No bans on local authority disinvestment decisions

UK Human Rights Blog

R (o.t.a. Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd and Jacqueline Lewis) v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2017] EWHC 1502 (Admin) 22 June 2017, Sir Ross Cranston – read judgment

Many people like to have a say over the investment policies of their pension funds. They may not want investment in fossil fuels, companies with questionable working practices, arms manufacturers, Israel or indeed any company which supports Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – to choose but a few of people’s current choices. And pension funds, left to their own devices, may wish to adopt one or more of these choices to reflect their pensioners’ views.

Hence the significance of this challenge to some statutory guidance which sought to ban some of those pension decisions but to permit others. The context was local government employees (5 million current or former employees). It arose on that ceaseless battleground of government’s direction/intermeddling…

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Drawing the Line: case management and allegations of judicial bias in the family courts

Drawing the Line: case management and allegations of judicial bias in the family courts ~ Jennifer Youngs and Vondez Phipps, pupil barristers at 42 Bedford Row, FAMILY LAW WEEK.

Jennifer Youngs and Vondez Phipps, pupil barristers at 42 Bedford Row, summarise the circumstances in which judicial conduct at a case management hearing might form the basis of an application for recusal, and provide guidance to practitioners as to the manner in which such an application might be made.

The role of a judge in family proceedings extends far beyond making isolated factual determinations. By virtue of their case management obligations, when a judge does come to make a decision, he or she will have had substantial exposure to both the parties involved and evidence relied upon. It is not, therefore, unlikely that the judge will have expressed or indicated a view as to the issue to be determined.

This article aims to provide a summary of the circumstances in which such conduct might form the basis of an application for recusal, and to provide guidance to practitioners as to the manner in which such an application might be made.


Case management in the FPR

The obligation of active case management with which we are concerned, set out in FPR r 1.4, includes the following:

“(b) identifying at an early stage –

(i) the issues; and
(ii) who should be a party to the proceedings;

(c) deciding promptly –

(i) which issues need full investigation and hearing and which do not; and
(ii) the procedure to be followed in the case;

(d) deciding the order in which issues are to be resolved;

(e) controlling the use of expert evidence . . .”

These are broad powers which, even if deployed appropriately, may lead one party to believe that a judge is purposefully conducting proceedings in a manner adverse to their interests.

The test for bias

At the heart of any application for recusal will be an allegation of bias. The test for bias is common to many areas of law and set out in the case of Porter v Magill [2002] 2 AC 357:

“whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased (at 494).”

This test has been applied on appeal in family proceedings of various types. Whilst this article will focus on the conduct of judges in case management, allegations of bias in the family context have not related solely to this issue (for example, Re A (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 1490 where the part-time judge hearing the case was instructed in an ongoing, though unrelated, case by the guardian, in the judge’s practice as a barrister).

Case law in the family context

Re Q
In Re Q (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 918 a fact finding hearing considered allegations of domestic abuse made by the mother against the father.  None of those allegations was made out, the judge instead finding that the mother and maternal grandmother had told “wicked lies” (para 10). It was from this fact finding that the mother issued a notice of appeal, based in large part on the judge’s comments at a prior case management hearing.

At that CMH the police officer investigating the allegations had been called to give evidence. At the conclusion of this evidence, the judge made several observations. They included a suggestion that these were “not really allegations at all, but just thoughts in the mother’s head” (para 23) and that they had in fact been “a pack of lies, it would seem” (para 28).  It appears that the judge was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to conserve court time and resources noting “it seems to me unjustified and disproportionate at the moment for there to be 5 days of court time made available in July…because…on the basis of what I have read in those police papers… I very much doubt that threshold would be made out” (para 31).

However, despite the findings sought by the local authority relating solely to domestic abuse, the judge went on to say, in light of what he considered to be false allegations of sexual abuse, that he had come very close to removing the children from their mother, that they needed to be protected from her (para 32) and that she must not be alone with them (para 30). It was on the basis of this “emotionally destructive atmosphere” that he later found threshold to be met at the fact finding (para 12).

On the mother’s appeal, the local authority and the guardian agreed that a re-hearing of the fact finding in front of a different tribunal was required (paras 38 and 39).

The father opposed the appeal. He submitted that the local authority and guardian had been in the position of the fair-minded and informed observer at the CMH (para 40). Since they had not alleged bias, there was no real possibility that such bias was present.

The balancing exercise
It is clear, in our view, that the judge’s comments were motivated by a desire to actively manage the case and to make efficient use of the court’s time.  However, as set out by McFarlane LJ when granting the mother’s appeal:

“there is a real and important difference between the judge at a preliminary hearing inviting a party to consider their position on a particular point, which is permissible and to be encouraged, and the judge summarily deciding the point then and there without a fair and balanced hearing, which is not permissible” (para 48).

Re Q fell within the latter category. A view was formed at the CMH of the mother’s evidence, without hearing from the mother and in part on the basis of a police file of which only the judge had had sight (para 52). The rules are plain:

“the ‘court resolves or narrows issues by hearing evidence’ and [at an IRH] ‘identifies the evidence to be heard on the issues which remain to be resolved at the final hearing'”(para 46).

There is a “thin line in some cases, between case management…and premature adjudication”, and the family judge should be given the benefit of the doubt, given that their role in these circumstances is “not at all easy” (para 54).  Indeed, McFarlane LJ identified instances where the judge in Re Q displayed awareness of this line (for example, “… it seems to me that the local authority could be, I am using that word advisedly, could be in some difficulty” (para 49)).

However, it is not the judge’s view of what is proper with which we are concerned, but rather whether the fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that the judge was biased.  In this case the matter fell “well over the line” and indicated at least the real possibility that the trial judge had formed a concluded view prior to the commencement of the fact finding (para 54).

