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Conference background paper

Page history last edited by George Farebrother 12 years, 4 months ago

A Two-Day Conference

Law Peace and Accountability:

Is our Government listening to Concerned Citizens?

Friends House, Euston Rd, London, Tuesday 1 September, Wednesday 2 September 2009 , 9.30-5-30


The Institute for Law Accountability and Peace (INLAP) and World Court Project UK have initiated a process concerned with Accountability and the Law.They have been joined in a Steering Group by representatives from a wide spectrum of concerned citizen groups.  It will take place in London on 1-2 September.  The initiative is the result of areas of concern raised by our members.

An erosion of of standards government in its failure to comply with existing law.

This includes the illegality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the redefining of the meaning of torture while “exporting” it to other countries, and the illicit extension of pre-emption. The refusal by the UK government to address the legal issues surrounding Trident renewal has also given rise to frustration.

The lack of transparency by the Government in responding to concerns such as the above.

Activists raise their concerns with their MPs and other decision makers. This often results in correspondence with Government officials. We have made a detailed analysis of these responses and find that they are too often opaque, evasive and irrelevant. Time and again any written question about Trident renewal, for example, however carefully thought out, is met by the identical response, regardless of what has been written in the enquiry or comment. This is dismissive for letter writers and misleading for MPs.

The conference will not be an academic one which will attempt to break new legal ground. Rather, it will centre on the needs of activists who are not usually legal experts or full-time NGO workers; individuals who are deeply committed to the rule of law, active in their communities, and anxious to be better-informed so that their activism can be all the more effective.

The first day of the conference will address the issues of concern which have arisen over the last few years but will also recognise that there are signs of hope for the future which we should be aware of. Presentations will stress the areas of international law available for dialogue between activists and decision makers such as MPs and MEPs, Government officials, UN representatives and the advisors to MPs and government. The limitations of working through international law will also be stressed.  We shall not, however, try to address all the issues of concern. Rather, we shall highlight one or two of them as case studies and take into account past examples of successful interaction between citizen groups and the Government.

Confirmed speakers include: Clare Short MP, Gareth Peirce, Norman Baker MP, John McDonnell MP. London Assembly Member Jenny Jones,  Jackie Chase (Save Omar Campaign), Paul Dorfman  (Warwick University), Ann Feltham (Campaign Against Arms Trade), Professor Nick Grief (Bournmouth University), Robert Manson LLB, Carol Naughton (WMD Awareness Group), Dr Nick Ritchie (Bradford Department of Peace Studies), Ashley Woods (REAL Exhibition Development), Rosie Houldsworth (formerly Oxford Research Group), Angie Zelter (Trident Ploughshares), Jenny Maxwell  (West Midlands CND), George Farebrother, Pat Haward, (World Court Project), Dr Andrew  Blick (The Federal Trust), Milan Rai (Justice not Vengeance)

Participants will be encouraged to study an information package prior to the conference which will include a booklet, published by INLAP, on the main elements of international law relating to armed conflict.

Dialogue with MPs and officials requires considerable persistence; but the conver­gence of law and security issues is especially challenging. This is because of the partially hidden presuppositions which inform UK decision-making in this area, which includes elements of UK “exceptionality” as a pivotal power with a special role. What we write and say must address these factors.

The second day will develop a structure for taking our concerns forward. This will take advantage of our extensive documentation of correspondence with officials and MPs over several years, and set up a network to exchange experience and develop this dialogue. We hope to enlist the help of MPs and professional lawyers who are willing, from time to time, to provide advice on an ad-hoc basis. In this way we can develop a series of strategies for both tackling the problems associated with ensuring adherence by government to existing laws and achieving more transparency and meaningful responses in the dialogue between government and citizens.

Conference Steering Group: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Medical Action for Global Security, the Sussex Peace Alli­ance, Christian CND, the Methodist Church, World Disarmament Campaign, Movement for the Abolition of War , Action for UN Renewal, Abolition 2000 UK, Christians Against Nato Aggression, Clergy Against Nuclear Arms, and Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, World Court Project UK, Institute for Law Accountability and Peace, Croydon Quaker Meeting.

Institute for Law, Accountability and Peace, geowcpuk@gn.apc.org. 01323 844 269


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