Friday, 20 June 2008

Letter to The Times re Zimbabwe - NOT PUBLISHED

The Editor
The Times

20 June 2008


The Times' call for the international community to warn the junta running Zimbabwe that it is "collecting evidence of what is happening for use in war crimes trials" is well-meaning but will not succeed in preventing future atrocities (Atrocities mount in Zimbabwe, 20 June 2008). The evidence for the deterrent effect of the International Criminal Court or other tribunals is sadly lacking. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up following a genocide in which up to one million civilians were murdered by thousands of their countrymen, has resulted in only 28 convictions, with 28 cases still in progress and 8 awaiting trial. If after nearly 15 years, this is the best that the international community can achieve, it is surely no wonder that genocides and widespread human rights abuses by states and non-state actors continue unabated. One need only look at Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma and yes, Zimbabwe, to see this. The sad truth is that the West will not intervene solely on the grounds of human rights abuses, or even to prevent genocide. Mugabe and the other thugs around the world know this.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Monday, 16 June 2008

New letter published in The Times

Sir, I visited Baghdad twice in my capacity as a member of staff of the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Iraq on human rights, Ann Clwyd, MP. On both occasions I was hugely impressed by the professionalism, dedication and bravery of the Iraqi interpreters. They would return with us to the safety of the green zone in our armed convoys after meetings, but at the end of the day would have to leave the green zone to travel home through the streets of Baghdad. One interpreter showed me how he secreted his British Embassy identification documents on his body in case he got caught up in an “incident” on such a journey.

It is a tragedy that their bravery, in the service of our country and in the face of possible abduction, torture and murder, is matched only by the cold indifference of British bureaucrats and their political masters. To my mind, the decision to assist the interpreters was not made willingly on the grounds of principle and compassion, but was a half-baked concession made reluctantly after public outrage. This attitude is reflected in the unnecessary delay in taking the decision to relocate the interpreters, which surely cost lives, and in the bungled way the practicalities have been handled.

John Slinger