The fair-minded and informed observer in family proceedings
The Court of Appeal did not accept the father’s submission that the lack of objection from the local authority or the guardian was determinative. It would seem, therefore, that the fair-minded and informed observer in family proceedings remains hypothetical. However, objections raised by parties present can support any allegation of bias made (para 55, and see below).

Re K
Similar considerations arose in K (A Child) (Return Order: Failure to Comply: Committal: Appeal) [2014] EWCA Civ 905, where the Porter test was again applied. Here, the respondent father had repeatedly failed to comply with orders made in wardship proceedings, and the judge conducting those proceedings also dealt with the resulting committal issue.

At the commencement of the committal hearing the father made an application for recusal (para 4) based upon comments made by the judge in the substantive proceedings. This was refused in the same judgment that found him guilty of contempt.

Kitchin LJ’s decision on the father’s appeal again turned on a balance to be struck between emphasising the importance of compliance with court orders (see also McFarlane LJ: “the judge may be justified in presenting a very robust demeanour”, para 77), and maintaining the appearance of impartiality (para 56). He also emphasised that, even if comments were made with the child’s welfare in mind, this was irrelevant to the issue of bias (para 56), in the same way that the court in Re Q identified it did not matter that the judge was endeavouring to merely manage the case.

The specific observations made by the trial judge in Re K were that the father had ‘one last opportunity to secure M’s return to the United Kingdom’ and to “remain at liberty”, that he was “likely to be imprisoned” and that it was “likely the period of imprisonment would be lengthy”. The judge’s view was that breach of the order by the father was ‘plain’, and that he had taken no action to ensure the return of the child to the UK (para 55).

It seemed to Kitchin LJ that a fair-minded observer would have concluded that “the judge had made up her mind, or at least was strongly disposed to find, that the father was in clear breach of the orders”, ‘that those breaches were deliberate and that the father should be given a substantial custodial sentence’ (para 57). As such, the father’s appeal was allowed.

Notably, Kitchin LJ suggested that it would “often” be the better course, and “certainly the safer one”, for a separate judge to hear committal proceedings (para 57), appearing to posit a general rule. McFarlane LJ formulated the consideration slightly differently, suggesting that the appropriateness of the same judge hearing the committal proceedings would be determined by how “robust” they were in emphasising the consequences of breach (para 78).  It is submitted that this latter approach is more in keeping with the focus on perception in Porter.

Correcting perceptions?
Interestingly, after having reached this conclusion, Kitchin LJ addressed the manner in which the trial judge had dealt with the father’s application. The judgment on that application essentially set out that the court had merely found against the father, as it was entitled, and that there was no appearance of bias. This, the Court of Appeal held, had failed to address the father’s concerns.

It was suggested that “exposition or reasoning” could have been sufficient to satisfy a fair-minded observer that, despite the comments and observations made earlier, the judge had not “already decided that the father was in deliberate breach and should be sentenced to a substantial period of imprisonment” (para 59). This raises interconnected possibilities: that an appeal against bias might be founded on failure to set out reasoning behind previous case management decisions and their relevance going forward, and that what might prima facie appear to be bias may be remedied by properly addressing perceptions which could be held by a fair-minded observer.

Re G
An allegation of overt intervention by the trial judge was combined with that of unwarranted and unfair criticism towards counsel for the mother in Re G [2015] EWCA Civ 834. Requests were made of mother’s counsel for admissions on the care provided by the father during contact (para 23), and continued pressure was placed on her to make adverse comment about the CAFCASS officer (paras 26-28). The judge also returned, over the course of the hearing, to the issue of counsel’s late attendance on the first day, through which further pressure was brought to bear (para 29). It was submitted that the degree of intervention into cross-examination of the father was inappropriate, and far exceeded that in relation to the mother (para 37).

Fairness, an alternative test?
In this case the Court of Appeal’s analysis was based upon whether the hearing had been “fair” to the mother, and whether she believed the judge’s conduct would affect the manner in which she decided the matter, or her counsel’s ability to present her case (para 30 and 49).

It held that the level of intervention by the judge had had the effect of prejudicing the exploration of the evidence, and thus the hearing had not been fair (para 52), the treatment of her counsel being one way in which the mother was denied a fair chance to put her case (para 53).

In contrast to the observations made by Kitchin LJ in Re K the “careful and cogently written judgment” produced in this case ‘was incapable, and would be incapable’ of redeeming any hearing with this level of intervention (para 52).

Although the Porter test was not utilised by the court in this instance, it would likely have been made out on the facts. A fair-minded and informed observer would also have observed the extent of the criticism and intervention, and concluded there was a real possibility of bias. The same factors were weighed by the court in Re G as in Re Q and Re K, in deciding which side of the “line of fairness” the case fell; a balancing exercise being performed between the need for judges to “ensure that the court’s limited time is used to the best possible effect”, and giving the parties “a fair chance to put [their case]” (para 53).

A general rule?
Is it possible, therefore, to predict on which side of the “thin line” a case will fall? It seems from the cases above that much will turn on whether a court’s view is properly based upon evidence, seen and tested by all parties to proceedings. Where observations are made after weighing evidence, and careful reasoning is given, even where this occurred at an interim hearing, this will likely be found a proper exercise of robust and active case management.

Ultimately this issue remains fact-sensitive, and much will turn on the manner in which the proceedings, and the judge’s conduct, as a whole would be perceived by a hypothetical, independent individual. The case law (“benefit of the doubt” in Re Q, and “generous allowance” in Re G) demonstrates that such an observer will come with an awareness of differences in judicial style and case management.

