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Thursday 28 February 2013
Letters: Suspects murdered by US drones
Since Barack Obama was elected President of the US in 2008, the number of CIA drone strikes conducted in Pakistan has increased dramatically and is now six times higher than under Bush. In Pakistan alone it is estimated that the total number of people who have been killed by US drone strikes is between 2,534 and 3,573.
These people were assassinated by the US without charge or trial on sovereign Pakistan territory. They were murdered. Covert US operations in Somalia and Yemen have also claimed the lives of hundreds of people who are presumed guilty by the US.
It was in Somalia that two former British citizens were killed by US drone strikes. Their citizenships were revoked by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, following their alleged links with militant or terrorist groups, according to an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism ("Revealed: UK's secret war on enemy within", 28 February).
Theresa May has revoked the passports of 16 individuals since 2010 using laws passed in 2002 that gave the Home Secretary the power to strip any dual national of their citizenship who had done something "seriously prejudicial" to the UK, condemning the former British citizens to a life open to rendition, torture and death.
The founding principle of British law, and subsequent American law, is that everyone is entitled to due process and a fair trial. Removing people's rights and sentencing them to death on the assumption that they are guilty is in direct contradiction to the values of justice and democracy.
Due process must prevail and trial by drone must end.
Market Drayton, Shropshire
The Government's policy of stripping its nationals of their citizenship is dangerous. Decades of work by organisations such as ours in bringing together communities and reinforcing the nature of citizenship in our country has been laid waste by a clearly xenophobic and Islamophobic design that enforces a clear message that British Muslims are not welcome in Britain and that they can cease to become British at the swipe of a pen.
Such despotic methods are an affront to democratic principles, and put us in the same category as Gulf dictatorships who have most recently used the same tactics to suppress political dissent.
Chairman, Kentish Town Community Organisation, London NW5
The removal of a person's citizenship circumvents the presumption of innocence. The highest ideal we must strive for is fairness in our justice system.
Our country must question this mantra of national security. Only the most existential threat can justify summary action in defence of the nation. A suspect going on holiday with a young family hardly qualifies as a grave risk.
New Pope has a chance to tackle the Vatican
By publicly promising obedience and reverence to his successor, and by the rest of this week's events, Joseph Ratzinger has done more for the Church than he did during the rest of his pontificate.
John Paul II, in his last few years, although compos mentis, was barely capable, and so the stasis and faction-fighting that Benedict has suffered from set in. From now on, the Vatican authorities will have a model to copy, and future Popes a model in how to behave.
Let us hope that the new Pope will be able to root out the deeply entrenched vested interests in the Vatican and bring it into the 21st century in ways more meaningful that mere Twitter accounts. Once that is achieved the problems of sexual abuse and abuse of power can then be faced and dealt with transparently, and the Church start ministering the love of God, instead of fighting the claims of victims of abuse, and persecuting gay people, women and other vulnerable people.
Should we Catholic laity continue to address members of the hierarchy by their honorific titles such as Your Grace, Your Excellency, and even Your Holiness? Jesus told his disciples that they should only be called Rabbi. Father is a suitable name for all ranks.
Andreas Whittam Smith (28 February) describes the difficulties facing the Roman Catholic Church as it elects a new Pope, their only guidance being ancient scriptures. Perhaps God (or a representative of God) could drop by for a day or two and point them in the right direction.
We're not all sex monsters
Your correspondent Peter Lanham's plaintive question as to whether he is the only man never to have groped anyone (letter, 28 February) will be echoed by the majority of men.
The activities of these sexual monsters, many of whom occupy positions of power from where to bully their victims, is as disgusting as it is criminal, yet the inferences, both explicit and implicit, are that we are all the same.
The male stereotype being pushed by the prevailing received wisdom from feminists is that we do all behave in this appalling fashion. Mr Lanham's completely correct description of the behaviour of the overwhelming majority of men has been utterly forgotten, with the result that men shy away from occupations such as primary school teaching and anything to do with children. Anyone describing male behaviour, as he has, is risking the accusation that he is just "another man", so doesn't understand, or, worse, is defending the behaviour.
Those accusations, and the futility of trying to deny them, have cowed honest and normal – yes, normal – men; yet, ironically, emboldened the grinning and leering gropers.
All this media stuff about groping men recalls my teenage years during the Second World War. If I was sitting in a cinema and a man with wandering hands came and sat alongside, I dispatched him with the use of a strong pin which I kept in the seam of my coat lapels (all our coats had lapels then).
It was very effective. Come on, girls – draw some blood.
Might we look forward to hearing again from Geoff Harris (letter, 27 February) when he has slapped the face of the boss or other influential person who has placed an uninvited hand on his leg, bottom or other part of his anatomy? The outcome would be so very interesting.
The legal right to light
Mary Dejevsky (Notebook, 27 February) gives a confused picture on the right to light. Yes, there is still, until the law is changed, a legal right to light between neighbouring owners. That right may in certain circumstances enable one to prevent a landowner from proceeding with a development, even when he has obtained a planning consent. This is where the confusion has crept in.
Mary Dejevsky talks of members of the council planning committee visiting her flat. Yes, they are rightly concerned about the impact of any proposed development, but only on planning grounds in terms of the effect on sunlight and daylight enjoyed by the neighbouring residential accommodation, including her flat. There are planning guidelines to be observed and these can involve "a whole volume of calculations" .
However, the right to light between neighbouring owners is enshrined in Acts of Parliament and common law, and this is not a valid planning consideration. So a would-be developer may be granted planning consent if the guidelines on sunlight and daylight are satisfied, but he may still fall at the hurdle of his neighbour's legal right to light, who may be able to obtain a court injunction preventing the development. Again, there are guidelines evolved through case law that may involve further calculations, but these are different from those under the planning guidelines. And the arbiter is not the local planning authority but the courts.
There are reputable specialist consultants in practice in this area. Application should be made to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for a list of names.
Bevin's plea for the bomb
Notwithstanding Lady Miller (letter, 28 February), I submit that the ground for an independent UK nuclear deterrent goes back to 1945, when newly appointed Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin got a royal bullying from the US, then the sole nuclear power.
Back in Britain he declared: "I do not want any other Foreign Secretary of this country to be talked at, or to, as I was. We've got to have this thing over here, whatever it costs. We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it."
How far do we really still trust our transatlantic cousins?
Case for the jury
Ian Craine (letter, 28 February) asks: "What would be wrong with a panel of three lawyers deciding guilt or innocence?" But the onus is on those proposing change to prove its necessity. Perhaps judges need to look at the guidance which they give to juries.
The French inquisatorial system comes from a completely different tradition. Our adversarial system, which Crane sneers at as "a gentleman's debating society", represents a hard-won right for the defendant to be legally represented, and for his counsel to question witnesses and present arguments; what Crane calls a "cult of amateurishness" (another sneer) is a right to be judged by our peers.
We are supposed to stop paying down our debts to help the economy (and to be skewered if we try to save for retirement – which we are supposed to do as we should not rely on the state pension). So we might get negative interest rates to encourage us to borrow rather than save. But Osborne is trying to stimulate the economy, so that he can pay down his debt. Does this make sense to anyone?
That admirable columnist Grace Dent, in the course of her piece on 27 February, uses the expression "shonky address". I know what "address" means, but what on earth does "shonky" mean? Is it perhaps a misprint, or, on the other hand, an expression that has not yet reached the remote wilderness of the provinces from the distant capital?
A C Bolger
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