Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

War is peace

HOT’s Sean O’ Shea talks to local activist and anti-war campaigner, Chris Coverdale, about his background, the people who have inspired him, the laws of war, the reasons why so few people are charged for war crimes and his prison experience.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

 1984, George Orwell

Could you say a bit about your professional background and how you became interested in politics?

For twenty five years of my life I was a director of a management and organisation development consultancy working on developing teamwork and innovation in organisations. After suffering two successive corporate frauds, I spent four years investigating fraud and corruption in business and government in Britain.

In 2002 I discovered that the Government had been breaking the laws of war for decades, so together with two other peace activists, I attempted to obtain an injunction to prevent Tony Blair from going to war with Iraq.

Since then I have been involved in numerous legal, political and financial attempts to end Britain’s illegal involvement in war. I attempted to help Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and other MPs set up an All Party Parliamentary Group : Legal Action Against War. I stood as an independent candidate for Wimbledon in 2005 and set up a website called Make Wars History.

I’ve been arrested and convicted for protesting against war outside Parliament, made bankrupt for my involvement in a lawful tax resistance campaign, and I’ve made more than three hundred and fifty attempts to report leaders’ war crimes to police, but so far to no avail.

Who were some of the people that have inspired you and why?

  • My father for leaving the Jesuits and developing his action learning process
  • Bruce Kent, for standing up to the Catholic Church and working for peace
  • Mahatma Gandhi, for defeating the British by using non-violent tax refusal methods
  • Malalai Joya, sole woman MP in Afghanistan, for her stand for women’s education
  • Brian Haw, Maya Evans and Milan Rai, for taking a stand against Britain’s wars
  • Ken O’Keefe for his courage, humanity and ability to stand up to Governments
  • JFK for disobeying the Fed and the banking elite knowing he could be assassinated
  • Martin Luther King for his non-violent political activism and philosophy

Most people would probably concede that civilians are the primary casualties of war and many of these are children. In your disturbing and thought provoking interview with Tony Fallon, Principal Intelligence Analyst for South Yorkshire Police (available at Make Wars History), you cited an estimate of over a million and a quarter war casualties in the last decade. What would be your current estimate?

One and three quarter million casualties of which six hundred thousand [35%] were children. If all these children’s coffins were placed end to end in a line it would stretch for six hundred kilometres.

You consider some former senior politicians – including Jack Straw and Tony Blair – as guilty of war crimes. Could you describe the relevant statutes and international laws which you contend have been violated?

It is not only former politicians such as Blair and Straw who have committed war crimes but every MP who voted in favour of the use of force against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Every public official who supported or condoned the military actions of HM Government since October 2001 has (albeit unwittingly) committed criminal offences of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and conduct ancillary to these crimes, under sections 51 and 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 [domestic law] and article 25 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [international law].

Each of them also committed serious crimes by breaching: the Kellogg Briand Pact (the Treaty for the Renunciation of War), the UN Charter, the Nuremburg Principles, the UN Declaration on Principles of International Law, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

They can also be tried under customary international law, (Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal) for the same crimes committed by Germany’s leaders during WWII, as well as in domestic UK law under: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Criminal Law Act 1977 (for conspiracy to commit murder etc) and under the common law for offences of murder, war crimes and crimes against peace.

How do you account for the general ignorance and lack of publicity about international law principles in regard to war-making, and why are so few people charged for war crimes?

I think the main causes of our general ignorance of the laws of war are firstly our culture of military imperialism based on two hundred years of war-making, standing armed forces, war heroes and monarchs inheriting by birthright the role of Commander-in-Chief; and secondly the total lack of education or briefings on the laws of war. Everything about our military imperialist culture glorifies warfare and acts of mass murder posing as glorious victories.

I believe that the reason why so few are charged with war crimes is simple. If no-one in Britain knows the laws of war, no public official or law enforcement officer is in a position to uphold, obey or enforce them. If no-one arrests, indicts, convicts or punishes the Queen, the Prime Minister, MPs, military commanders or taxpayers when they commit war crimes, then they assume they are immune from prosecution and so are keen to repeat the process and bask in the glory and rewards it brings them as ‘heroic’ war time leaders.

You also contend that as citizens we have been, wittingly or unwittingly, complicit in war crimes. How do people respond to this challenging allegation, and what actions would you like to see citizens take to prevent further wars?

Unfortunately very few people accept their complicity in war crimes or are willing to consider the law on which it is based. We’ve lived for so long in an environment of peace and security and so far from the bombs, rockets and cruise missiles which kill hundreds in the Middle East every day that these accusations of complicity in atrocities and war crimes go straight over taxpayers’ heads. Three main ways for citizens to prevent war are: lawful tax rebellion, reporting leaders’ war crimes to police and informing themselves on the laws of war and associated responsibilities and prohibitions.

Chris - small

You were jailed last year: could you say why?

In October 2015 I was illegally sent to prison for forty two days by a District Judge at Hastings Magistrates Court for ‘wilful refusal and refusing to co-operate with bailiffs’, which I have to say is not an imprisonable offence. I started withholding tax in 2002 when I learnt that ‘the provision of the means for the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide’ is a crime of ‘conduct ancillary to war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide’. Having discovered that the actions of HM Forces in Afghanistan were war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in law, I realised that by paying tax I was funding these crimes and was therefore complicit in their commission.

Relatively recently I also discovered, on reading the Terrorism Act 2000, that it is a crime to demand, collect or pay money for the purposes of terrorism, that terrorism is defined as ‘the use of firearms or explosives endangering life for a political cause’ and that the UK Supreme Court has stated that this ‘appears to extend to the military and quasi-military activities of the British Government’. So it became clear to me that because the Government was attacking and killing innocent men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, by paying tax, I was not only committing a crime under s. 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, but I was also committing crimes under sections 15 and 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

So it was clear to me that I had a legal duty under both domestic and international law to withhold all payments of tax from the Council and other authorities, until I knew that the money was not going to be used for the purposes of war or terrorism.

Since 2002 I have refused to pay tax while the British Government continues to use the money for the illegal purposes of terrorism and war. However I have not yet been able to find a court or judge in England willing to uphold, obey or enforce the law. Although every solicitor, barrister, lawyer and judge in Britain knows that bombing and killing innocent men women and children is one of the worst crimes known to law, not one of them is willing to take a stand against the Government, their paymasters, and uphold, obey or enforce the laws of war.

So now Rother District Council has started the process again and persuaded Hastings Magistrates to issue a liability order against me for the non payment of council tax. So if any reader knows of an honest barrister, solicitor, judge or lawyer willing to help me defend my actions in court and navigate my way through the inconsistencies of the criminal (in)justice system, I would be very grateful to hear from them. I can be contacted at:

What was it like being a guest of her majesty and what did you feel you achieved?

After nine days in Lewes prison and having put in a complaint of false imprisonment, I was moved to Ford open prison where I served the rest of my forty two day sentence. Although I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, the conditions and routines of both prisons were acceptable and having been sent to a monastic boarding school at the age of eight they were familiar and thus I was able to adapt to them easily.

The best thing about the prison was the friendly, helpful atmosphere created by the prisoners. I discovered that many of them should never have been sent to prison and were only there so that police and courts could fulfil their targets and be seen to be locking up ‘criminals’.

I long for the days when we can adopt a reparative justice system in Britain and all non-violent offenders are given tough community service sentences, have their assets confiscated and transferred to the community, and their sixty thousand places in prison are filled by the political, civil, military and business leaders responsible for war, mass murder and the largest frauds in British history.




Posted 07:28 Monday, Aug 8, 2016 In: SOS

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