With regards to the test on which to base an application, or appeal if that application fails, we remain of the view that Porter should be employed in most cases, only the likelihood of bias needing to be apparent to the fair-minded and informed observer. However, the observations made in Re K as to the perception of the parties themselves may be of assistance in proving actual unfairness such as to ground an appeal.


How then, if practitioners have concerns about the impartiality of a judge, should the issue of recusal be addressed?

1. Make a cautious intervention before any indication of recusal

The starting point should always be cautious intervention, at the time of the conduct complained of.

This intervention should not appear to criticise the judge, nor should it indicate an intention to seek recusal if none is present at this stage. Given the narrow line which separates active case management from premature adjudication, the purpose of such an intervention should be to draw to the court’s attention some good reason(s) why a different approach to case management might be suitable.

This kind of intervention was noted, with approval, in Re Q, where counsel for the local authority said as follows:

“At the moment, the evidence is incomplete. I entirely understand the court’s desire to actively case manage this case, which is clearly a difficult case to manage. However, the evidence is incomplete. All of the parties agree that one of the most important aspects which is required is the psychiatric evidence of Mother, and whilst I can understand that the court is concerned at the current state of the case, I would respectfully submit that understanding of the case will improve significantly after that report has been prepared” (para 26).

Whilst an intervention of this sort is not a precondition of an application for recusal, it could be effective in avoiding the need for a recusal application altogether by putting a judge on notice that they are coming dangerously close to the metaphorical “thin line”.

Further, in any subsequent appeal against a refusal to recuse, due regard will be given to this indication. In Re Q, McFarlane LJ found that the local authority’s intervention ‘would seem to confirm, rather than to question’ the conclusion that the judge in that case did more than merely deploy robust case management (para 55).

However, this course may not be adequate in every case. For example, a judge’s indication or intervention may be so serious that continued case management by that judge would be inappropriate (for example “wicked lies”, as in Re Q). Nevertheless, intervention at an early stage when questionable judicial comments are beginning to indicate bias would be advisable.

2.    Broach the recusal request informally

The single authority on this point is the Court of Appeal decision in El-Farargy v El Farargy and Others [2007] EWCA Civ 1149, a case in which a judge’s inappropriate comments and ‘thoroughly bad jokes’ about a Saudi sheikh during the course of a pre-trial review in ancillary relief proceedings were found to be indicative of bias.

As a postscript to the judgment given by Ward LJ, the court provided some guidance on the procedure for making recusal applications in family proceedings. Recognising that, in many cases, the judge to whom this application is made is likely to be the subject of the application itself, Ward LJ urged that the first step should be an informal approach setting out the details of the complaint and inviting the judge to recuse herself. Indeed, it may, in fact, be the better course to first raise the issue with the judge whose conduct forms the basis of the application (para 35, Re Q).

The Court of Appeal’s view is that, whilst judges must not yield to frivolous objections, they can ‘with honour’ deny completely the complaint yet release the case to another judge. Ward LJ’s first procedural step therefore seems designed to provide the judge with the opportunity to transfer the case to another judge, without requiring her to rule on the merits of an application, or to acknowledge any error on her part.

Circumstances amenable to this approach include cases in which the decision to request a recusal is taken between two hearings. The lone example of an ‘informal approach’ cited by Ward LJ is by way of a letter. In El-Farargy the appellant applied, by way of a summons, for an order that the judge recuse himself. In such circumstances, an initial informal approach may have been better received, and in any event, is strongly urged by the Court of Appeal.

As set out above, this informal approach puts the judge on notice of the possibility of a recusal application, and utilising a letter, for example, avoids unnecessarily ventilating the matter in open court. By the same token, reference made in a position statement, or a note passed to the judge by way of their clerk, may also suffice. In all these circumstances, it will of course be important to ensure that all parties have sight of any letter or note to be sent.

3.    Make an oral application

The court is cognisant that Ward LJ’s informal approach may not be appropriate in every case, that an intervention may be ineffective and that an informal approach may not result in recusal. In these circumstances, a formal application must be made, and it appears from the case law that a simple oral application will suffice. The lack of strict procedural requirements is in keeping with the manner in which these concerns can arise, with little or no warning.

An application should:

a) identify the actions of the judge complained of;

b)   demonstrate why a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered those actions in the context of the case as a whole, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased; and

c)   request that the judge recuse herself from that hearing or from the proceedings altogether.

In Re K, a simple oral application following these three steps was sufficient for the judge to consider the application for recusal (although this application was not ultimately successful at first instance).

A party may request that this formal recusal application be heard and decided by another judge (El-Farargy). Indeed, Ward LJ, noted that it is ‘invidious’ for a judge to sit in judgment on her own conduct, although this came with the proviso that in many cases there will be no other option (para 32).

4.    Appeal

If, as a result of the recusal application, a judge refuses to remove herself from the case, an appeal is available from that decision (and from any decision made after that refusal). This appeal may be on the substantive issue of bias, but may also relate to the manner in which the application was disposed of.

As set out above, in Re K, the trial judge’s “entirely conclusory” judgment did not address the concerns raised by the applicant father, and this itself contributed to the appearance of bias and the success of the father’s appeal. Although not concerned with case management, the Court of Appeal in Re A (Children), addressed the issue of judgments in recusal for bias applications as follows:

“The parties are not in the position of being able to cross-examine the judge about it and he is likely to be the only source of the relevant information. Without this it becomes difficult, if not impossible, properly to apply the informed observer test” (para 19).

As such, the judgment itself may provide a ground of appeal against refusal.


