute No. 21), Ms Fiona Kirk, Ms Jayne Rose, Ms Jean Sykes, Mr Wayne Tatlow.
APOLOGIES: Mr Stephen Barclay, Howard Davies, Mr Richard Goeltz (North American Advisory Board), Mr Mario Francescotti, Ms Sophie de la Hunt, Mr Wol Kolade, Professor Richard Sennett, Mr Peter Sutherland.
10. Council stood as a mark of respect for Professor Antoine Faure-Grimaud of the Department of Finance who died on 6 July 2009 at the age of 41.
11. The Chairman welcomed Ms Bronwyn Curtis to her first meeting of the Council.
12. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that Mr Peter Sutherland was recovering from a period of ill health. Mr Sutherland had retained a keen interest in the School during his period of recuperation and had been kept abreast of School developments. He hoped to return to the School later in the Michaelmas Term.
13. RESOLVED: that the Secretary and Director of Administration would convey to the Chairman the best wishes of the Council.
MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2009
14. RECEIVED: the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009.
15. RESOLVED: that the minutes be approved as a correct record.
Donation for the Centre for Global Governance
16. RECEIVED: paper CL/2, “Libya Gift”, comprising introductory remarks from the Director, a letter from Professor Fred Halliday entitled “LSE and the Qaddafi Foundation: A Dissenting Note”, and a collection of media reports on links between the LSE and Libya.
17. REPORTED: that Council had decided on 23 June 2009 to accept a donation of £1.5m over 5 years from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for the LSE Centre for the Study of Global Governance. Since that time, there had been widespread condemnation of Libya’s handling of the return of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and the Director had received a letter from Emeritus Professor Fred Halliday which counselled against acceptance of the donation. Accordingly, the Council had been given the opportunity to consider whether, in the light of events over the summer, LSE’s links with Libya had attracted negative publicity to the School, or might do so in future and, if so, whether that was sufficient to warrant reconsideration of the gift.
18. REPORTED, by Professor David Held (Co-Director, Centre for the Study of Global Governance): that the decision to accept the gift was a matter for the LSE/ Council; that the Foundation was a UN accredited NGO; that the gift was funded by private sector organisations (in construction and engineering); that the gift was unrestricted and had no conditions on use; that a public signing ceremony had been undertaken, and that a u-turn at this juncture might affect the School’s relations with Libya and cause personal embarrassment to the Chairman of the Foundation, Dr Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; that the views espoused by Professor Halliday were not necessarily shared by all in the academic community; that, having trawled traditional media and the blogosphere, no evidence had been found that LSE’s links with Libya had attracted criticism, despite the ‘storm’ created by the Al-Megrahi affair; and that it was important to engage with the Middle East and North Africa.
19. IN DISCUSSION the following points were made:
(a) that there were concerns about the reputational risk of rejecting the gift, having accepted it in the summer;
(b) that with the exception of Professor Halliday, no member of the School community had queried the decision to accept the Libyan donation, although this might reflect the timing of the original discussion near the end of the Summer Term and the publication of the relevant Council minutes in September;
(c) that in future more information should be provided to Council about controversial potential donations, more time allowed for consideration, and Council should benefit from a “devil’s advocate” approach when considering the arguments;
(d) that in future the totality of the School’s relationship with a country should be overseen to enable early identification of potential reputational risk;
(e) that LSE Enterprise had experience of working with the Libyan state, delivering executive education. They had operated with complete independence and their work had been positively received by others, including the School’s supporters in the United States;
(f) that some individual members of the North American Advisory Board had indicated that acceptance of the donation would not affect the extent to which US alumni would financially support the School;
(g) that although Professor Held had joined the Board of Trustees of the Foundation after acceptance by Council of the donation to the Centre for Global Governance in June 2009, concerns remained about the perceived conflict of interest.
20. REPORTED, by Professor David Held:
(a) that due diligence work and research had been undertaken to establish the credentials of the Foundation. The donation had been extensively debated within the Development Committee before it reached the Council for decision;
(b) that the Foundation was created in order to be to be an exemplary NGO within North Africa. Its support for democracy and human rights had at times placed it at odds with the Libyan State, but it had enjoyed some success in areas such as penal reform;
(c) that the Foundation raised funds on a project-by-project basis, with the money coming from private sector companies, rather than the Libyan government;
(d) that, following the Council meeting on 23 June 2009, Professor Held had been invited to join the Board of the Foundation in an individual capacity. Upon the advice of Council, Professor Held would be willing to resign that position;
(e) that the donation from the Foundation represented less than 20% of the operating costs of the Centre for Global Governance, with the remainder coming from a diverse range of other sources.
21. REPORTED, by the LSESU General Secretary: support for discussion of controversial major donations at Council.
Professor Held left the meeting.
