Breivik spared himself to spruik his “cause”


Anders Behring Breivik had considered killing himself just before he was arrested for having killed 69 people at a youth camp, he told a court yesterday.Anders Behring Breivik had considered killing himself just before he was arrested for having killed 69 people at a youth camp, he told a court yesterday.

“I thought, ‘Do I really want to survive this? I will be the most hated man in Norway and every day for the rest of my life will be a nightmare.

“Then I looked at my Glock [pistol]: ‘Should I shoot myself in the head?’”

But he decided it was more important for his “cause” — fighting multiculturalism and Islam in Europe — to have a trial and use it to air his political views.

Breivik told the court he had managed to get onto the island of Utoya, home to a Labour Party summer camp for teenagers, by dressing as a policeman and telling people he had been ordered there following a bomb explosion in Oslo [which he had planted, killing eight].  The ferry to the island, which had been halted following news of the bomb, returned to pick him up.

The head of security on Utoya Island asked why she had not been told he was coming and he told her Oslo was in chaos after the explosion because half its police were on summer holidays. “She bought it,” he said. She and another security guard were the first two people he killed when he reached the island.

He said the first shot was the hardest — “I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this? There were 100 voices in my head saying ‘Don’t do it!’”

But he decided, “This is now or never.” After that he went into fight-or-flight mode and stopped analysing his feelings, he said.

To frighten people he shouted, “You are going to die today, Marxists!”  This made people “panic completely”, he said.

He described several groups of people standing still as if “paralysed” as he walked up to them to shoot them. He said he shot many people several times because he realised that some of those he first attacked had “played possum” and pretended to be dead.

He had shot people who ran away, a man who tried to stop him, a man who begged “Please, friend!” and a boy who came out of a tent wearing an iPod and didn’t know what was happening. He had also shot at a boat that he thought might have helped survivors in the water, he said.

He went up to one group and asked, “Have you seen him?”, so that they would think he was helping and not run away, he said. He used smoke grenades to try to make others come out of a building.

But he had left alive one boy and one girl he thought looked younger than 16. He believed he should not kill anyone under that age.

Breivik said he would have stopped killing if he had been able to speak to a senior officer the first time he rang police on a mobile phone from the island. “Since they hadn’t called me back, I thought they didn’t intend to let me surrender, so I might as well continue until I am killed.”

He denied reports that he had laughed and smiled as he committed the atrocities.

Breivik said he would not have gone to Utoya Island if his bomb attack in central Oslo earlier in the day had been more “successful”. He believed he needed a higher death toll in order to get media attention, he said.

Breivik said he believed he had “fairly normal emotional patterns” before 2006, when he began meditation exercises to dull fear so that he could commit the attacks. This also had the effect of dulling other emotions.

“I don’t think I could have gone through this trial without trying to de-emotionalise,” he said. “If I tried to understand the suffering I had caused, I wouldn’t be able to sit here today? I don’t even try to take it in.”

First published in The Age.

‘They cannot cope’: royal nurse’s family need support like DJs, says MP

LONDON The family of nurse Jacintha Saldanha was “devastated” by her death and should be getting the kind of counselling being offered to the two Australian DJs who tricked her, a prominent British MP has said.Keith Vaz, who met the family at their Bristol home and also greeted them with a hug at Parliament on Monday, said: “They simply cannot cope or understand what is happening. This is a small, loving family. When I was there they were having prayers for her and they will continue to love her and to cherish her until they take her to India where they wish to bury her, after they have ? reclaimed the body.”

Mr Vaz said police had been helpful and the family had been visited by a liaison officer but: “I am not sure that they are getting the kind of support that, for example, the DJs in Australia appear to be getting?

“The hospital has made it very clear it has supported Jacintha, which is what we would expect a good employer to do. I think that at a time of grief it’s important to give the family that support, and I would hope very much that trained psychologists and others will be helping this family because they are obviously grief-stricken.”

But he avoided answering a question about whether the family had known if Ms Saldanha was very distressed after learning that she had passed on a hoax phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s ward at her hospital last week.

“They are a very close-knit family and they had previously contacted her every day. It’s for them to tell everybody what has happened over those crucial two days.”

He said the family was grateful that the hospital had set up a memorial fund in Ms Saldanha’s memory, and that the local Bangalorean community had “rallied round”.

The hospital said it had spoken to Ms Saldanha’s partner by phone on the day of her death and offered to meet him whenever he wanted.

An autopsy is due to be conducted on Ms Saldanha’s body on Tuesday. Her death is currently described by police as unexplained but not suspicious and is suspected to have been suicide.

As the global blame game over her death continued, the King Edward VII Hospital said the radio station that broadcast the call, 2DayFM, had not contacted the hospital’s senior management or its press office in advance. The station has claimed it called five times trying to seek permission to run the call in public.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of the station’s owner, Austereo, said on Melbourne radio: “We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded [before it went to air – absolutely. We attempted to contact them on five occasions because we wanted to speak to them about it. It is absolutely true to say that we did attempt to contact those people.”

