Raymond Soltysek's Blog

Yashika Bageerathi: a vicious injustice

Posted in Immigration, Justice, Politics by raymondsoltysek on April 3, 2014

I’ve been staying off politics because I’ve been getting angrier and angrier over the last few months about so many things.  However sometimes apoplexy wins out.

The treatment of Yashika Bageerathi – the forcible end of her education,  the ripping apart of her family, her deportation in the company of five guards in a half-empty plane paid for by the British taxpayer – is surely one of the most shameful acts of a government that is steeped in a racist anti-immigration policy in order to appeal to the very basest voters, despite the protests of almost 200,000 people.  When we vote Yes in September, I truly hope the new Scottish government will invite her and her family here to contribute to a vibrant new country.

In the meantime, an idea for peaceful protest I stuck up on Twitter is gathering a  bit of steam.  Please consider making this simple gesture as a measure of support for a young woman who has been treated truly appallingly.



Protest the treatment Yashika Bageerathi



Norway shows us how to deal with terrorism.

Posted in Justice, Politics, Terrorism by raymondsoltysek on August 26, 2012

“He is doomed… no one… can say otherwise… I do not need to worry about him anymore.” Emma Martinovic, Utoya survivor ((AP Photo/Heiko Junge/pool))

Just over a year ago, I saw at first hand the bravery and dignity of the Norwegian nation.  Susanne Sundfør, a young Norwegian singer, was performing in Wroclaw a matter of hours after her country had been rocked to its core by Anders Breivik’s cowardly attack on the children of its political classes. Despite having to sing songs that seemed so prescient of the horror that unfolded in Oslo and Utoya, she was restrained, elegant and proud, while at the same time in obvious pain. It was a humbling experience.

I think we’ve seen a scaled up version of that dignity in Norway’s treatment of the whole Breivik case, and it has shown the world how to respond to acts of terrorism that are designed to attack what we are and what we believe in. Breivik wanted to change the country, to make it turn away from openness and tolerance, to make it cower in fear and lash out against the forces of darkness he thought threatened it. The country’s reaction has been magnificent; they have responded by being even more open and tolerant, by refusing to cower or lash out or be afraid – of him.

Breivik is one of those delusional oddballs who believes in white supremacy because it allows him to bask in the myth of his own exceptionalism. Norway’s answer to him has been masterful in that it has refused to treat him any differently than any other criminal, no matter how petty. Thus, he has had exactly the same opportunity as anyone else to address the court, will have exactly the same restrictions and privileges as anyone else in a Norwegian prison, has received exactly the same maximum sentence that any other Norwegian criminal would receive. In effect, they have marginalised him, debased him, emasculated him by giving him the message that no matter how hard he strikes against their way of life, life will go on the same as if he were a pickpocket or a paedophile.

And what has been remarkable is the support this approach has had from the people. Even the families – those who I have seen or read interviews with – have been dignified and respectful and even grateful to the judicial system. There is no barking for revenge; just read the mature, sensible, rational but absolutely touching words of 19-year old Emma Martinovic, a survivor of that day:

“This means so much. Everyone has talked about how he would be judged insane, and I thought so too. But this confirms that he is sane and healthy, something we’ve known since day one. Finally someone who listens to us and understands us. It is absolutely amazing and feels very fair. This allows me to move on. He is doomed, and there is no one who can say otherwise. Now he is in the cell and I trust the police security. Now I do not need to worry about him anymore.”

That is the most eloquent one-finger salute that could ever be delivered to Breivik and his kind; you are done and dusted, and I will never think of you again, you little, little man.

Of course, posters on Huffington Post UK – which, unlike it’s generally liberal US counterpart, seems to have become a haven for Daily Mail readers and similar right-wing nutjob halfwits – went bananas with faux outrage. “21 years? That’s three and a half months per victim”, they chanted, as if justice can be reduced to a question of Primary school arithmetic. He’ll be out in ten years because of some go-gooder social worker. He’ll fool the psychiatrists. He’s be in his fifties at the end of his sentence. Insane. Norway should be ashamed of itself.