(a) on balance, that the decision of 23 June 2009 to accept the gift would stand;
(b) that in order to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest and reputational risk, colleagues should not usually serve on the boards of organisations from which they or their units were receiving gifts. The Director would be asked to consider the implications of, and as appropriate promulgate, this policy decision. In this context, Council accepted Professor Held’s offer to stand down as a Board member of the Gaddafi Foundation;
(c) that the totality of the School’s relationship with, and work in Libya needed to be carefully monitored and handled to avoid misunderstanding of the School’s position;
(d) that when presenting to Council on controversial potential donations, the arguments should include a “devil’s advocate” element. Council should be given sufficient time to weigh all of the arguments, and to have the opportunity to reflect before reaching a decision;
(e) that the Secretary and Director of Administration would write to Professor Halliday to inform him of the outcome of discussions at Council.
REPORT ON BEHALF OF THE DIRECTOR
23. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Planning and Resources):
(a) that the School had “over-recruited” by 280 students, but remained within the HEFCE +/- 5% tolerance band. Departments which had over-recruited by more than 5% of their admission target would receive compensation. Consideration would be given as to how over-recruitment of Home/EU undergraduate students can be avoided in future years.
Points-Based Visa System
(b) that the School’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the introduction of the points-based visa system had proved effective, with relatively few students affected and no significant impact on conversion rates.
(c) that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association’s latest offer of 0.5% had been accepted by Unison, but rejected by the UCU, Unite, EIS – ULA and the GMB. It was likely that all parties would enter into arbitration through ACAS.
Public Sector Finance
(d) that a briefing would be arranged for Heads of Academic Departments, Service Leaders, Departmental Managers, APRC and members of Council, to explain the deteriorating public spending environment and how this might affect the School in future years. The School would need to develop contingency plans to ensure that it would be able to continue to support teaching, research, service improvement and estate development, regardless of any decrease in public funding.
24. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations):
THE World Rankings
(a) that the LSE had been rated 67th in the THE World University Rankings and 5th in the world as a specialist social sciences institution. The School’s position in the global ranking had been adversely affected by a change in the weightings for international staff and students, resulting in a marked drop in ranking from 2007. The publishers had acknowledged weaknesses in league table methodology and had entered a dialogue with the School about more suitable measures.
Peking Summer School
(b) that the 6th LSE-Peking University Summer School in Beijing had attracted 240 students from 40 countries.
(c) that Deutsche Bank had provided an endowment of £1million per year for the next five years to fund LSE Cities, an international centre for urban excellence.
Yrjo Jahnsson Award in Economics 2009
(d) that Professor John Van Reenen, Director of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance had been awarded Europe’s most prestigious prize for economic researchers. Professor Van Reenen shared the award with Fabrizio Zilibotti of the University of Zurich, an alumnus of the LSE.
(e) that the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) had been invited to contribute to the Government review of postgraduate education.
25. REPORTED, by the Chief Information Officer:
(a) that arrangements were being made to secure the financial sustainability of the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, following the withdrawal of funding by the ESRC. Any future arrangement would provide for continued access for LSE users, free of charge, in perpetuity.
26. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration:
Human Resources Advisory Group
(a) that the Secretary and the Director of Human Resources would bring forward to Council a report about reviving the committee of Council responsible for advising on HR strategy.
27. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):
Student Loans Company
(b) that relatively few students had been affected by late loan payments and that the School had been proactive in promoting services to assist any students still awaiting loans.
Black to the Future
(c) that the second LSE “Black to the Future” conference had attracted 380 participants. The aim of the event was to inspire young black Londoners to aim for the top in the world of education.
(d) that the new student orientation arrangements appeared to have been successful and feedback was being sought from students.
SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN STUDENTS AND YOUNG ACADEMICS
28. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):
(a) that the School had for some time been considering ways in which it might assist in meeting the needs identified in a Universities UK report of March 2008 for staff development for young academics in Palestinian universities. The report recommended the development of “virtual” links between Palestinian universities and higher education institutions in the UK. In June, with the assistance of the British Council, Mr Steve Ryan of the LSE Centre for Learning Technology travelled to Al Quds Open University to deliver a seminar on the assistance that LSE might provide, such as online seminars on topics such as the use of IT in teaching and research methodology. The capacity-building programme would be rolled out during 2009/10 and a delegation from Al Quds would visit the UK later this year. It was hoped that Al Quds would disseminate the knowledge made available by the LSE to other Palestinian universities, in order to provide broader benefit.
(b) that the School was exploring the possibility of providing more formal staff development for young academics in Palestine (such as fee waivers). A number of discussions had taken place over the summer between the School, the Department of Business, Industry and Skills (BIS), the British Council and a number of other UK universities. The School had committed support in principle for a scheme of this nature, and an announcement was expected from the BIS early in the New Year. It was understood that any initiative would relate to the Palestinian territories broadly defined, including Gaza.
REPORT OF THE COUNCIL AWAYDAY 2009
29. RECEIVED: paper CL/3, report on the Council Awayday held on 21 September 2009.
30. REPORTED, by Professor David Marsden: that concerns had been raised by Academic Governors during the Awayday session on Research Performance and the Research Excellence Framework regarding: bibliometrics; research themes/ academic autonomy; and the danger of inhibiting truly ground-breaking research.