As has been evidenced by both the case law, and the practical means by which applications should be made, this is an area of law where matters will be delicate and fact-sensitive. Judges are afforded a wide margin of discretion, and the legal test to be applied (as set out in Porter v Magill) is one which necessitates engagement with the hypothetical. However, over the course of this article we hope to have made clear what that test is, the factors which will go to meeting it, and to have provided practitioners with clear guidance on how to proceed when an application is required.



Rejuvenated and Prepared


“Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men, that they may reflect.” (Surah Hashr, verse 21)

Ramadan reconnects the servant with Allah and places the precepts and primacy of Islam in the minds. This conditioning process should imbue us with the ability and desire to consciously practice Islam, and to never compromise upon its particulars in the face of difficulty. The fast during the day taxes the body whilst the iftar replenishes and relaxes the body.

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Father Daniel in #Syria: “There never was a popular uprising in Syria!”

Interview By Fr Daniel Maes and Bahar Azizi Global Research, June 25, 2017 24 June 2017 Since 2010, Father Daniel Maes (78), from the monastery of Postel in Belgium, has been a resident of Syria’s sixth-century Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus. He has returned to his home country several times […]

Since 2010, Father Daniel Maes (78), from the monastery of Postel in Belgium, has been a resident of Syria’s sixth-century Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus. He has returned to his home country several times in the intervening years to give seminars, but remains living in Syria.

I interviewed Father Daniel recently. The following is his story. He told me why he went to Syria in 2010, and how he experienced a culture shock when he first arrived there. He also explained that there never was a civil uprising in Syria, touched on the propaganda surrounding chemical attacks, relayed heartbreaking stories from Syrians themselves and praised the great support they receive from Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, and Russia.

A harmonious society

During one of the international ecumenical gatherings, I met Mother Agnes-Mariam, the founder of the Mar Yakub monastery – which once was one of the most famous monasteries of the Middle East. I was very impressed by her modesty and work, and I invited her to come to speak in Belgium several times after that. Her talks were very successful. At one point, she asked me:

I have visited you so many times. When will you visit us?

And that’s when I decided to go to Syria.

I had never had any contact with an Arabic country, so I had many prejudices. I thought that one had to be very careful in a Muslim country. To describe my experience in just a few words: It was nothing less than a culture shock to me. The hospitality that I experienced there was amazing, and the majority of youth, and the different kinds of people, from all walks of life and religions – Shiite, Sunni, Orthodox, Catholic, any possible religion – were all united. Regarding the country as a whole, life was harmonious; I have never seen such a harmonious society.

Hospitality was not only shown to Christians; there was no distinction made between Muslims and Christians. In all of Damascus, I think, there was not even one door that was locked. On a certain evening, I met a Christian woman who has a tourist office in Damascus. She told me:

I’ve been in many countries, and places. I’ve been in Brussels, I’ve been in Paris, and there is no other city like Damascus, where you can go out at night in safety.”

She was a beautiful lady, and she could safely walk the streets. In addition, treatment at hospitals was free, except medicines (all made in Syria!), and following a program of study at the university cost around 20 euros. On the whole, I witnessed a prosperous, safe, hospitable, and harmonious society. And refugees, about one million from Iraq and some from Bosnia, were treated as their own citizens.

Monastery Deir Mar Yaqoub in Qara, Syria

No civil uprising took place in Syria

As soon as the lies started pouring in, I started my fight against those lies with the truth. One journalist claimed that when he was in Syria, he “asked for bread, but received bullets instead” – as if to prove that there was a civil uprising. Let me tell you, when I was in Syria before the war, 10 loaves cost 10 cents – a tenth of a euro. What nonsense this journalist was spouting. That has been my battle; against those lies. The West was trying to ‘find’ any reason to murder that country.

On a Friday evening we went to the priest in Qara. We would occasionally go out here and there to Christian families to pray for those who were ill. At some point we went to the presbytery to get food, we were walking, and on the street there was the main mosque, where we saw a group of young people.

They were screaming, yelling and held anti-Assad and anti-Syria banners. The priest told us later on that they were not Syrians. They came from abroad. They were filming their ‘demonstration’ and were paid generously by Al Jazeera for that. That was the so-called civil uprising. Thankfully, that was still at the very beginning, otherwise we would not be alive today. It was a very unpleasant feeling as we walked by those people to go to the presbytery.

At the time we didn’t know it was so organized. We heard from friends that the same occurred in other places. Since troublemakers are not wanted in any of our villages, this group of young people were not supported by anyone in the village. Still, they managed to grow. It grew to arson attacks and armed violence. The priest was also attacked, robbed, and was able to barely escape from strangulation by masked men with strange accents.

The organized and armed ‘opposition’ were now calling the shots. In Homs and Quosseir, children from Christian families and moderate Muslim families were threatened or even killed if they refused to participate in anti-government demonstrations. As the local archbishop, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, said:

If the people of Aleppo had not resisted these armed gangs energetically, and helped the army, the city would’ve been taken by rebels in a single day.

There was NO uprising, or so-called ‘civil war’; from within, there was no reason for it.

The great majority of Syrians continue to support their democratically elected President, as well as the Syrian Army.

Chemical attack propaganda

The story surrounding the chemical gas attack in August 2013 was a disgrace. Not a single journalist reported on the irregularities, and didn’t ask any critical questions. In early August 2013, 11 villages were attacked in Lattakia. People were killed and homes destroyed, and many children were kidnapped. We tried to help find them. A list was compiled with their name, gender, and a note on whether they were missing, had been kidnapped or were murdered. There was not a word on this from the media.

