Thursday, March 29, 2012

Short week

Yesterday the House went into Easter recess, and we have until April 23, it seems because the Government had overlooked the fact that the Commons will be spending the week it comes back on the budget, and will therefore be unable to deal with the three major Bills sent back to them from the Lords until the following week. So there is no legislative business for us to do until they have considered our amendments. How could the business managers be so incompetent as to have overlooked this until a day or two before we were due to rise?

Monday I attended a meeting with our Special Representative on Sudan, who is coming to the end of his term of office. Its a really bleak picture, and getting even worse now as the North attacks across the frontier with the South, as well as committing war crimes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile against non-Arab peoples.

At question time I intervened in a question on piracy off the coast of Somalia,

Tuesday I spoke on an amendment dealing with clinical negligence cases brought on behalf of children, in the Legal Aid etc Bill see

Wednesday morning, with other members of EU Subcommittee F, to the Serious Organised Crime Agency in Vauxhall for a briefing on their work, and particularly the treatment of Suspicious Activity Reports, the mechanism used in compliance with European law to detect money laundering and terrorist offences. Their database contains 1.38 million records, which are retained for a maximum of six years, and are accessible to specialists in the law enforcement agencies under strict conditions. The ability of the software to rapidly identify links n=between SARS and to display them visually is an effective tool, and it was good to hear about an effective large IT system that is delivering results.

Wednesday evening, to the Index Awards ceremony at the St Pancras Hotel, which has been restored to its spectacular Victorian splendour. The Innovation award, supported by Google, went to Freedom Fone, a system developed by the Zimbabwean NGO Kubatana to enable ordinary citizens to communicate on civic and human rights issues even in the repressive surroundings of Mugabe’s dictatorship. The arts award went to the Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who has suffered beatings and threats of death but continues to satirize Arab dictators including Assad. The Index 40th anniversary award went to The Research and Information Centre “Memorial” in St Petersburg, a huge archive of material relating to the era of Soviet repression. To my delight, the Advocacy award was won by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and it was a great thrill to be there to see my dear friend Nabeel Rajab being presented with it.

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