31. IN RESPONSE, the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) reported that a paper had been circulated to all Heads of Department regarding preparations for the REF and that this would be debated in full at the Academic Board later in the term and would be the basis of further discussion within academic departments.
32. RECEIVED: paper CL/4, draft Strategic Plan Targets 2009-14.
33. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that the targets were a “work in progress” and currently contained a mixture of quantitative targets and processes.
34. REPORTED, by Mr Mike Bragg (representative of the Staff Consultative Committee): concerns regarding the achievability of some of the targets for the development of IT Services; and concern that valuable data might be lost if the proposed staff survey were to be made more concise.
35. IN RESPONSE: the Secretary and Director of Administration reported that the staff survey, in its original format, was extremely long and that the time required to complete it would deter staff from responding. He would be reviewing the shortened version of the staff survey and would ensure that all key elements were retained.
36. RESOLVED: that Mr Bragg would discuss his concerns regarding the proposed IT Services targets with the Chief Information Officer outside of the meeting.
37. IN DISCUSSION:
(a) it was suggested that the target for uptake of Houghton Street Online should be more ambitious;
(b) the alignment of activities with the Strategic Plan was welcomed;
(c) that it would be useful to specify the rationale for each of the selected targets.
(a) that the Director of Development and Alumni Relations would review the target relating to Houghton Street Online;
(b) that Council members would email comments on the proposed targets to the Secretary and Director of Administration within a fortnight of the meeting.
39. RECEIVED: paper CL/5, a report on policy issues arising from the meeting of the Remuneration Committee held on 15 July 2009.
40. REPORTED: that the Remuneration Committee had established four sub-groups to consider individual cases and bring forth recommendations, which allowed the main Committee to focus on substantive policy issues and strategic decisions. The main Committee would set the parameters for decision-making by the sub-groups, in order to ensure consistency in application and appropriate controls on expenditure. In the current session, the Committee would be considering the issue of equal pay.
COURT OF GOVERNORS
41. RECEIVED: the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009.
42. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that at the suggestion of the Council, the Court would be briefed on issues relating to the promotion by Government of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the expense of the social sciences, arts and humanities. It was hoped that members of the Court would be willing to lobby policy-makers on this key issue.
43. REPORTED, by the General Secretary of the LSE Students’ Union: that the restructuring of the Union had been successfully completed and that financial irregularities in previous years were being addressed by the Sabbatical Officers and the new management. Financial and back office services would be outsourced to Charity Business, a specialist provider, with the objective of improving management accounts and ensuring compliance with the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for accounting and reporting by charities.
ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE SECRETARY AND DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND FACILITIES
44. RECEIVED: papers CL/7 and CL/8, the annual reports of the Secretary and Director of Administration and Director of Finance and Facilities.
45. REPORTED: by the Secretary and Director of Administration: the role of the Triumvirate under the auspices of the Academic Planning and Resources Committee in approving and resourcing Service Development Plans for the support services and ensuring that these meet the needs of the academic community.
(a) to commend the outstanding achievements of the professional support services staff over the past year and the plans of the services for the coming year;
(b) to request a substantive discussion within Council about these reports on at least a biennial basis, commencing 2010/11.
HEFCE ASSURANCE REVIEW
47. RECEIVED: paper CL/9, a report on the 2009 HEFCE Assurance Visit.
48. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.
49. RECEIVED: paper CL/10, a report on recent legislative and regulatory developments.
50. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.
NOTICE OF THE COURT MEETING OF 10 DECEMBER 2009
51. RECEIVED: paper CL/11, the notice of the Court meeting of 10 December 2009.
52. RESOLVED: to approve the draft calling notice for the meeting of the Court of Governors to be held on 10 December 2009, subject to any amendments made by the Director.
RELEASE OF PAPERS
53. RESOLVED: that the agenda and papers of the meeting of Council held on 20 October 2009 be released to the intranet and made available to the public upon request, with the exception of the following items:
(a) Minute 5 of the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009 (estate strategy) on grounds of commercial sensitivity;
(b) Paper CL/2, donation to the Centre for Global Governance – publication to be delayed until follow up action has been completed;
(c) Paper CL/6, unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009 and CL/11, notice of the Court meeting to be held on 10 December 2009 – both intended for future publication;
(d) Paper CL/8, the annual report of the Director of Finance and Facilities, will be published save for extracts relating to potential property acquisitions (commercially sensitive) and identified or identifiable individuals (data protection).
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Vice Chairman of the Court and Council
54. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that on 10 December 2009, the Court would be asked by the Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship Selection Committee to approve the election of Ms Kate Jenkins as a Vice-Chairman of the Court and Council, succeeding Sir Anthony Battishill.
55. RESOLVED: to concur with the recommendation of the Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship Selection Committee that Ms Jenkins be elected a Vice Chairman of the Court and Council.
There being no further business, the meeting of the Council concluded at 7.40pm.”
Remember, those present:
PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.