Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation

Welcome to the website of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.  Launched in 1963, the Foundation was established to carry forward Russell's work for peace, human rights and social justice.  Forty years later, it continues to do so.

Here, you will also find information about our journal, The Spokesman, and links to our publications website Spokesman Books.

Tata Madiba

The Spokesman 123

The Soweto Gospel Choir bursts into song in a slick video circulating on YouTube under the heading ‘Tata Madiba’ (‘Dear Madiba’ – President Mandela’s tribal name). The video has caused some controversy in South Africa. Shoppers at Woolworths stand and listen, unused to hearing shopworkers rendering Asimbonanga. Some shed a tear, for the resonant singing is occasioned by Madiba’s death, at the end of a long and fruitful life.

Some years earlier, in 1998, President Nelson Mandela had asked the key question about nuclear weapons:

… why do they need them, anyway? In reality, no rational answer can be advanced to explain in a satisfactory manner what, in the end, is the consequence of Cold War inertia and an attachment to the use of the threat of brute force to assert the primacy of some States over others.

He was addressing the UN General Assembly in the fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We reprint excerpts from that speech, which reflect his characteristic clear thinking and common humanity. His unmistakable voice, spoken at a measured pace, resounds from the page.

Tony Simpson from his Editorial

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  This new issue of The Spokesman can be bought from our sister website.


Global Day of Action on Military Spending UK

Taking the message to Parliament
On 15th April, the Global Day of Action Against Military Spending (GDAMS), CAAT, Pax Christi, War on Want, CND and others joined together to take our message to Parliament, with a protest against prioritising military spending over public services and welfare.

We came together to ask for investment in improving people’s quality of life, not destroying it through war and suffering. Improvements could be made by scrapping the £3bn annual cost of nuclear weapons in favour of quadrupling investment in renewable energy.

On the day campaigners took the message to parliament. For more details visit the GDAMS website.


Mass arrests of trade unionists in Turkey

PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN
Statement 22 February 2013


It is with dismay and outrage that once again we learn of yet another round of mass arrests in Turkey. This time the victims of this repressive police action, which has become all too commonplace in the country in recent months, are trade union activists and union officials.

Read in full

Ayşe Berktay

Ayşe Berktay has written a letter from Bakırköy Prison accepting her PEN award. The letter can be read in full here.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have prepared this Bulletin, following the end of mass hunger strikes amongst predominantly Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey's prisons, on 18 November. The BDP has 36 members of the Turkish Parliament, elected mainly with the support of Turkey's substantial Kurdish minority, which exceeds 20 million people. Ayse Berktay, long time activist in the Turkish peace movement and a good friend of the Russell Foundation, writes from her prison in Istanbul, where she has been held since October 2011.)


Gaza Emergency

On 20 November 2012, the House of Commons debated the Middle East, at the request of backbenchers. We begin this selection from the debate with Andy Slaughter’s percipient remarks about the pending mass killing of many more innocents in Gaza, should Israel proceed with its ground invasion. Arbuthnot and Ottoway, Select Committee Chairmen, marked low points in the Debate. Hague rather distanced himself from the more partisan comments of the many Friends of Israel in the House. He knows Hamas won the 2006 elections in Gaza by a street, and that they are serious interlocutors. That’s why Michael Ancram talked with them at length after that victory. (see Spokesman 97)

House of Commons
Tuesday 20 November 2012
Middle East

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Eyeless in Gaza

The liberation of Alan Johnston and the imprisonment of Gaza

Usamah Hamden
Michael Ancram MP
Jonathan Lehrle
Mark Perry

Daily in the common Prison
else enjoyn’d me,
Where I a Prisoner chain’d,
scarce freely draw
The air imprison’d also,
close and damp,
Unwholsom draught …
John Milton,
Samson Agonistes

(Spokesman 96)

Trouble in Rushcliffe’s Schools

By Tony Simpson

David Laws MP, who falsified his expenses claims and had to repay Parliament some £56,000, has now been appointed Schools Minister by David Cameron, as we discuss in Spokesman 118. Together with Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, Laws is pushing the Government’s programme of state-funded companies (academies including so-called “free schools”) to run schools, which are then no longer part of the local authority or public sector. This policy of further fragmentation of school education in England is becoming increasingly chaotic, as recent developments in Nottinghamshire indicate.  (READ FULL ARTICLE)


Russell Tribunal on Palestine - NYC
October 6–7, 2012

Eyewitness at the New York Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine
By Tony Simpson

