Sunday, July 13, 2008

This week


Lunch with Dr Abdulhadi Alkhawaja of the Bahrain Council of Human Rights, to discuss the worsening human rights situation over the last few months. Today I heard from Dr Abduljalil Alsingace, of the Haq Movement of Liberties and Democracy Bahrain, also an old friend, that the human rights defenders who had been in custody since December 15 last year were all found guilty at a summary trial, and given sentences of up to seven years imprisonment. I have sent the details to Hina Jilani, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, asking her to make inquiries about the court proceedings.

Afternoon, the final sitting of the Select Committee on International Organisations, finalising the last sections of the report, which was approved with many amendments. We hear that the Committee's mandate is unlikely to be renewed in the next Parliamentary session and I suspect that we have been edged out by the shortage of human resources in the Clerk's Department, rather than any objective assessment of the value of our work.

Evening, met Cllr Ayum Korom Ali, who is returning to Bangladesh to contest the Parliamentary elections in his home district of Sylhet. With his background and experience, he should stand a very good chance.

Tuesday, a lunchtime seminar given by the National Council on Archives. Then fielded a question on Zimbabwe, asking the Minister, Mark Malloch-Brown, if he didn't see some incongruity between the Foreign Secretary addressing 2,000 victims of Mugabe’s terrorism in Johannesburg while at the same time the Home Secretary was causing letters to be sent to their counterparts in the UK cutting off their benefits and forcing them to return to Harare. He said the Home Office was now looking into supporting the Zimbabweans stranded in the UK. Later, a meeting with Meg Munn, accompanied by three senior officials of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, to discuss the Indonesian ban on Ahmadi activities by Presidential decree, and the recent negative developments in Pakistan, where the entire population of the city of Rabwah had been charged under the notorious 298C law, and a mosque in Azad Kashmir had been blown up.

The attacks on Ahmadis throughout the world are orchestrated by the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami and its counterparts in other countries, which are based on the ideology of Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi'. Like the Egyptian scholar Qutb, he taught that an Islamic political system must have as little to do with Dar el Harb, the realm of the infidel, as possible, and that ultimately, Dar el Islam will cover the whole world. The Jamaat and their followers particularly hate the Ahmadis, because the Ahmadis believe their founder was the Messiah, and that is supposed to contradict the axiom that Mohammed was the last Prophet.

Wednesday, joined in a question about forced repatriation of asylum-seekers from Darfur, tabled by my LibDem colleague Roger Roberts. Asked whether the mass arrests, torture and disappearances of Darfuris in Khartoum since the attack by one of the rebel movements on May 10 was being taken into account, bearing in mind that the Home Office Country of Origin Information Service reports were only revised every six months. The Minister, Alan West, replied that there were many other sources of information available to the Government, but are they always conveyed to immigration judges? Later, a meeting with Navanin Afshin-Jam, a Canadian of Iranian origin who runs an organisation that campaigns against child executions in Iran.

Thursday, went to the doctor and got various jabs for my forthcoming visit to Bangladesh and attended the LibDem team leaders' meetingbto discuss the next Sesssion's legislative programme, as understudy for Lindsay Northover. But there's also yet another blockbuster Bill on immigration coming down the track, on which I'll be leading.

Friday, a lunchtime discussion with Alex Feakes, a LibDem Councillor in Lewisham and prospective candidate for Lewisham West & Penge, on ways that we can work together. It was also dear little Alastair's 23rd birthday, which he was celebrating at some length, aided and abetted by John William. John Adamson invited us out to celebrate Marcelle's birthday, a very agreeable evening at a restaurant in Charlotte Street.

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