Monday, 5 December 2016

My Interview at 'The Mind Renewed' About Tony Blair's Alleged Participation in a War of Aggression - Part One of 'Can the British State Convict itself?'


The first part of a wide-ranging interview that I had with Julian Charles of the 'Mind Renewed' about my forthcoming paper 'Can the British State Convict itself?'

This segment focuses on Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to take Britain to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003, the circumstances of which much considered legal opinion has equated to have involved participating in conspiracy to wage an aggressive war in contravention of established international criminal law.

The next segment will look at Britain's role in the American-led extraordinary rendition of Islamist terror suspects involving the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of counter-intelligence at MI6, Mark Allen and Britain's counter-insurgency strategy in Northern Ireland which was initiated in the early 1970s by the then Brigadier Frank Kitson.

TMR page - Episode 159 ‘Can the British State Convict Itself?’ (Part One: Tony Blair)

“But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”-Downing Street Memo

This week we are joined by the lawyer and university lecturer Adeyinka Makinde for the first part of a fascinating two-part interview centring in his forthcoming academic paper: “Intelligence Accountability: Can the British State Convict Itself?” focusing on the 2003 Iraq invasion, “extraordinary renditions” and the UK’s counter-insurgency strategy in the early years of the Northern Ireland “Troubles”, Makinde questions the relationship between morality and “national interest” goals, and probes international and domestic law to make a case for the criminal culpability of high-ranking officials of the British state.

In this first part, Adeyinka Makinde challenges the opinion held by some experts, such as Geoffrey Robertson, that Tony Blair is not eligible to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

Adeyinka Makinde trained for the law as a barrister. He lectures in criminal law and public law at a university in London, and has an academic research in intelligence & security matters. He is a contributor to a number of websites for which he has written essays and commentaries on international relations, politics and military history. He has served as a programme consultant and provided expert commentary for BBC World Service Radio, China Radio International and Voice of Russia.


© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England



Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro - Legacy

Fidel Castro by Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamin

Sympathetic obituaries expressed by politicians, activists and intellectuals of the recently deceased Fidel Castro will doubtless be slated by those who claim that the political Left is blind so far as despotism, oppression and ideologically inspired maladministration is concerned with Left-leaning revolutionaries.

Fidel's charisma cannot cover up the failures of his Marxist inspired system of governance they will argue. Where pro-Castro ideologues and other sympathizers will argue that Fidel saved Cuba from being the perennial Caribbean whorehouse of exploitative US corporations and organized criminals, the political Right will assert that Augustino Pinochet saved Chile from becoming a pit of Marxist misery.

If Fidel's hardline policies created the success of its renowned education and medical systems, Chile's relative economic prosperity should be credited to Pinochet's Chicago School influenced neo-liberal shock therapy.

It is worth briefly exploring the notion of there been an equivalency between the fortunes of Cuba and Chile under the leaderships respectively of Fidel and Pinochet.

After the trials and executions which followed the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, the level of coercion used by the Castro government diminished and was nowhere near the level of state sponsored violence employed by the Chilean junta which was among the Right wing Latin American military dictatorships that implemented 'Operation Condor'. The evidence garnered from the research undertaken into this project aimed at neutralising political opposition clearly demonstrates that the  homicidal violence and systems of torture applied in countries such as Argentina and in Chile was widely disproportionate to anything in Fidel’s Cuba save for the immediate aftermath of the revolution.

Furthermore, the violence of the Pinochet regime’s battle against Marxist guerrillas and intellectuals was indicative of the great level of resistance against Pinochet while Castro was and still is a largely beloved figure among most of the resident Cuban population.

It has also been strongly argued that the economic success Chile began to experience in the 1980s owed more -if not everything- to the policies implemented at the time and not to the inhumane levels of unemployment and widespread hardship caused by the shock therapy administered during the previous decade in the aftermath of Allende's overthrow.

Pinochet is said to have gloated over the death of Fidel's friend and co-ideologue, Salvador Allende whose government he violently overthrew in 1973, by claiming that Allende had committed suicide at the La Moneda presidential palace using a rifle given to him as a gift from Fidel.

