Karzai demands return of all Afghans held prisoner by the UK in Helmand

President wants inmates transferred to Afghan justice system, though two-week deadline is legally impossible for UK to meet

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has demanded the return of Afghans held prisoner by the UK military in Helmand, giving London a two-week deadline that is legally impossible for the government to meet.

Last year UK courts banned the government from transferring the prisoners to their own justice system because of widespread torture in Afghan prisons.

This month the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, announced that Kabul and London had agreed safeguards to protect prisoners from torture, and handovers would start after three weeks.

The delay is a requirement to allow for any legal challenges to the decision, and is almost certain to stretch far longer, as lawyers acting for the prisoners have said they will challenge the decision in court.

But Karzai has demanded custody of the prisoners by 22 June. His spokesman said the British legal system should not be used as an excuse to delay the handover.

“We are living in Afghanistan and we are talking about Afghans detained on Afghan soil and held in Afghanistan. According to our laws this is a breach of sovereignty,” Aimal Faizi told the …read more  

From ceremony to therapy: how music could help to heal traumatised troops

Neurologists to look at use of music to aid those suffering from post-conflict trauma

Music is to be prescribed as therapy for soldiers suffering from the physical or mental effects of war, in a new initiative across the armed forces.

The army’s most senior musician, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Meldrum, is taking part in a ground-breaking conference on music and the trauma of war later this month in the City of London. It will look at the potential of music to rehabilitate troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many suffering post-traumatic stress and physical injuries. Musicians of the Royal Artillery Band and the Band of the Adjutant General’s Corps are among other military personnel attending the two-day conference.

Conference director Ian Ritchie said there was a growing realisation within the forces that military musicians can play a therapeutic role – taking music beyond “the parade ground and raising morale, playing for special occasions and generally being ceremonial and upbeat” to become part of the healing process.

At a recent meeting at the Royal Military School of Music, at Kneller Hall in London, the agenda included “the trauma and the post-traumatic stress that is now the modern-analysed description of shell-shock” and its treatment with …read more  

I salute the idea of soldiers in the classroom | Barbara Ellen

There’s a lot of snooty prejudice against ex-forces personnel. Why shouldn’t they train as teachers?

Looking at the government’s Troops to Teachers initiative, one could see where objections might lie, even nod in broad agreement. Candidates, from the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, wouldn’t need a degree and would undertake two years training on the job, with one day a week at university, qualifying them in around half the time it usually takes to become a teacher.

Clearly, rigorous assessment of candidates would be the primary requirement. Other than that, maybe those resisting Troops to Teachers should ask themselves how much of their opposition is based on genuine concerns and how much is ugly, unwarranted prejudice against the very notion of “meathead squaddies” in British classrooms?

Kneejerk discrimination against former services personnel has long been a national disgrace. Studies show that far too many end up broke, unemployed, under-treated for PTSD, homeless, alcoholic, drug addicted, suicidal or in prison. Even the fortunate ones who demob keen for a new challenge often encounter a society that only deems them fit for security-type employment. It’s one thing to choose and enjoy such work, quite another to have most other …read more  

UK's use of drones in Afghanistan 'may be in breach of international law'

Campaigning lawyers challenge legal defence set out by RAF as six protesters await trial over mass trespass of UK drone HQ

The use of remotely piloted drones by British forces in Afghanistan may be in breach of international law, a controversial legal opinion circulated to peace campaigners and released on Saturday claims.

The argument challenges the well established legal defence set out by the RAF for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the UN-sanctioned conflict.

Publication of the document coincides with the court appearance this week of six anti-drone protesters who pleaded not guilty to causing criminal damage following the first mass trespass inside the RAF’s new ground control for Afghan drone operations.

Written by Phil Shiner and Dan Carey of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, the legal opinion argues that use of drones inside Afghanistan, which is a UN-declared conflict zone, is subject to the European convention on human rights (ECHR). That principle is already established in British case law, they say, in relation to the case of Al Skeini, which went to judges in Strasbourg and concerned the killing of civilians during British security operations in Iraq.

Their document states: “The requirement …read more  

Drones mean RAF Waddington could become a new Greenham Common

Only one protester is staying at the site from where drones are controlled, but six are facing charges for entering the base

We pulled up to the peace caravan, Simon and I, his maroon taxi making its diesel noises, which is the only way I can account for the speed with which the police caught up with us. RAF Waddington spreads across the road, its planes sharp-nosed and incongruously aggressive against the Lincolnshire countryside. We didn’t see any drones.

“They’re just activated from Waddington,” pacifist Helen John says. “They could take off from anywhere in the world.” The missile-carrying Reaper aircraft have been controlled from here since April. I actually have no idea what a drone looks like.

“I don’t have a problem with it, to be honest,” Simon remarks. We had parked opposite Helen’s caravan, in a field of outrageously optimistic blossoming rapeseed, and were waiting for the police to pull up.

“To me, it’s no different to going over in a plane and dropping a bomb. Except it’s safer for our people.

“I suppose that’s the difference, isn’t it? When you kill people without putting yourself in jeopardy, that’s a moral difference” (not to mention being a war crime – which …read more