Leila Shahid and Raji Sourani, two Palestinians, were prevented from attending the New York Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which met in the Grand Hall of Cooper Union during the first weekend of October 2012 with hundreds of people attending over the two days. They weren’t granted visas in good time by the US authorities. Their absence denied the Tribunal direct testimony from Gaza (Sourani maintains the human rights centre there), as well as the presence of one of its initiators (Khalid, together with Nurit Peled of Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Parents for Peace, and Ken Coates of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation issued the initial call for the Tribunal in 2008).  (READ FULL REPORT)


 The executive summary of the findings of the New York session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine are now available. You can also download PDF version.  (A full report will be issued by the end of this month.)


Message to New York Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine from the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation

Bertrand Russell died on 2 February 1970, in his 98th year. Two days earlier he had composed a message to the International Conference of Parliamentarians, who were about to meet in Cairo whilst Israeli air raids reached deep into Egyptian territory. Russell’s message was read to the assembled parliamentarians on the day after his sudden death. He had remarked that:

‘The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homelands is an essential ingredient of any just settlement in the Middle East.’

(See more)


Ayşe Berktay imprisoned in Turkey

Eyewitness in Turkey
Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Patrick Deboosere, Professor Vrije Universiteit Brussels
17 July 2012

A political purge is under way in Turkey. Since 2009, thousands of activists from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have been arrested in police raids and interned in extended pre-trial detention. Following elections in June 2011, the BDP currently has 36 members of the Turkish Parliament, elected mainly with the support of Turkey's substantial Kurdish minority. (
READ MORE)

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Ayşe Berktay is still in prison in Turkey. Her case, with more than 200 others, is adjourned until October. On Thursday evening, Tony Simpson had a chance to talk about the Russell Foundation and Ayse on Haberturk TV. He had spent the day at the trial next to the Silivri Prison complex (pictured above), which houses 11,000 prisoners and has at least 17 watchtowers.

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Visit the Ayşe Berktay Free Her Now Facebook page for the latest news on the trial in Turkey.

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Ayse BerktayAll eyes turn to Silivri as KCK trial begins today - ISTANBUL
Hürriyet Daily News

4th July, 2012

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Ayşe was one of the main animators of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which held sessions in Brussels, Tokyo and New York before concluding in Istanbul in 2005. She proposed the Tribunal in 2002, at a meeting of the European Network for Peace and Human Rights, which the Russell Foundation convened in the European Parliament in Brussels. She works as a translator, and her Turkish translation of Black Beauty has been widely acclaimed.

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Eyewitness in Turkey
Punishing the Innocent in the Name of Justice
By Eman Ahmed Khammas

What we are witnessing in Silivri (near Istanbul) nowadays is simply a scar of shame on the forehead of humanity. Otherwise, philosophers, theorists, humanists, law makers, activists should work on finding new definitions for all the values we were taught in school, above all justice, because what is happening here is using the devices of law and justice to criminilize and punish the innocent, in the name of peace, justice and, of course, fighting terrorism ... (READ THE FULL ARTICLE)

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Press Release - 25 June 2012

International delegation to attend trial of Ayşe Berktay (Hacimirzaoglu) in Turkey

As participants in the (former) World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) network, we have now formed an international delegation to observe the trial of Ayşe Berktay. She helped found the World Tribunal on Iraq in 2003, and was a principal organizer of its culminating session in Istanbul, which took place in June 2005. We know Ayşe Berktay to be a person of great integrity and honesty. She is not a terrorist, but an idealist who is committed to peace and democracy.

For further details please see our Ayşe Press Release page.

This link will take you to a speaking version of the press release: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6178/press-release_international-delegation-to-attend-t

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International Delegation of the World Tribunal on Iraq will come to Istanbul to attend first KCK trial and to meet with imprisoned translator Ayşe Berktay: http://www.bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/139317-release-berktay-and-all-political-prisoners

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A Petition to Stop Arbitrary Detentions in Turkey can be signed here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/detentionsinturkey/


The Greek people choose

Tony Simpson

At the Greek ParliamentThe clean lines of the Parthenon, high up on the Acropolis, stood out clearly in the early March sunshine. Down below, outside the Greek Parliament, a man pushed his supermarket shopping trolley down the hill towards Syntagma Square, where much of the public drama of Greece’s contemporary tragedy has played out prior to the recent general election. Balanced across the trolley was a discarded metal bath, on its way to be sold for a few euros. So it is that some residents of Athens eke out their existence in 2012.