I wish fuckers like these didn’t annoy me as much as they do, but they do. Oh my word they do. Quite apart from the fact that Breivik received the maximum sentence allowed by law of 21 years, with the possibility of that being extended indefinitely by 5 years at a time if he is still considered a danger to the public – which ensures that he will undoubtedley spend the rest of his life behind bars –  the depressingly predictable calls for the rope, firing squad or being roasted on a spit totally ignored the fact that Breivik himself would probably embrace martyrdom like a long-lost idiot brother, thereby ensuring his immortality in the racist, survivalist community worldwide.

This outrage, based as it is in fear, is tremendously useful to the corporate governments of the west, since it validates a whole host of intrusive measures designed to “protect” us. Masquerading as “antiterrorism”, the governments of the UK and US have brought in a whole range of strategies that are more useful to them not because they control subversives, but because they control us. Phone-tapping, e-mail gathering, rendition, extra-judicial imprisonment, even worldwide torture chambers in countries that belong in the pits of hell are all part of a system that can seamlessly be tweaked to suppress the general population. And so hackers like Gary McKinnon and Ryan Cleary, whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning and even Julian Assange himself all find themselves up against a finely-tuned bureaucratic structure whose tentacles can now grasp anyone, anywhere, and whose outposts are as shadowy as anything in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.

And, as such, we have been complicit in the victory of the terrorists to force us to change our ways, change our lives, abandon any pretence we ever had to democratic principles. In terrorism, the military, the secret services, the governments and the global corporate structures have found their best ever ally in their battle to control and to manipulate we, the people. And every time we cry, “String him up” or “What’s wrong with water boarding?” we cast our vote in support.

So, bless Norway for being the only Western country this century to truly stand up against terrorism, by mainaining its sanity and refusing to abandon its principles.  They have ensured their democracy which was so cruelly attacked has survived not just intact, but immeasurably strengthened.


No escape for Assange, but we let a torturer go.

Posted in Justice, Politics, Society by raymondsoltysek on August 19, 2012
link to Wikipedia Pinochet extradition


I can’t help comparing the hoo-ha over Julian Assange with that stain on the reputation of the Blair government, their failure to extradite General Augusto Pinochet in 2000 to Spain to face charges of torture.

I am as dubious as anyone about the case against Assange.  The charges against him rest largely on him not using a condom during consensual sex with two women, one  of whom threw a party for him after the event.  Both women are linked to the US security services, apparently.  But of course, charges of rape – even if that country’s definition of rape seems to be totally at odds with anything we would understand the term to mean – are hugely serious, and must be investigated.  Assange must answer the charges, and has offered to do so if Swedish officers will come to the UK or if they will guarantee him safety from extradition to the US.  They have refused.

But it’s nonsense to say it’s just about that: it is absolutely clear that the US has some stake in this, and will apply for Assange’s extradition when he is in Sweden.  We’ve already seen that, while refusing to acknowledge international law in a whole raft of ways, such as the criminal court in the Hague, the US believes its law can be exported to other judicial systems; hence their demand for the extradition of hackers from the UK.  In effect, international law for the US consists of US law being applied to preserve US interests wherever it wishes.

William Hague’s horrible “there will be no escape” pronouncements, then, are all part of keeping the US happy.  It has nothing to do with international law or extradition treaties; it’s all about what the US wants.  It was exactly the same in 2000, when, despite the highest court in the land ruling that Pinochet should be extradited to Spain to face torture charges and despite a swathe of international courts and governments supporting that, Jack Straw delayed and delayed and delayed the extradition until doctors could concoct a case for him being too ill to go to Spain.  Funny – he was too ill to go to Spain, but well enough to travel to Chile, which is a bit like me saying the journey to Edinburgh is a bit wearing, so I’ll go to Berlin instead.