But if he held out hope that the same fate would befall his 'rival' Fidel he was wrong. Fidel outlasted the US-backed military juntas and other authoritarian regimes of Latin and Central America and saw the coming to power of Left-leaning governments in the region including the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He survived a crippling American trade embargo as well as the difficulties caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the coming of an age of US-dominated unipolarity.

His revolution is considered a cornerstone of the post-war anti-colonial movement. And after enduring the trials of the Cold War through the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis and numerous CIA-sponsored assassination attempts, Fidel endeared himself not only to Western Left-wing intellectuals but to many in the Third World for breathing life into the non-aligned movement.

He also won the gratitude and admiration of many on the African continent where Cuban soldiers shed blood during the Angolan Civil War; a classic Cold War-era proxy war waged between American and Soviet assets, and importantly one in which the Cuban armed forces inflicted a defeat on the South African Defence Force in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

Fidel was a dictator at the head of a one party system through which personal freedoms were curtailed and the operation of a planned economy had great ramifications for individual initiative.

But the genesis of Fidel from romantic revolutionary leader of the Sierra Maestra into the head of an Island fortress who aligned himself with the Soviet Union is one that still exercises analysts of the Cuban Revolution. While some assert that he was a communist from the very beginning, others claim that he was simply a Cuban nationalist imbued with an agenda which would be predicated on reforming economic inequities and fostering social justice.

The former school of thought finds justification in his political alliances with his brother Raul and the Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevara. Both believed in the tenets of Marxist thinking, with Raul growing closer to the Soviet Union and Che favouring Maoist China.

The latter viewpoint maintains that Fidel was forced into the arms of the Soviet camp by American hostility which in the Cold War period automatically ascribed communist leanings to most national liberation movements. It is a perspective also accommodating of a rationale for Fidel’s decision to turn Cuba into a closed society.

‘Open’, democratic  societies, Fidel and Che had noted had been susceptible to infiltration and destabilisation by covert action undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency in the overthrow of governments in Iran and Guatemala.

Since a democratised Cuba with a free press and independent non-governmental organisations could only make itself vulnerable to manipulation by the intelligence agencies of the imperialist powers, Fidel, who had closely studied the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, made a commitment to forswear the development of an open society if he came to power.

The trappings of a totalitarian state were evident. The purge at the outset of his coming to power was as violent and arbitrary as Mengistu’s ‘Bloody Saturday’ or episodes of Soviet state terror during the Yezhovchina.

Also, the fall and eventual execution of General Arnaldo Ochoa, Cuba's most decorated soldier, was a troubling episode which despite Fidel's explanations, a significant many believe was orchestrated to scapegoat a hero of the Cuban Republic in order to ensure that Fidel and his brother Raul saved face.

While his enemies, many of whom developed and entrenched a formidable level of political power in the US state of Florida, would say that his control of certain state land and properties equated to the amassing of great personal wealth, Fidel is viewed as a fearless and selfless liberator for the oppressed masses of Latin America and Africa.

His domestic programme included progressive policies aimed at alleviating centuries of racial and gender inequalities, improving housing, expanding medical care, securing agrarian reform and developing the country’s natural resources for the common good.

That he could transform his country from being a private bordello of US corporate gangsters and Mafioso to one possessing a first class health service and education system is evidence of his having been a force for the betterment of his people.

In raising Cuban society from the moral and economic cesspit of foreign domination and exploitation as well as in showing the sort of courage few African, Latin American or other leaders from the developing world could muster in standing up to imperialism, it is Fidel more than any authoritarian figure to the Left or Right of the political spectrum who for many reasons will leave a positive legacy whatever the shortcomings of his revolutionary government.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

'Fidel Castro'. Expressionist-style portrait by Oswaldo Guayasamin (1961)

