Archive for June, 2009

Belfast’s shame: Europe’s view and where it leads

Posted in On Northern Ireland, Translation with tags , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

A look at reports of anti-Romany violence in Europe :

The French free morning paper Direct Matin, which boasts some half a million readers, featured a picture of a distressed victim of the violence with this accompanying text :

“This Romany lady, accompanied by her child, was escorted yesterday to a leisure centre by police in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The previous evening, she and a hundred other immigrants had to seek emergency refuge in a Church, having been victims of racist attacks.  The centre will thus offer them temporary shelter.  Racist violence has rapidly increased over recent days in Belfast : on Monday, participants in a demonstration of support for Eastern European immigrants were attacked by youths, who threw bottles and directed Nazi salutes towards them.”

Le Monde, the prestigious national paper, has a report including the following:

“For over a week, Northern Ireland’s Romany community has been subject to racist attacks.  Brick-throwing, insults, threats… Youths from a neighbouring loyalist area (The Village) have stepped up acts of intimidation.  On Monday, while residents of the area were demonstrating in support of their Romany neighbours, these youths counter-attacked with Nazi salutes and chants.  The Village’s loyalist paramilitary groups, who in the past have been involved in racist actions, condemned the events and claimed to have nothing to do with them.

In 2008, Northern Ireland had 1000 racist crimes, against 41 in 1996.”

Germany’s Der Spiegel reports:

“For days, they have been terrorised by right-wing extremists, who have thrown bricks at them and broken their house-windows.  Some 20 Romanian families are now seeking refuge in a Northern Irish Church.  Approximately 100 Romanians arrived, fearing attacks from “a small group of racist thugs”, said Pastor Malcolm Morgan on Wednesday.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, told MPs in the House of Commons that he hoped authorities were in a position to take “all the necessary action” against further attacks.”

And Brussel’s Le Soir reports from Naples, where a warning for Northern Ireland, and beyond, can clearly be witnessed:

“Death in Naples, live and met with indifference

CCTV cameras have captured a shooting in the centre of Naples.  Scooters can be seen creating panic amongst passers-by, then a man, shot, enters a metro station and collapses.  To widespread indifference.

Petru Birladeanu was Romanian.  He was 33 years old and lived in Naples.  He came to Naples seeking his fortune.  He played the organ there, in the Cumana underground station, in the Montesanto area.  He was always accompanied by his wife.  The passengers knew them well.

On the 27th May, a Tuesday, Petru was headed for the station with his companion.  They took each others’ hands.  It can be seen on the CCTV of via Pignasecca, which leads to Cumana.  Four scooters arrive, two men on each of them.  They are members of the Sarno di Pontcelli, one of the countless clans of local mafia.  They shoot in the air, horizontally, to the left and to the right, to intimidate those who might support the return to their territory of the old boss, Mariano, who had just been released from prison.  They shoot.

Panic.  Everyone flees.  Petru and his wife too, diving into the station.

They shoot blindly, and for Petru, fatally: a bullet into his underarm.  The underground camers show him, at first, standing and holding his companion’s neck, then staggering towards the barriers.  Then collapsing.  Then dying.

Beside him, his wife asks for help, shakes, loses all reason.

People are all around.  Plenty of them.  They are afraid, they are in a hurry, they don’t want to see.  They stamp their tickets, they watch but walk on, they step over the barriers so as not to have to stop.

So many people.  Without blinking an eyelid.

And Petru, the little Romany organ-player, dies at their feet.

“Shot”, as they say in Naples.

“Shot”, as Robert Saviano described in his incredible book, Gommorra, on the Camorra and Neopalitan indifference.

There was a hospital five hundred metres away.  The sun was shining outside.

People were saying hello to one other.

And then the most inhuman side of Naples, the most Neopalitan side of humanity – zero consideration for life.

Because death, that’s life.  Life is death too.

It was on the 27th May, but the pictures have only been on the internet for a few days.

In Italy, meanwhile, there has been a lot of official emotion, a lot of articles, a lot of flowers, a lot of indignation.

There has also been the expulsion of Petru’s little wife.

Look at these pictures.

Look carefully.

It’s here.

It’s now.

It’s us.”

And lest we forget, a reminder of the two girls whose death didn’t distract sunbathers on the beach.


EU-US : The secret meetings on anti-terror policy

Posted in Translation with tags , , , , , , on June 16, 2009 by belfasttobrussels

Today’s Le Monde has exclusively revealed a series of fourteen meetings on the principles of the ‘war on terror’, held between senior EU legal advisers and a US team led by John Bellinger, former Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State.  The meetings began under the Bush administration and one has been held since Obama assumed the Presidency.

The investigation reveals the existence of an eight-point plan encapsulating a common EU position to counter such practices as ‘black sites’ and ‘extraordinary rendition’.

…”Because the ‘Bellinger dialogue’ pushed the Europeans to formulate their own, united position.  They produced a document that would be useful for future discussions with the Obama team.  “I told them,” John Bellinger recalls, “OK, you think we’re wrong, but what rules are you proposing in the face of an external terrorist threat that presents new challenges for all of us.”

Thus, in September 2006, a document entitled “The Elements” was produced, whose vague name reflects the concerns held by the EU regarding its association with the foreign policy of the Bush administration.

Le Monde cites the eight points as follows:


Europeans reject the paradigm of a “war” on terrorism.  The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has not abandoned it.  On the 21st May, he spoke of a “war against Al-Qaeda.”

Geneva Convention

The Common Article 3 of the Convention and Article 75 of the Protocol must be respected in the event of armed conflict.  Mr Obama has not clarified his position.

Illegal enemy combatants

Europeans completely reject this concept, launched by the Bush administration.  Prisoners always have rights.


Human rights and international humanitarian law are complementary, not mutually exclusive.  The United States have their doubts.


The necessity to maintain procedural law for detainees, who must be able to protest their innocence before a court of justice.


Insistence on the extraterritoriality of human rights law.  In particular, the 1966 Pact on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States disputes.


In harmony with the overarching European position on torture, no person may be transferred to a country where he/she risks being tortured.  Including from one Third country to another.

Secret detention

It is forbidden.  Mr Obama agrees.”

From an Irish or British perspective, we can see potential issues arising on the areas of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and thus torture.  The case of Binyam Mohamed also suggests British complicity in the Military Tribunal system invented by the Bush administration.  Regarding extraterritoriality, there has been much debate, which will reach the House of Lords, on whether the Human Rights Act applies to armed forces serving overseas.  There has been contradiction between David Miliband and Gordon Brown on the language of the “war” on ‘terror’.  It seems this follows, embarrassingly closely, the confusion in the White House on the issue.   In general, we might observe that both Ireland and the UK appear to fall closer to the US position under Bush than that of the EU.  Whether this weakens their relationship with Obama remains to be seen; the meetings are expected to continue.