The CIJA Sting from the Perspective of International Justice

The recent CIJA sting on Paul McKeigue revealed a serious lapse of judgement on his part. But what it reveals from the perspective of international justice is immeasurably more significant: a rift between CIJA and the international legal community it aims to provide prosecution briefs for; affinities between CIJA and the White Helmets which raise wider concerns about Western-backed operations in Syria; and our neglect of the most egregious war crime in Syria.

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Posted in BBC, disinformation, global justice, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 4 Comments

Can Privateers Bring Justice for War Crimes in Syria? A response to Michelle Burgis-Kasthala on CIJA (the Commission for International Justice and Accountability)

Introduction

In a recent interview, legal scholar Dr Michelle Burgis-Kasthala talked with Professor Joseph Weiler about her article, ‘Entrepreneurial Justice: Syria, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability [CIJA] and the Renewal of International Criminal Justice’. The article’s subject is currently attracting growing interest, and some enthusiasm, in certain legal circles (see e.g. also Alexander Heinze) and it lies at the heart of a well-resourced movement to bring criminal cases under provisions of ‘universal jurisdiction’ so as to fulfil a ‘responsibility to prosecute’ (a topic discussed further in this paper).

CIJA’s work centres on gathering captured government documentation in Syria to be used in providing linkage evidence for prosecutions of war crimes. (Linkage evidence for such prosecutions differs from more conventional types of evidence in that rather than providing direct proof of guilt for individual offences, it establishes a chain of responsibility to connect high-ranking officials with atrocity crimes committed on the ground.)

In the course of the interview, Weiler gently presses some critical questions. This post presses them a bit harder, and goes on to suggest some answers that can be found when the investigation is less reliant on interviews with protagonists.

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Posted in international institutions, OPCW, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war | 2 Comments

Diagnosing Disinformation: a reply to Wilson and Starbird

Author’s note: This article was originally due to appear in Misinformation Review, the Harvard-based journal that published the piece it responds to. The editorial board accepted the article for publication, but because of the challenging nature of my critique, they decided it should be published under the rubric of a letter to the editor so as to allow a right of reply to the authors of the article criticised. Three weeks after it was sent out to those authors, I was informed that ‘we are unable to publish letters on our site at this time.’ [Submitted to Misinformation Review 22 August 2020; Accepted for publication 30 October 2020; notified of non-publication 30 November 2020.]

Disinformation is a difficult field of investigation for a distinctive reason. Disinformation implies bad faith, and any discussion of it that relates to real actors or institutions implicitly impugns them. This adds a layer of difficulty for those attempting a dispassionate assessment of different points of view in terms of reasoned disagreements. The researcher needs to be scrupulous in maintaining standards of good faith when purporting to identify contraventions of it. Failure to attend to this requirement carries a further risk of propagating rather than diagnosing disinformation. This risk is made evident in a recent article by Tom Wilson and Kate Starbird in Misinformation Review. Unfortunately, they fall foul of it. This essay argues for greater epistemic caution.

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Posted in disinformation, free intelligence, media, political philosophy, propaganda, Syria, Uncategorized, White Helmets | 3 Comments

How We’re Misled About Syria: UK Propaganda and the BBC

Previous posts about misleading Syria coverage – from MSF, Amnesty International, Channel 4 and George Monbiot of the Guardian – used the past tense in their title. However, this one is current. At the time of writing, the BBC is about to start airing a new radio series centring on the life and work of the late James Le Mesurier, the former British Army officer responsible for establishing the White Helmets, a prime source of information used by the Western media in coverage of the war in Syria.

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Posted in BBC, disinformation, media, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 15 Comments

Free Intelligence: notes for a manifesto

Faced today with so much disinformation as we are today, how can citizens be mutually supportive in developing intelligence – intelligence being understood in all its senses, including as a capacity of individual inquirers, as a quality of publicly available understandings of the world, and as a source of insight into potentially disruptive aspects of social life?

Is there any reason not to be committed to:

the development and exercise of inquiring minds as an essential aspect of human life;

recognition of the value of social cooperation in developing intelligence;

maximal openness in the sharing of knowledge and understanding;

respect for the principles of freedom of thought and expression;

defence of those whose lawful rights of free expression are curtailed by government;

promotion of education that supports the development of intellectual autonomy and social understanding at all ages;

defence of a political order that respects constitutional principles for the governance of intelligence gathering and sharing, including provision for democratic oversight of intelligence agencies, state and corporate?

Are there other related commitments that should be regarded as similarly important?

Personally, I perceive disturbing trends in society today that tend to undermine the possibility of fulfilling those commitments. Of particular concern is the spread of disinformation in public communications arising not merely from negligence or incompetence. Agencies with resources to pursue particular agendas can engage in various strategic communications aimed at influencing the public into accepting beliefs that would, with the exercise of free intelligence, be more critically scrutinised.