He was one of the dominating figures in world politics and global events of the 20th Century: The Cuban revolution was a stunning part of the post-war anti-colonial movement. The Cold War brought the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cuban involvement in proxy wars in Angola & Ethiopia. He was also a key figure in the attempt to breathe life into the non-aligned movement.
Domestically, and commencing with a bloody purge of the ancien regime, he was at the heart of social and economic reform not seen in Latin America since the time of Bolivar. Economic and social freedoms were compromised but accompanied by astounding developments in health and education.
And just as the Cuban system survived a long-term US-led embargo and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc which had followed in the wake of Gorbachev inspired 'perestroika' and 'glasnost', Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, it must be said, was the ultimate political survivor.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Forthcoming Interview on 'The Mind Renewed'


I will soon be making an appearance on 'The Mind Renewed', an internet podcast show about "thinking Christianly in a New World Order".

It is hosted by Julian Charles who has in the past interviewed the likes of Dr. Paul Craig Roberts,  the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy during US President Ronald Reagan's first term in office who is a major voice in the 'alternative media' as a critic of US foreign and economic policy, and Dr. Daniele Ganser, an academic who wrote a book about Nato's secret armies; that is, the anti-Warsaw Pact stay-behind cells which later morphed into something very sinister during the Cold War years.

TMR Schedule Page on Adeyinka Makinde

We shall be joined by the lawyer and university lecturer Adeyinka Makinde for an interview centring in his forthcoming academic paper: "Can the British State Convict Itself?" Focusing on the Iraq invasion, "extraordinary renditions" and the UK's counter-insurgency strategy in the early years of the Northern Ireland "Troubles", Makinde questions the relationship between morality and "national interest" goals, and probes international and domestic law to make a case for the criminal culpability of high-ranking officials of the British state. He also challenges the opinion held by some experts, such as Geoffrey Robertson, that Tony Blair is not eligible to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

Adeyinka Makinde trained for the law as a barrister. He lectures in criminal law and public law at a university in London, and has an academic research interest in intelligence & security matters. He is a contributor to a number of websites for which he has written essays and commentaries on international relations, politics and military history. He has served as a programme consultant and provided expert commentary for BBC World Service Radio, China Radio International and the Voice of Russia.


© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Brexit: A Constitutional Argument for Completing the Process of Withdrawal from the European Union


The recent decision by the High Court in favour of an action brought to challenge the government’s decision to use powers under the Royal Prerogative to trigger article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which would effectively bypass Parliamentary supervision and approval, has reopened the often bitterly polarised debate among Britons over its association with the European Union. The challenge is largely seen by those in the ‘Leave’ camp as a strategy geared towards frustrating the United Kingdom’s exit. It is also correct to say that many in the ‘Remain’ camp see this move in much the same way, given the pro-European Union views of the applicants and their backers. However, while over 70 per cent of Members of Parliament were in favour of remaining in the European Union, there are strong constitutional arguments which endorse the position that Parliament, although the sovereign body within the United Kingdom, would be going against constitutional propriety if it sought to reverse the result of the referendum vote.

I presume that I have not been the only lecturer in constitutional law who has been inundated with queries from students about the mechanism of triggering Article 50 and Britain's withdrawal from the European Union. Is the referendum binding or can Parliament refuse to go through with withdrawal from the EU? My response was and continues to be that there is no specific rule which states that a referendum is binding on Parliament which in British constitutional theory is sovereign.

As A.V. Dicey asserted, Parliament can make or unmake any law and no other body within the United Kingdom can overrule its decisions. Further, the result of the referendum is, as even Nigel Farage concedes, 'advisory' not 'binding'.

There have of course been grumblings about the closeness of the vote, and also that both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted majoritively in favour of remaining in the European Union.

However, my position is that the referendum vote is required to be upheld and that Parliament, notwithstanding that a majority of its members favour ‘Remain’, is obligated to oversee the withdrawal of the United Kingdom for the following reasons:

1. The previous referendum over continued European Union (then European Community) membership in 1975 was upheld and Britain duly remained in the organisation. Therefore as a matter of precedence, the decision to leave should be followed through.

2. The fact that Britain had to call for a referendum over whether the European Communities Act (1972) should be repealed indicated that the will of the people would be given precedence.

The doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty essentially means that law, even those with constitutional significance, can be repealed by a simply majority vote in Parliament.

In a country such as the United States which has a written constitution with the attendant express distinction between constitutional and ordinary law, this would be impossible.

Constitutional rules are, to use the technical term, 'entrenched'. In other words, they can only be changed through a special procedure which usually needs to have a healthy majority such as two-thirds consent.

The referendum requirement was an admission that the European Communities Act was effectively entrenched and that a vote by the people, the equivalent of a special procedure utilised by nations with codified constitutions, would decide whether to continue or reject the Act which gives up British sovereignty to a supra-national entity.

3. The referendum should be upheld and Britain should proceed with withdrawal on the basis of what is known as 'political sovereignty'. 'Legal sovereignty', that is, the power vested in a body with supreme law-making power in a country, rests with the United Kingdom Parliament. Its law making powers have no limitations so far as subject matter, geographical competence and time range are concerned. In fact, Parliament, to borrow a phrase used by King Charles I, historically possesses a "universal over-swaying power".

However, even Dicey acknowledged, "Behind the legal sovereign that the lawyer recognizes, there is another sovereign to whom the legal sovereign must bow."

He continued thus, "This is the political sovereign. In democracies, the legal sovereign receives its authority from the electorate, whatever be the basis of the right of vote, and is answerable to it for the exercise of its powers."

In other words, Parliament is itself subject to the will of the people at regular intervals via the electoral process. Fresh mandates are sought after the expiry of a full term of Parliament or even -the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2010 notwithstanding- before such expiry.

While it would be correct to characterise Members of Parliament as being the representatives rather than the delegates of their electors, it is pertinent to remind that Parliament makes laws based on policies broadly approved by the legislature.

If the argument that political sovereignty lies with the electorate is accepted, then the specific device of the referendum serves as a special mechanism through which Parliament is obliged to effect the will of the people. While the referendum is not binding, it arguably represents a conscious transfer of decision-making power to the people. Therefore overturning the result of the referendum would be unconscionable.

5. A simple majority vote has to be respected. The referendum vote while fairly close at 52 to 48 per cent in favour of exiting the European Union should not intrinsically serve as grounds for disputing the legitimacy of the result. While a much more decisive margin in favour of either 'Remain' or 'Leave' would have been welcome, the electoral culture of the British political process which is dominated by the 'first past the post' system has ensured that Parliament has received electoral mandates from the slimmest of majority votes. In fact, the system enables the winner of the 'largest' number of votes among election candidates to prevail over others whose combined votes may surpass that of the winner.

The uproar over the recent High Court ruling in favour of Parliamentary input into the terms of withdrawal is essentially one which is fearful of the possibility that Parliament could exercise its sovereign powers to ignore 'Brexit' and remain in the European Union.

There is a great deal of merit to the argument that Parliament, as the sovereign law making organ of the land and representative body of the electorate should be fully involved in the process of triggering the mechanism for Britain’s withdrawal as well as negotiating the details of the withdrawal before it formulates a great repeal bill.

It is Parliament after all which passed the relevant Act which took Britain into the then European Community and the detailed conditions of Britain’s departure which would define the nature of the country’s relationship with the European Union after departure should arguably not be left to the executive branch of government exercising powers under the ancient Royal Prerogative.

That said, there is also logic in the counter-argument that since the prerogative power related to the signing of treaties was used in signing the Treaty of Accession in 1973 which formalised the United Kingdom’s entry into Europe, there is nothing inappropriate in utilising the same power to trigger the process of the country’s withdrawal.

It is possible for Parliament to be involved in the process of triggering article 50 while remaining faithful to the referendum decision to leave. It would also be incumbent on the government to follow through with the United Kingdom’s exit if the High Court’s decision is overruled by the Supreme Court.

However, Britain operates under the auspices of an inherently flexible uncodified constitutional system of governance, and this factor taken together with the polarised circumstances over the terms of Britain's association with Europe may be enough to temper any assumptions of an absolutely correct theoretical approach to this matter.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde teaches Public Law. He is based in London, England.