Inside the Parliament, I met with Alexis Tsipras, the 38-year-old leader of SYNASPISMOS, part of the SYRIZA Coalition of the Left, which is attracting support from increasing numbers of Greek voters, as the general election on 6 May clearly showed. SYRIZA won almost 17% of the vote, up more than 12 percentage points since 2009 when it polled 4.6%. Now it has 52 MPs, four times more than previously. This vote put SYRIZA within just 2% of the Conservatives, New Democracy, the largest party. Under the Greek electoral system, the largest party automatically receives an additional 50 seats, so New Democracy, although its vote declined by 14 percentage points on Sunday, now has 108 Members of Parliament, an increase of 17 since 2009! This 50 seat ‘bonus’ masks the sharp decline of the Conservatives who, having lost the 2009 election with 33.5% of the vote, have now lost a further two-fifths of their voters. A large part of the Conservative loss (10.5% of the vote) went to the Independent Greeks, a new party on the democratic right, which campaigned on a staunchly anti-IMF platform. PASOK, the Socialist party, saw its vote decline by 30 percentage points (from 43.9% in 2009 to 13.2%) and its Parliamentary representation shrink from 160 to 41. The KKE Communist Party’s vote rose slightly to 8.5%, adding five more MPs to make a Parliamentary Group of 26. The new Democratic Left party, which split from SYRIZA in 2009 and absorbed some of PASOK’s recent losses, won 6% of the vote and 19 seats. Several smaller parties, including the Greens and the Social Contract (a splinter from PASOK, on similar lines to the Independent Greeks’ splinter from New Democracy) collectively received some 19% of the popular vote, but individually received insufficient support to cross the 3% threshold required to enter the Parliament. The nationalist LAOS (5.6% in 2009) also dropped to 2.9% and failed to win representation, while Golden Dawn, an anti-immigration fascistic party, polled almost 7%, gaining 21 seats as it entered Parliament for the first time. Turnout was about 65%, so that one in three electors didn’t cast a ballot. This drop in voter participation is partly attributed to economic difficulties which prevent the poorest voters from travelling from larger population centres to their own towns to vote.

READ MORE

Photo: At the Greek Parliament: Maria Sotiropoulou of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Tony Simpson, Alexis Tsipras, and Panos Trigazis of SYNASPISMOS.


Turkey versus Democracy

Khatchatur Pilikian is a long-time friend of the Russell Foundation whose insights are greatly appreciated.

His recent paper Turkey versus Democracy given on the 3rd February at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London can be read in full on the Russell Foundation website.

The full article is available as a PDF.


The Russell Tribunal on Palestine can promote peace, truth and reconciliation

The Israel-Palestine situation demands truth and reconciliation. We hope to aid that process

Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield, guardian.co.uk
Thursday 3 November 2011

RToP ImageOpportunities to break seemingly intractable and deadlocked situations are rare – especially on a scale which has rapidly developed this year from the beleaguered cries of citizenry across North Africa and the Middle East. There is a palpable consensus that the provenance of this movement is lodged firmly in the fundamental prerequisite for meaningful democracy: self-determination. All conventions on human rights have this tenet as a core rationale. Where it is repeatedly denied and suppressed there will never be peace or justice, let alone stability.

The full article is available on our Russell Tribunal page.



Russell Tribunal on Palestine

“No Peace Without Justice”
The London Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine

By Frank Barat and Michael Mansfield QC

Countless United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have been passed and violated; The Goldstone Report has been attacked and dismissed and the recent UNHRC fact finding Mission on the Freedom Flotilla incident, condemning Israel’s actions in the strongest possible terms, has been rejected as biased by Israel and was hardly mentioned in the higher spheres of the UN. The reason most often given to explain this lack of political action being that ‘it will harm the peace process.’

We are made to believe that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a never ending one and that, when it comes to this issue, International Law is irrelevant.

But civil society knows better. This conflict is about International Law and nothing else. Not harming the peace process means not harming more than 17 years (from the Oslo agreement in 1993 until now) of settlement building, bombing, murder and assassination, Israeli army aggression, land grab, US vetoes, dispossessions and humiliation of the Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

Civil society also knows that under a facade of bland statements ‘condemning’ Israel’s actions, the EU, the USA and the whole international community are in fact actively complicit in those crimes.

That’s where the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) comes in.

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