Obama had announced in 2012, under intense media interest, that the use of chemical weapons was a ‘red line’. In other words, a reason to invade or attack Syria militarily, which the ‘international community’ was impatiently waiting for. Syria gave the UN and its agencies dozens of letters with evidence of chemical attacks by rebels, which was confirmed by nuns at a hospital in Aleppo. Not one letter has been answered and not a single attack has been investigated.

An official commission of inquiry was sent to Damascus and, while they arrived safe and sound, a massive chemical poison attack took place in nearby Ghouta under their noses. Western heads of state immediately expressed their horror at the atrocity, which they assumed had been ordered by Assad, and before the commission even began investigating it. In addition, the heads of state gave very different figures, ranging from 200 to 1,000 deaths. Apparently, they were better at agreeing amongst themselves who the culprit was (Assad) than they were regarding the number of victims.

The 35 professional videos, published right after the attack, showing a great number of dying children, went around the world. Left out was key context; that region had long been abandoned by families because of the fighting. And nowhere was a mother or an elder to be seen! Parents from Lattakia recognized their kidnapped children. Some were lying in different positions in the pictures.

How is it possible that no parents were present in those photos and footage? How could they even publish all that documentary evidence so soon after the attack? Why were the bodies of those innocent children neatly put together in one room? And that in a Middle Eastern village which was already emptied – how could there have been children there to begin with? Instead of asking these questions, accusations were thrown around before any investigation took place, making it clear to me that it was a set-up.

In my efforts against the lies, I try to make it clear that what people say or think is not neutral. It is important to ask: Are you standing side-by-side with the murderer or do you stand on the side of truth and the innocent victims?
Also, everybody should know by now that the WMDs story of Iraq was nothing but a lie: there were no WMDs. Now they’re telling us that Assad is killing his people? Everyone who has even a bit of a brain will understand immediately that all this is a set-up, that these allegations do not hold water.

The Syrian people know who their killers are; the terrorists – and they know who their protectors are, the Syrian army and their allies. So I can’t help but ask journalists: are you so stupid to think that the people here are too stupid to know who the murderers and saviors are?

To this day, there are posters and pictures up all over Syria praising Assad and Putin – that is the reality.

While Western nations continue to lie, Russia tells the truth

Heartbreaking stories

I have many stories from Syria. I will tell you a couple. In early May 2016, dozens of Syrians and Lebanese came together at a festive meeting for martyrs. There were such touching stories. A woman with a baby in her arms was there, with a tear in her eye and a smile. Her loved one was killed by the terrorists. These people greeted me kindly as a European foreigner, but you can’t help but feel ashamed.

There was also the Muslim family of Fawad. The Christian neighborhoods of Homs were the first ones the media reported as ‘freed’ by the so-called rebels, who had murdered, plundered, and destroyed. 130,000 Christians were expelled, and Muslims also suffered a lot due to the horrors of the ‘liberation’. Fawad’s father told how his only son was a student at the University of Homs. On a certain day, he didn’t come home; he had been kidnapped. All searches were in vain.

After some time, the parents received a phone call: “Would you like to see your son again?” The father promised to give everything or do anything in order to get his son back. A couple of days later, someone rang their doorbell. They opened the door and they saw a picture of their son on a plastic bag, after which a car drove away quickly. In the bag was the body of their son, in pieces. At first the father was furious. Later he was present at the Musalah meeting. The father continues to speak with great conviction:

We forgive those who killed our son. Let us forgive on behalf of Fawad and on behalf of God. That is the price we have to pay for peace.

They felt so lost, and so tired of suffering.

Before and after pictures of Syria. Do people truly think ‘rebels’ have Syria’s best interests at heart?

Our experience in Qara, liberated by Syrian Army and Hezbollah

Since 2012, our town of 25,000 residents quickly grew to 80,000 with strange bearded and heavily-armed men. Tens of thousands of armed terrorists attacked Qara and used it as a base from which to carry out attacks. However they were only able to carry out two or three small attacks from there.

Together with Muslim families, including children, we hid in the basement of the church, not giving away any signs of life. Muslims took care of us and we took care of them, while we entertained their children as best we could. We all had our hands full to keep them busy. Also, to keep them from being afraid, while for us there was no time to be afraid.

We moved some furniture inside, and behind the furniture the Muslim women slept. We slept on the other side. For a whole week, we had no water, but luckily there was snow. We had a garden which provided us with some almonds, cherries, figs and grapes. We also had bags of corn in the basement, which we ate from. It was an eye-opening experience, living together.

On a Sunday morning, the door was opened, a man came in and said, “It’s over“. His name was Ruah Allah, i.e. ‘Spirit of God’!

Hezbollah helped a lot in fighting off those terrorists in Qara. They were the first to provide help; along with the Syrian army, they protected and saved the people of Syria. The fact that we’re still alive is otherwise inexplicable. Qara was very dangerous in November 2013.

Hezbollah was originally set up because Zionists murdered their wives and children and destroyed their homes. They’re young idealists who joined Hezbollah as resistors, who want to serve and protect their people, but also, as it were, have sworn to help those who are similarly being threatened by the same kind of brutal aggression. And, if Syria would fall, then Lebanon wouldn’t survive more than a few days after that, either. The idealism of those young people was inspiring. As Shiites they work together with Syrian soldiers, most of whom are Sunni. They also work well together with Christians. It was a pleasant experience. They continue to protect the population and therefore us.
Near the end of 2013, the army and Hezbollah cleared the town of terrorists. One after another terrorist group fled. We don’t know how exactly it happened, but the Syrian army and their allies had the upper hand. There were still some small groups of rebels left at the time. But, soon after, some residents returned, shops and business re-opened and the spirits of the people were lifted. Some residents came back to help to rebuild. Our garden has been more or less damaged, but we are working on restoring it.