A further concern is that the education system is being adversely influenced, with a particular risk being that universities, whose social role is to be custodians of the highest standards of research and instruction, are drawn into ventures that dilute and even undermine those standards. In fulfilling a commitment to raising the level of public debate about significant matters of political or scientific controversy, universities have a vital role to play, on behalf of – and answerably to – the whole of society.

What do you think? Please feel free to comment below…

Posted in free intelligence, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Unfolding Revelations Concerning the OPCW – by Piers Robinson

The following is an edited reproduction of an extended thread of tweets recently posted by Piers Robinson, founding member and spokesperson for the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.

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Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 7 Comments

Peer Review Vs Trial By Twitter

This past week has seen some unedifying academic-on-academic hostility on Twitter, with a storm of haughty criticism being whipped up in response to publication in the journal Alternatives of a paper by Dr David A. Hughes. Perhaps because I know first hand what it feels like to be publicly smeared for touching on inconvenient questions, I have felt impelled to speak out against this intimidatory conduct. Continue reading

Posted in bullying, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, disinformation, Uncategorized | 119 Comments

House of Commons Presentation: OPCW Leaks Reveal International Community Was Misled About Alleged Douma Chemical Incident in 2018

 

REPORT ON THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PRESENTATION CONCERNING OPCW LEAKS ABOUT DOUMA

Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 3-5 pm

The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, London, UK)

 

CHAIR: John Holmes (Major General, rtd.)

SPEAKERS

Paul McKeigue (Professor of Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh)

David Miller (Professor of Political Sociology, University of Bristol, @Tracking_Power)

Piers Robinson (Doctor, Co-Director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and Convenor of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media [WGSPM], former Chair/Professor University of Sheffield and former Senior Lecturer University of Manchester, @PiersRobinson1)

Jonathan Steele (Independent journalist, formerly chief foreign correspondent for The Guardian, @SteeleJourno)

ORGANISER

Sheila Coombes (Founder of Independent Anti-War Group Frome Stop War)

This report, by Dr. Catherine Brown (@neolawrencian), who attended the event, is based on her transcription (as near to verbatim as possible) of the presentations, questions, and answers as they were given. Speakers and questioners were then given the opportunity to clarify their statements post facto. It should be noted that Professor Paul McKeigue’s presentation has been expanded to reproduce the full text of the Powerpoint presentation from which he was speaking. The hyperlinks have been largely sourced by the report-compiler, whose editorial text insertions are indicated by square brackets.

Download the report

 

Sedwill and May

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 16 Comments

The Douma incident of 7 April 2018: how did the intelligence services get it wrong?

Presentation to a meeting at the House of Commons hosted by Fabian Hamilton MP, 22 January 2020.

By Paul McKeigue

I’ll start by introducing myself. I trained as a doctor, and then as an epidemiologist and public health specialist. My expertise includes the investigation of scientific fraud, and the investigation of mass casualty incidents. I first started studying the alleged chemical attacks in Syria around 2015. That led to me discovering colleagues like Professor Tim Hayward at my own university, who shared my interest in investigating the stories that we were hearing from Syria. People sometimes ask me why I am doing this, in the face of flak directed at us. One reason is that I was brought up to believe in parliamentary government. As children each of us, at the age of eleven or twelve, was taken to a debate at the House of Commons. We were told that this was something special about our system of government. One of my concerns in relation to the alleged chemical attacks in Syria has been that Parliament has been misled. On the 14th April 2018, the UK had joined the US and France in a missile attack, without recalling Parliament for a vote. Two days later, Theresa May in the House of Commons responded to Sir Edward Leigh MP, who had apparently expressed doubts.

Portcullis House Meeting on 22 Jan 2020 OPCW Douma transcript [Final for Release]

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Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, media, OPCW, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | Leave a comment

Wikileaks Reveals Further Evidence of “Sexed-Up Dossier”: OPCW faces growing call for answers

As representatives of almost every state in the world gather this week in The Hague, all eyes should be on them. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – whose conference they are attending – was mandated by the people of the world to play a vital part in reducing the evils of war.

Instead, it seems, the OPCW has been manipulated to serve the ends of warmongers.

Critics and non-Western nations arrived at this understanding some time ago. Key investigators at the OPCW have known it for a fact. Their knowledge was brought to light first by the leak of a suppressed report, then by firsthand testimony heard by an international panel, and now by Wikileaks’ release of an email in which an OPCW inspector expresses the gravest concern about intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored. Crucial facts about the 2018 Douma chemical claims, he writes, “have morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted.”

The Western media has concealed the problem because – bluntly – it is part of the problem. Journalists in established news outlets do not have the investigative autonomy that they would need to fulfil their calling.

But the news is out. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens writes that what’s been uncovered “appears to be the worst instance of ‘sexing-up’ in support of war since the invasion of Iraq and Tony Blair’s doctored dossiers.” In Italy’s leading broadsheet La Repubblica, Stefania Maurizi puts the critical question: “Will the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization shed light on the whistleblower’s serious charges after this email?”

Hopefully, the questions will now be firmly pressed, and this post will carry updates as and when they are covered in the media.

Further coverage and updates [most recent first]

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Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 7 Comments