Charity, NoW

Jim heartfield jim at
Sun Aug 13 09:33:23 PDT 2000

The Week ending 13 August 2000


Russian authorities charged the British anti-landmine Charity the Halo trust with spying on 10 August, shortly after two British policemen, members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe were charged with spying by the Yugoslav authorities. Despite the outrage expressed by the British government, the growing hostility between so- called humanitarian organisations and the people that they claim to be helping is growing. Last year both the South African government and the Palestine National Authority protested at the extent to which foreign aid organisations were subverting the authority of elected officials. According to Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme 'In 1998, more civilian relief workers died than armed and trained UN military peace-keepers - 98 of them murdered.'

In January 2000 British aid worker, Syma Jamil, 25, from Glasgow, was wounded in an ambush as she drove a minibus in northern Namibia. In August last year four British aid workers - three of whom, Dr Roe, Sara Nam and David Heed, worked for the medical organisation Merlin, and the fourth, Peter Colenso, for the New York-based International Rescue Committee - kidnapped by armed rebels in the Liberian jungle along with 96 others. In October last year three foreign aid workers, including the United Nations Children's Fund representative in Burundi, were among nine people killed in an ambush by Hutu rebels in southern Burundi. Later Faith Doherty, a 39-year-old researcher with the British and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) (was) captured by illegal loggers in Indonesia.

Art and tai chi teacher Camilla Carr and Jon James were kidnapped and tortured by Chechen rebels and Carr was repeatedly raped in July 1997, while on a mission to help the children of Grozny for the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development. Amy Biehl a 26-year old Fulbright scholar was running a voter education project in Cape Town's Guguletu township when she was hacked to death by four black youths chanting 'one settler, one bullet' in August 1993.

The UN's Catherine Bertini demands that the Geneva Convention be extended to humanitarian workers - a telling parallel with soldiers, to whom the convention generally applies. Sadly, even with the best intentions, aid workers abroad are subverting the ordinary course of events according to principles derived from their own Western perceptions. Such principles often clash with those of indigenous peoples, leading to conflict. As long as there is inequality between the South and the wealthy North, humanitarian intervention will always tend to suit northern imperatives.

In the case of the landmine charity Halo, the Russian authorities were presumably unimpressed with the record of its founder Colin 'Mad Mitch' Mitchell. The former Tory minister served in the British forces in Aden, and behind Russian lines in Afghanistan. Employing Chechens to clear Russian mines is hardly a neutral act. Similarly, the Yugoslav authorities will be unimpressed by the claim that British policemen were simply 'on holiday' in Montenegro, given the Foreign Office's support for secessionist forces there.


The 'quality' Guardian newspaper has condemned its tabloid rival the News of the World for stirring up an anti-paedophile panic. 'Chorus of fear and loathing swells in the streets of a latterday Salem' reported the Guardian on the week of protests on the Paulsgrove housing estate in Portsmouth (August 12 2000). However, the Guardian has been doing some witch-hunting of its own:

· May 27-June 17 1998 Nick Davies lip-smacking four part 'special investigation' into 'the most secret crime' damned social service guidelines as a 'paedophiles' charter'. · January 24 1999 'Secret registers of known paedophiles are to be thrown open to all organisations caring for children as part of a government drive to protect the young from child abusers'. · July 22 1999 'British paedophiles are targeting charities and aid agencies in developing countries in an attempt to gain access to vulnerable children'. · July 23 1999 'A coalition of six big charities, including Christian Aid, the NSPCC and NCH Action for Children, has launched a campaign calling for a change in the law to stop paedophiles travelling abroad to abuse children'. · July 29 1999 'Employers could be fined or jailed for placing convicted paedophiles in jobs involving work with children, the government said yesterday'. · July 30 1999 'Anglicans curb child abusers'. · December 9 1999 'Police swoop on internet child porn'. · December 28 1999 'Touched by evil', naming and shaming an alleged perpetrator. · January 9 2000 'FA on the attack as paedophiles target football's talent factories'. · February 16 2000 'Refuges that turned into purgatory' (about Children's homes). · March 19 2000 'Exposed: where child porn lurks on the Net'. · May 28 2000 'The Government is to strengthen the law against paedophiles using the internet'. · July 20 2000: 'Catholic leader appointed paedophile priest'. · August 3 2000: 'Childcarer job leaflet is invitation to paedophiles'.

It seems that the News of the World's biggest crime was to muscle-in on the Guardian's chosen role of Salem Gazette. -- James Heartfield

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