Brave Hezbollah soldiers, putting their lives in danger to protect the Syrian people.

Enter Russia

We are also very thankful to Russia. If Russia didn’t come in 2015, then we would not be here today and Syria would not exist anymore. Russia says what it does and does what it says. We haven’t had direct interaction with Russians. Northern Aleppo had more contact with them. But we have seen trucks full of humanitarian supplies from Russia. A lot was organized.

Certainly, the Russians have their own reasons for being there. Just as the US is there to serve its own agenda, which wants to achieve it by destroying Syria and putting puppets in charge there, as they have done to other countries in the past 25 years, with 20 million deaths as a result. Russia on the other hand wants to do anything it can to create stability for the country, and also for its own safety.

They support the idea that the country itself should choose its own government and president. They want to protect the stability, integrity and sovereignty of the country. And if Russia has some kind of an agenda in all of this as well, well, then my choice regarding whether I’d want the US or Russia here has been made quickly. We have nothing more than appreciation for the Russians. As I said, we didn’t have personal contact with them. But based on what I’ve seen and heard from Syrian citizens, I know enough.

And you have to admit, Putin sure is an artist. Russia put up no-fly zones, against the US! It is exactly the opposite of what the US wanted to do: to provide no-fly zones in favor of the terrorists, not in favor of the Syrian army. And, while the so-called international coalition has more military power, Russia manages to do so much more. Russia is four times better than all those who protect and transport ISIS puppets to serve their political interests.

Syrians feel immense gratitude towards Russia and President Putin.

Situation now in Qara: Help from the community and the church

Since the beginning, Mother Agnes-Mariam established three centers: in Jerama (Damascus), Qara (the Monastery) and Tartous. We’re receiving many containers, but you can’t do anything with those supplies if they aren’t organized. There are a lot of medical supplies for many hospitals, everywhere people need medical help. We work day and night on organizing these supplies, and other kinds of supplies. We receive medical supplies, clothes, and food at our storage room, then we select and organize them. We quickly first take food out from the containers (due to their expiration date). We put everything neatly in boxes, and write down what and how much is in each box. These boxes are then sent out.

It’s tragic. The terrorists are very well cared for and armed by their sponsors, while Syrians are in need of medical help. Terrorists destroyed many hospitals, a whole series of hospitals in fact. Thankfully, in cooperation with the Red Crescent, Sweden has offered us a big hospital including all equipment. It’s a perfect and modern clinic, which we are very thankful for. And since the beginning, we received very great help from the Dutch organization Dorcas.

In addition, Mother Agnes-Mariam, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and some paid workers, have been providing warm meals in Aleppo since September last year. 25,000 warm meals, five days a week, for two months, using products from the region – which also supports the work of the region. The miracle is that it was foreseen happening for two months but continues to this today!

There’s been much emphasis on rebuilding. This month I went back to help do that. Families with children have moved elsewhere, they said they want a future, certainty and safety. However, others have stayed, especially a group of enthusiastic young people, who have many ideas and provide much work and effort in rebuilding Qara. And every day, one of our sisters sets up creative knitwork for 35 women in the village, which the women receive an income from. The knitwork is sold, given or sent to friends abroad. Many have thanked us for our work.

We also grow mushrooms, and there are many other small activities that help people earn an income. There were people with a handicap in the town because they had isolated themselves, but we invited them to the monastery for Easter; it was a unique experience for all of us. They then felt part of the community and have started working also; they have now been integrated into society. We’re also working on a carpet factory, where people can work on making carpets. The population is probably not waiting for carpets! But we will try to sell them outside to help citizens gain an income. We have to truly be thankful for what we have.

We’ve also worked on restoring our gardens and orchards. This area has the best cherries in the whole world. They used to sell containers full of cherries to Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, much have been destroyed. But we have planted thousands of tiny plants and small trees.

‘If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.’ (Lev 26:3-4) – Cherry trees in Qara.

Hope for Syria

The country has become much more united. During the festive meeting of martyrs, one could clearly see the unity of the people, between Alawites, Catholics, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians… We have become one family, that continues to become bigger and stronger. Certain people can murder, kill, destroy infrastructure, but bringing a country to its knees will not happen.

Figure this: Alawites are probably ‘worse’ for Muslims than Christians, as the Alawites haven’t taken anything from Islam. And it is this man, President Assad, who is being supported by all, including the 70% Sunni Syrian population. We live together as one family. We work together towards the same society – and that is very strong.

There is hope. Solidarity will grow, and the harmonious connection is still there. Every country has its shortcomings, but in all of the misery, there are heroes. There are heroes and there are holy men. Amongst Muslims and others.

We can also see that there is a move from a unipolar world to a multipolar world, and I hope that for Syria this year we’ll continue to make progress. We’ve been through many years of war, but our unity has only become stronger.

Father Daniel lastly thanked me for the opportunity to speak about what he has experienced in Syria. He recalls two journalists who visited him in Qara. One of them started with the question: “Are you a fan of Assad?” To which he answered:

If I publicly say that I am against terrorists killing our Belgian Prime Minister Michel, then does that make me a fan of Michel or a paid fan of the Belgian regime?

Journalists also tend to ask about the ‘civil war’, to which he replies that there never was one.

They want to paint a certain picture. They want to hear stories of the brutal dictator. I’m pretty certain those interviews were never broadcasted,” he told me with a laugh. He didn’t give the answers they wanted to hear. He told the truth.

Originally from Afghanistan, Bahar Azizi lives in Europe, holds an MA in psychology, is an instructor in Éiriú Eolas meditation, and is a keen animal lover. Bahar has been a contributing writer and editor at since 2012 and occasionally co-hosts the ‘Behind the Headlines’ show on ‌the Sott Radio Network.

