Roger Whittaker

View Roger Whittaker's profile on LinkedIn

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional

CAMPACC meeting at the House of Lords

Saturday 15th July 2006

On Wednesday evening I attended this meeting at the House of Lords organised by CAMPACC, the Campaign against Criminalising Communities.

Unfortunately the programme was slightly changed in that Gareth Peirce could not be there as she was too busy defending Babar Ahmad.

The meeting was chaired by Lord Rea.

Rachel North was the first speaker. She described how she had become something of an unwilling figurehead for the survivors of the London Bombings. She had felt a need to tell her story, and to contact other survivors, and had used her blog for that purpose. She mentioned the King's Cross United group of survivors which meets regularly to share information: she said that at times it was difficult to get information from official sources. Rachel stressed the need for an understanding of why and how the bombings took place and the details for what happened next, both for practical reasons (improving access and infrastructure in the Underground for emergency services) and because understanding is a way of avoiding despair. She strongly stressed her view that a public inquiry into the events is needed and dismissed the reasons which have been given by the present and previous Home Secretaries for refusing an inquiry. She also noted that various anomalies in the information provided so far had given rise to a variety of conspiracy theories: she hoped that an inquiry would prove these theories false.

Rachel went on to criticise the two official reports (the "narrative" and the House of Commons ISC report) for their inadequacy, and noted that each of them contained fewer pages than the number of the dead. She also mentioned John Reid's admission of an error in the official account regarding the train times.

She mentioned widespread suspicions that intelligence had become politicised and hence devalued.

She wondered how long it would take to get a public inquiry into the events, and noted that the "Bloody Sunday" enquiry had taken about 30 years.

Rachel criticised the Government's authoritarian reactions to terrorism, and was particularly outraged at the government suggestions that an inquiry might be too expensive, citing the cost of the Prime Minister's new private jet.

Nafeez Ahmed spoke next. He is the author of the book "The London Bombings".

He began by describing the background to the two official reports into the bombings released so far. He noted that the Government narrative had been written entirely by anonymous civil servants, while those who produced the other report were all members of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Select Committee, all of whom were appointed by the Prime Minister. He believed that these reports were therefore politicised by their nature.

He also felt that these reports suffered from factual inaccuracies and omissions. He went on to describe some of the major anomalies, including the change in the official story about the explosives used, the question of whether the bombers acted alone or were part of a wider network, and the problems of chronology.

Nafeez stressed the importance of the Sunday Times article which reported that recordings had been made by intelligence officers of Mohammad Siddique Khan, and considered that there was at least some evidence that the bombers were not necessarily aware of all aspects of the plot.

He went on to describe in some detail likely connections between the bombers and the Al Mohajeroon group, and mentioned the connections with Haroon Rashid Aswat (widely believed to be an MI6 agent) and Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. He mentioned the relationships between various well known radical Islamic groups in the UK and the intelligence services, and discussed the so-called "covenant of security": a form of non-aggression treaty which had existed between these groups and the authorities. He described the reasons for the existence of this covenant: the recruitment which had taken place for actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Azerbaijan in the 1990s and later.

Nafeez Ahmed concluded by saying that the story will not be understood in the absence of a public enquiry.

Milan Rai spoke next. Milan is a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness" and author of "7/7: The London Bombings and the Iraq War".

Milan criticised the lack of genuine interest on the part of the media in what actually took place on 7th July 2005. He also criticised the way that Government spokesmen reject further investigation and discussion of these matters (on the grounds that such discussion might be useful to terrorists).

He characterised the change in foreign and domestic policy since 9/11 as a switch from what he called "passive oppression" and malign neglect to a policy of "active oppression".

He ended his talk with another plea that a public enquiry be allowed.

Asad Rehman of the Newham Monitoring Project spoke next. He focused on the problems experienced by minority communities since 9/11 and particularly since 7th July 2005. He described in detail the failures by the authorities (and the resulting effects on local communities) in the shooting at Stockwell last year of Jean Charles de Menezes and in the recent Forest Gate incident. He mentioned the use of media leaks to the press to try to improve the police's own story: he noted the contrast between the overwhelming force used at Forest Gate to break into the houses with the failure to evacuate nearby residents at a time when an air exclusion zone had been instituted above the area.

Professor Bill Bowring then spoke briefly about his work at the Institute of Human Resources and Social Justice.

A CAMPACC speaker then discussed the ways in which Government legislation since 2001 had resulted in increasing discrimination against minority communities, and a propaganda campaign on the part of the authorities stressing terrorist threats (which in many cases proved to be non-existent).

The role of the Government and MI6 in actively recruiting Muslims to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo was also mentioned.

After the formal proceedings had closed, there was a general discussion chaired by Lord Rea. There was a lively discussion, though an unfortunate feature at times was the ad hominem style of discussion adopted by some speakers.