But of course, Pinochet was a pal of George W. Bush, seen as a still  influential US ally amongst the red threat in South America.  There was a message to be sent out, since no dictator would ever cooperate with the US again if they were going to be held responsible for crimes condoned and actively supported by the US in the future.  Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher saw him as the man who was willing to turn his country into one of the first testbeds of the Friedman economics that has dominated the world since the 1970s.  There was no way the politicians were going to accede to the demands of the law in that case; Pinochet had to be protected.

So: if it is permissible to let a torturer slip through the legal net, why is the government so vexed about the story of an albeit rather arrogant guy who might have slipped up with a burst prophylactic?  Of course, it’s to do with the establishment.  Pinochet was part of it, part of the global power elite who are prepared to repress and torture and kill to maintain the status quo;  Assange threatens it by providing a mechanism by which their grubby secrets – great and small – can be washed in public.

And by playing up the charges against Assange, it obviously draws attention away from and discredits Wikileaks.

The messenger is being shot.  Just what Pinochet would have wanted.

Cyntoia Brown: a suitable case for compassion (2)

Posted in Crime, Justice, Social justice by raymondsoltysek on June 27, 2012

Cyntoia Brown

A pretty boring football match had me shuffling through programmes I’d saved, and decided on “The 16-Year-old Killer: Cyntoia’s Story”, recently repeated on BBC3.  Cyntoia was 15 when she found herself pimped out by a 24-year old drug dealer and addict with a history of violence and the nickname “Cut-throat”.  Picked up in a notorious red light district, something tragic happened along the way that resulted in her shooting dead the 43-year old man she met that night.

Tried as an adult, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.  Film maker Daniel Birman was given access to her and he followed the whole process.  The result is one of the most humane and heart-rending documentaries I’ve ever seen.

That Cyntoia was damaged is beyond doubt: there are times when, glassy-eyed, you can almost imagine a psychopath lurking inside.  But with a history of abandonment and sexual abuse, it’s hardly surprising she would develop a carapace, despite the obvious love of her adopted mother.  However, she matures throughout the course of the film, and what we actually learn about her is that she is stoic, sensitive and fiercely intelligent.   What did the men want, she is asked; “Sex… for money” is her initial response, but then she pauses and, in a moment of blindingly adult insight, she adds, “No… they wanted acceptance and admiration.”  No sixteen year old should have that kind of knowledge.

So Cyntoia’s compensation for all that abuse and pain and hurt was to be called a cold-blooded killer and to be sent down for the rest of her life.  A fifteen year old, unable to understand the complexities of the legal system and duped during questioning, then thrown on the scrap heap, no possibility of rehabilitation or redemption considered.  What a waste.

But that’s the great state of Tennessee.  Read the responses to the excellent Brantley Hargrove article in the Nashville Scene, and you’ll get a sense of just how inhumane they like justice to be over there.  How can you have any hope for a world in which people react to this kid’s plight with:

“This rotten, no-good little bitch will be out on parole in four years, so spare us the frickin’ violins. Public safety is more important than giving second chances to monsters”?

Of course, it’s also no accident that such people glory in the fact that Cyntoia is now locked up for the rest of her life in the “penile system”; with inhumanity comes ignorance.  Thankfully, looking at the “likes” and “dislikes” on the message board, such heartless bastards are in a minority.

I believe that justice must often include an element of punishment, but have never understood the notion that the more severe the punishment, the better the needs of the victim are served.  Of course, such a simplistic notion is attractive to politicians who want to avoid systems that truly take care of victims and their families because such systems – full compensation, counselling, relocation if appropriate, health and social care – are too expensive to countenance; the argument that says, “what about the victims; lock them up and throw away the key” is much, much cheaper, and then allows the next step, the “why should we pay for them to live in luxury; just execute them.”  It’s why restorative justice – which truly does look after the victim’s needs – is so valuable.

I can’t understand the mindset of anyone wanting to lock up a damaged and abused child for the rest of her life. A petition to release her pending review of her case can be found here: Free Cyntoia Brown Petition | GoPetition .  Please read her story and consider signing.