All images in this article are from the authors.


via Father Daniel in Syria: “There Never Was a Popular Uprising in Syria” — Counter Information

#LGO #EqualitiesAct: £2,500 #AggravatedDamages for Defendant’s litigation conduct


The judgment in Blamires -v- Local Government Ombudsman is attached to this post.  It will be of interest to many involved in Equality Act litigation and the judgment makes interesting reading as whole.  However I want to concentrate upon one key part. Blamires v LGO 3SP00071 trail final word version (002). The judge awarded £2,500 aggravated damages against the Ombudsman because of the manner in which it defended the case.


The claimant brought an action against the Ombudsman claiming remedies under the Equality Act, Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act. The claimant’s case was that the Ombudsman had failed to act properly in relation to her complaint against a local authority.


District Judge Geddes, sitting with an assessor, found that the claimant had established her case.  Among other things the defendant had failed to make reasonable adjustments.  The judge was highly critical of the way in which the defendant had conducted the action. The claimant was acting in person and had made several applications for further disclosure.



The judge considered the question of aggravated damages.

“Aggravated Damages
157.The Claimant claims aggravated or exemplary damages. I do not consider that this is a case for exemplary damages, but there are a number of relevant features which in my judgment justify an award of aggravated damages. Those features are primarily associated with the manner in which the claim for discrimination has been defended.  The authority of Zaiwalla & Co v Walia [2002] IRLR 697 confirms that this is an appropriate approach, avoiding as it does a need to consider victimisation as a separate claim for conduct during proceedings which by definition always follow the protected acts of an allegation of a breach of the EQA and the issue of proceedings.

158.I have absolutely no doubt that the way in which the defence has been conducted in this case has added to the injury, frustration and distress felt by the Claimant and that this in turn has at times exacerbated the physical and mental symptoms she suffers as a result of her disability.

159. The acts to which I refer and which together I have concluded merit awarding aggravated damages are as follows:
  1. The wrongful assertion contained in paragraph 30 of the original defence that the Claimant failed to take up the opportunity of telling the Defendant about the reasonable adjustments she sought on her web complaint   This went to the heart of the claim.
  2. The fact that notwithstanding being told by the Claimant that this was wrong, it took nearly two years for the Defendant to admit the mistake.
  3. That even after two years there was no apology for the fact the defence contained misinformation or acknowledgment of the stress this had caused to the Claimant in having to prove them wrong.
  4. That even after two years the evidence of David Pollard asserted that the omission of the information contained in section 4 of the form was a “technical error” and that this was later itself corrected to “human error” in the statement of Jonathon Buckley. The oral evidence I have heard on the issue is also unsatisfactory as I have found the explanation of why it occurred does not make sense.
  5. That whilst this misleading information was on the face of the pleadings the Defendant applied to strike out the claim and/or for summary judgment.
  6. That the Defendant caused many months delay to the resolution of the proceedings by pursuing its application for a strike out and/or for summary judgment which it then abandoned.
  7. The Defendant has produced no fewer than three disclosure lists all purporting to be the complete list. The Claimant should not have had to make applications for specific disclosure but she has done so and was successful in part.  Where she has been unsuccessful this has not been as a result of the unreasonableness of her request.
  8. The continued dissatisfaction of the Claimant with the process of disclosure is, on the contrary, reasonably grounded in particular in three respects. The first is that the fact that the form produced at page 708 which the Defendant contends is the form put before the investigator simply cannot be that form given that it is blank in numerous fields, not just section 4.  Secondly, David Pollard makes a number of assertions in his 26 August 2016 statement which are either based on documents which have not been disclosed or are misleading despite his signature on a statement of truth.  I include in that assertions contained in paragraphs 17-19 of his statement as well as the error in paragraph 16.  He conceded under oath that I could not rely on his evidence in these paragraphs.  Thirdly, the Notes and Analysis document, which is asserted to be the key document containing a record of the work done in the complaint is highly unsatisfactory in that it is purportedly a record of work done on J’s “complaint” and under her name rather than that of the Claimant and contains, for example, no record of any work done by R at all.
  9. For all its assertions about its limited resources – so limited that I am told that they would not even stretch to offering the Claimant a face-to-face meeting at the outset of this process – the Defendant tells me it has spent in excess of £80,000 defending this case. The claimant is a litigant in person.  She has faced many months of responding to an application to strike out her claim which were entirely unnecessary in the light both of my conclusions and the withdrawal of that application at the last minute.  Her case has been opposed in every way with no acknowledgement of those matters which in my judgment could easily have been conceded.

     160. With all these matters in mind I intend to award the sum of £2,500 by way of aggravated damages.                                                                                                                                
     161.I will order the Defendant to pay the Claimant’s costs to be assessed if not agreed.”


“To enable, or not to enable, that is the question…”

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” William Shakespeare, (All’s Well That Ends Well). contrasted with “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when distilled into “To enable, or not to enable, that is the question” in any family law context risks defathering the child(ren) by treating [basic family human] rights as privileges. Every organ of the state must be mindful to respect established family life and not cross the limits of state inference.

Peace Not Pas

The above play on words got me pondering on both the natureand choice of behaviours of those thatintentionally or unintentionally become enablers of parental alienation.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably the best known line from literature and theatre. In its entirety the speech shows Hamlet’sprofound dissatisfaction with life andits many struggles. He is uncertain what death by suicide may bring.This is subtly underpinnedwith the Christiandenunciation of suicide, the Tudor belief that suicideleads to the fires of hell.Hamlet is highlighting the dread and uncertainty of suicide. He believes the wrongjudgment call leads to the fiery gates of hell with no way back.

