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Vol 166 No 16
See page 3
3-5 News Anti-corruption
campaigners speak truth to power and force it to answer Tony Weekes urges Friends to consider a people-centred approach to the economy Supporting Quakers across the Middle East and Europe
See page 10
See page 13
Images on this page from top: Representatives of Campaign Against Arms Trade and The Corner House face the media after their court victory (see page 3), photo: Jez Smith; young people at Junior Yearly Meeting (see page 10), photo: Will Alder; Clare Higgins playing Lady Britomart Undershaft in Major Barbara (see page 13), photo: Catherine Ashmore.
6 To be or not to be – a way of life Robin Bennett
7 Comment Hazel Inskip and David Martin
10-11 Junior Yearly Meeting Fiona Foulkes and Epistle
12-13 Arts In Fair Palestine: a story of Romeo & Juliet Rob Johnson Old and new at the same time John Lampen A spiritual compass David Ford
14-15 Defending human rights in Colombia Ruth Cherrington
16 q-eye: wry observations from the Quaker world
17 Friends & Meetings
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18 April 2008
Cover: Photos of JYM courtesy Will Alder, Zoey Arrowsmith, Gerrard Fife & Fran Lane. See pages 10-11
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the Friend , 18 April 2008 News
Anti-corruption campaigners speak truth to power and force it to respond
It is not often that a court lambasts the government for ‘surrender’, for describing the law as ‘powerless to resist’ and putting forward an argument that ‘invites at least dismay, if not outrage’. But all these and more were found in the High Court judgement on the decision to halt a corruption enquiry into UK-Saudi arms deals. In a strongly-worded judgment delivered on Thursday 10 April, judges Jeremy Sullivan and Alan Moses stated that the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) should not have halted a probe into arms deals between British arms company BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. The director acted unlawfully in suspending the investigation because of a threat by Saudi Arabia to cancel an arms deal and withdraw diplomatic and security cooperation, they ruled. The decision comes in the response to a judicial review of the suspension brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House, an anti-corruption organisation. Commenting on the decision, Symon Hill of CAAT said: ‘I’m over the moon about it. It is utterly brilliant.’ Symon, himself a Quaker, added: ‘It is great news for the Quaker testimony to peace and the Quaker practice of speaking truth to power in a radical but effective way. Yesterday we spoke truth to power from a radical position and now power has to respond.’ The ruling will not result in the immediate re-opening of the investigation: there will be a
further hearing in the near future, at which the judges will state what should happen next. There are expectations that the SFO will be required to revisit its decision to suspend the enquiry; while it may again decide not to continue with the investigation, any subsequent suspension will have to be justified in light of the judgement. The SFO had been investigating alleged corruption in BAE-Saudi arms deals since 2004. In mid2006 SFO investigators were granted access to bank accounts in Switzerland, following which ‘Saudi representatives’, alleged in The Sunday Times to be prince Bandar bin Sultan (one of those implicated in the alleged corruption being investigated), made the threat which resulted in the investigation being halted. This decision was branded by the judges as a ‘successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom’. They added: ‘No-one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice’. Susan Hawley of The Corner House said: ‘The beauty of the judgment is it says the SFO is independent’, meaning that its decisions should not be subject to government pressure. However, this newly reasserted independence could be threatened by a bill currently going through parliament: the constitutional renewal bill. If passed, it will empower the attorney general to halt criminal investigations
on grounds of national security, without the decision being subjected to judicial oversight. Symon Hill called it ‘a severe threat to democracy and to the balance of power in the UK’ and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called on the government to think again. Oliver Robertson
What is a judicial review? It is a court proceeding where judges decide whether a decision has been made in a lawful manner. It does not consider the rights or wrongs of the issue.
Why is the SFO and not the government in court? The SFO is an independent investigatory and prosecutorial body. The SFO’s director made the decision to halt the enquiry following government advice that he had valid grounds to do so. It is his decision that was being challenged.
Where is BAE in all this? Publicly, BAE have kept out of the case, stating that it was between the SFO and the campaign groups. However, their legal team were present in court during the hearing, as revealed earlier this year in the Friend (22 February). And they paid an agency to spy on CAAT and obtained its legal advice relating to the review.
the Friend , 18 April 2008