In life there are many decisions and actionsthat are pivotal. Enablers of parental alienationultimately make the wrong judgement call, when they intentionally or unintentionally engage in certain behaviours. Some choose to ‘turn a blind eye’ while others are prevented…

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Qatar: Center Stage in a World at War?

“So, there are a couple of deductions I would like to add to James’s excellent analysis. He may have already made some of these points but I would like to emphasize the following in point form:

– Saudi Arabia and its allies are acting as proxies for USrael and the European Banksters that run their perpetual war for Profit global scam.

– They have definitely made the terms issued to Qatar “non negotiable”…to ensure a WWIII in the very short term…which will avoid their looming bankruptcy and (perhaps worse) geopolitical irrelevancy!

– Ultimately, just like everything else that has gone on in the Middle East for the past 15 years or more…this is aimed at Russia/China/Iran….but particularly Russia/Putin. It will take every ounce of his chessmaster skills to outmaneuver the perps this time. They’ve doubled down for “one final roll of the dice”…and Qatar is it. Stay tuned.”

Fig Trees and Vineyards

Doha, Qatar

[Ed note – An interesting analysis on the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and its potential for engulfing the rest of the Middle East and exploding into World War III, has been posted by blogger Green Crow. The piece is written by “James” and reposted from his Winter Patriot blog. Qatar, in his analysis, sees US influence in the Middle East waning and is pivoting toward Iran, Syria, and Russia, and he notes that both Iran and Russia have sent food shipments to Qatar in order to break the blockade imposed by the Saudis. Turkey is now openly siding with the Qataris as well–and this also makes perfect sense. US support for the Kurds in Syria–with the US seemingly now moving in the direction of setting up a de facto Kurdish state–would of course have to be a major, MAJOR “red line” for Turkey. This of course…

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‘Research has shown over and again that alcohol is the most destructive drug known, and if you look at the etymology of the word itself, it’s clear there is a spiritual dimension to this substance, one that consumes lives and happiness, prohibiting people from living joyous, full lives.

“The word “Alcohol” comes from the Arabic “al-kuhl” which means “BODY EATING SPIRIT”, and gives root origins to the English term for “ghoul”. In Middle Eastern folklore, a “ghoul” is an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either as stolen corpses or as children.

The words “alembic” and “alcohol”, both metaphors for aqua vitae or “life water” and “spirit”, often refer to a distilled liquid that came from magical explorations in Middle Eastern alchemy.” ~Zahrah Sita’

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer Waking Times 

Many believe that alcoholism is a spiritual disease, and that at the very least there are real spiritual consequences of alcohol consumption. Yet, is ubiquitous in our society, a strange culture which simultaneously prohibits those mind-altering substances which elevate consciousness and help us to live more meaningful lives.

Alcohol is decidedly more dangerous than cannabis, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD, and so many other drugs, but our cultural addiction to booze is evident everywhere. Research has shown that even moderate alcohol consumption is extremely detrimental to your health.

Research has shown over and again that alcohol is the most destructive drug known, and if you look at the etymology of the word itself, it’s clear there is a spiritual dimension to this substance, one that consumes lives and happiness, prohibiting people from living joyous, full lives.


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EU washes its hands of Gaza

‘Even this week as conditions in Gaza deteriorated, the EU has been touting its military cooperation with Israel over so called “shared challenges.”

Meanwhile, the EU External Action Service has not tweeted anything at all about Gaza since 2015.

The latest crisis in Gaza has been unfolding since April and has prompted warnings that it could lead to another war.

The EU’s silence cannot therefore be an oversight.

It should be read as a positive endorsement of Israel’s tightening blockade of Gaza and the suffering Israel is knowingly inflicting on a population exhausted and traumatized by a decade of isolation and successive Israeli military assaults.

The European Union is indeed deepening its vaunted partnership with Israel. It is a partnership in crime.’

Kia Ora Gaza

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, has remained silent about Israel’s electricity cuts to Gaza. (European External Action Service)

By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada22 June 2017

EU washes its hands of Gaza

After 10 years of Israeli blockade, conditions for two million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip are by all accounts worse than ever.

Israel’s blockade, according to the human rights group B’Tselem, has consigned Gaza’s residents “to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.”

Yet the European Union, which markets itself as a champion of freedom, democracy and human rights, has washed its hands of the people there.

After four successive days of reductions, Israel has now cut the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip by 60 percent.

This comes on top of chronic shortages that meant most households only had about four…

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“So what is in the offing? No one knows for sure. But a careful examination of reality suggests that the de facto elimination of a prospective Palestinian state will leave us with two main broad alternatives: First, the hypothetical creation of a unitary democratic state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean where Palestinians and Jews could live together in peace as equal citizens. It is utterly inconceivable , however, that Israel would willingly agree to the emergence of such a state since this sort of entity would effectively spell the end of Zionism and put an end to Israel as a Jewish state. “


I  know that resistance against an evil  foreign military occupation is a legitimate right and even a sublime national duty.  However, Palestinians must approach this matter of resistance with utmost discretion, because it is never enough to be right as one has to be wise as well, and wisdom has a thousand doors!

THE ENDGAME:   It is either One democratic state for all or perpetual open-ended conflict

By Khalid Amayreh

It is no longer possible to deny the clarion reality  that Israel has succeeded, with or without American consent, in decapitating virtually all realistic prospects for the creation of a viable  and territorially- contiguous Palestinian state on the West Bank, e.g. an  entity that would have East Jerusalem as its capital.  The massive Jewish settlement expansion and aggrandizement all over the occupied West Bank has simply eliminated all possibilities for a true Palestinian state worthy of the name…

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