He did not explain why the prank went to air despite the station’s failure to receive permission for it and said the tragedy that followed had been completely unforeseeable.

A hospital spokesman said its management was “extremely surprised” at the station’s claim it had called because it indicated the broadcaster was well aware of its responsibility to inform the hospital of what it had done, yet went on to broadcast regardless.

British newspaper columnists have also questioned how it could have been legal to tape Ms Saldanha secretly and then broadcast the exchange without her personal knowledge or permission.

Ms Saldanha’s brother, Naveen, told MailOnline that his devoutly Catholic sister was a “proper and righteous person” and would have been “devastated” by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality: “She would have felt much shame about the incident.”

The two DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have apologised and said they were “gutted and heartbroken” by the tragedy.

First published on

Nurse would have been ‘hit badly’ by royal prank

LONDON Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.

The neighbour said Ms Saldanha’s two children, a son and daughter aged 14 and 16, “were always polite and well-behaved. The boy often played football on the green”.

But Ms Saldanha, who often stayed in nurses’ quarters in London away from the family home in Bristol, also described herself to friends as “a very nervous person”, one told The Telegraph. She would have been “hit badly” by the prank phone call to her hospital asking after the Duchess of Cambridge; it would have “played on her mind”.

While there is no clear evidence from Ms Saldanha or anyone else that the prank call by two Australian radio presenters triggered her suspected suicide, news of her death has been greeted by a tidal wave of revulsion that now includes a scathing letter from the head of the hospital concerned to the management of the radio station, 2Day FM in Sydney.

And the two presenters who imitated the Queen and Prince Charles, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, are not only suspended indefinitely but appear to have deleted their Twitter accounts following a barrage of abuse.

Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the King Edward VII hospital where Kate had been staying earlier this week over pregnancy-related illness, sent a letter on Saturday condemning the call and asking for assurances the station would not do anything like that again.

Read Lord Glenarthur’s letterIn a letter to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of the station’s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, Lord Glenarthur said he protested in the strongest possible terms over the hoax call, which had been “extremely foolish”. The decision by management to transmit the pre-recorded call was “truly appalling”.

“The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words. I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.”

Ms Saldanha was relieving on reception when she took the call, in which Greig purported to be the Queen. She put it through to the ward where another nurse gave intimate details of the duchess’s condition. Media subsequently canvassed questions such as whether the nurses involved should be disciplined, suspended or reported to the British midwifery regulator. The hospital took no such actions.

A palace spokesman said the Royal couple had not complained of the security breach: “On the contrary we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”

Ms Saldanha, 46,  was found unconscious early on Friday morning and ambulance officers could not revive her. An autopsy is due sometime this week.

According to the Daily Mail, a female executive of the Australian radio station burst into tears when the paper broke the news to her in the middle of the night. She  said it couldn’t be true and  that the Mail’s call to her must be a hoax.  Assured that Ms Saldanha was indeed dead, executive Vicki Heath cried, the paper said.

But British newspapers, presumably relieved to be the innocent parties in a media scandal, are ripping into the station for having continued to skite about the prank even after offering a half-hearted apology earlier in the week, before Ms Saldanha’s death.

After the initial backlash, Christian said, “We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues.” But the following day he tweeted, “Still haven’t heard the royal prank that has the world talking? Listen to it here…”

His most recent tweet, promising that the latest on the royal prank was coming up, was posted half an hour before the ambulance was called for Ms Saldanha.

Major advertisers including Coles and Telstra have reportedly cancelled their advertising and the station has suspended all other advertising but chief executive Rhys Holleran has insisted the presenters broke no laws.

“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it. I spoke to both presenters … And it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered. These people aren’t machines. They’re human beings.”

He added, “Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades. They are not just part of one radio station or one network or one country, they are done worldwide.”

British media have also noted that the radio station had conditions imposed on its licence after an incident in 2009 where a 14-year-old was attached to a lie detector test and admitted on air to having been raped when she was 12.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said it had received complaints about the hoax call but that complaints should first go to the station: “If a complainant is dissatisfied with the response, the complaint can be made to the ACMA.”

The Daily Mail says the regulator has strict procedures for invasion of privacy but they only apply to news and current affairs shows. The show in question was a music-chart program and so not subject to those rules.

First published on

Nurse at Kate’s hospital who took crank call from Sydney DJs suicides

LONDON: The nurse who took the crank call of two Sydney DJs asking questions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has been found dead and is suspected to have killed herself.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found unconscious near the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate spent three nights earlier this week being treated for pregnancy-related vomiting.

Two crews of ambulance officers tried to revive her but she died at the scene and police said her death was unexplained but not suspicious.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they were “deeply saddened” to learn of her death and their thoughts and prayers were with her family. They said they had received excellent care at the hospital.

A palace spokesperson told the BBC they had made no complaint to the hospital over the crank call.

The hospital issued a statement confirming that Ms Saldanha had recently been the victim of a hoax call: “The hospital had been supporting her through this difficult time.”

She had worked there for four years and was an excellent nurse.

Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said, “This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed.”

Ms Saldanha was found at 9.35 Friday morning London time. She was reportedly working on reception when two presenters from radio station 2Day FM called in pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales. She is thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess’s ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of Kate’s condition.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Michael Christian, the Sydney DJ who pretended to be Prince Charles, apologised earlier in the week but carried on tweeting about it, including a tweet this morning that said, “MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight.”

During the call, DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background apeing Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to “my grand-daughter Kate”. Ms Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am” before putting the call through to a duty nurse.

In reports about her suspected suicide, British newspapers and BBC television ran large smiling photos of the Australian hoaxers. They said the DJs and the station had continued to advertise the stunt world-wide.

The Daily Mail wrote, “today Christian was continuing to boast about the prank ‘making international headlines’ on Twitter”.

The King Edward, which is the Royal Family’s hospital of choice and the birthplace of princes William and Harry, was deeply embarrassed by the call and at the time accused the DJs of “journalistic trickery”.   Earlier this week it said it was considering legal action.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Friday, “It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.”

Distressed nurses were photographed holding on to each other when entering the hospital today.

The radio station issued a statement saying it was deeply saddened by the news and extending its deepest sympathies to the family. It said both the presenters were “deeply shocked” and it had been agreed they would make no comment.

They would not return to their radio show until further notice, out of respect for the tragedy, 2 Day FM said.

Ms Saldana’s family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss “of our beloved Jacintha” and asking that the media respect the family’s privacy.

First published on

Bound by birthright: who will succeed to the British throne?


KATE emerged from hospital on Thursday – thin, pale and puffy-eyed but with her trademark dimples on show – with a bunch of bright yellow roses held firmly in front of the current abode of the next royal heir.
The Duchess of Cambridge is due to spend the next little while lying low at Kensington Palace, being nursed through the difficult start to her pregnancy. William is due to return to his work with the RAF and must, around Christmas-time, decide whether to re-enlist for another three years.
He is known to be keen to stay in uniform rather than move to full-time royal duties. He knows that, otherwise, there could be decades of ribbon-cutting ahead; after all, his father, at 64, is still waiting for the big gig. If the Queen has inherited her mother’s longevity, Charles could be in the wings for another 15 years, by which time he would be 79.
The news that there is about to be a third heir to the throne has prompted royal historian Michael Thornton to suggest that, given his age and his history of improper political interference, it would be best for Britain if Charles stepped aside from the succession in favour of a much more popular younger generation.
He cites international precedent, pointing out that the Count of Barcelona renounced his rights to the Spanish throne in 1977 in favour of his then 39-year-old son, the current King Juan Carlos I.
But Charles is probably incapable of such self-sacrifice, Thornton writes in the Daily Mail: “For Charles is a man prone to self-pity and faltering self-esteem and has described his hugely privileged existence as Prince of Wales as ‘a comfortable form of inherited imprisonment’. He remains obsessively intent on claiming his birth-right as our next King, regardless of the effect this may have on his country or the institution of the monarchy.
“His behaviour in recent years has bordered on the unconstitutional. His bombardment of government ministers with interfering and meddlesome letters – known in Whitehall as the notorious ‘black spider memos’ on account of his often indecipherable hand-writing – has become a barely suppressed political scandal . . . ”
Thornton then goes on to describe a series of political skirmishes, legal changes and court battles to shield from public view a series of more than 27 “particularly frank” letters written by Charles to various departments, including the Cabinet Office. The High Court ruled in September that there was “an overwhelming public interest” in releasing them. This was overturned by the Attorney-General on the basis that if Charles “forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king”. That decision is now going to the High Court.
All of which seems to confirm that Charles’ letters do constitute political interference, verboten under Britain’s system of constitutional monarchy.
Thornton, author of Royal Feud: The Queen Mother and the Duchess of Windsor, argues that a King William V and Queen Catherine would be cleanskins; they have no political agendas and are liked for their kindness and genuine interest in ordinary people.
Well, yes. But they are also liked because they are young; he is handsome and she is pretty; and they seem to genuinely love each other. Like the Obamas, even in public they exchange warm glances and light touches and laughter. The cameras adore them, and so do the people watching at home; the Cambridges are an embodiment of the fairytale, of happily-ever-aftering.
At least for now. But no matter what difficulties may follow, they have a huge head start on Charles and Diana, who began in a loveless marriage – at least on his side – that rapidly disintegrated into one of mutual loathing.
Diana may be gone but she is not forgotten. Chatting to English people socially, it seems that men mostly wish Charles well and think it’s fair enough he should be happy at last. But women, even younger ones, are more likely to be bitter over what they saw as the manipulation and abuse of his young first wife.
And some, like Daily Mail letter-writer Marie, despise them both, describing Charles as “an egocentric adulterer brutal enough to ground his wife so that she snaps and totally goes berserk” and Diana as “twisted and conniving”: “And now Charles wants to be king and head of the Church of England – a character like him the head of the Church of England!”
But her view is no longer that of the majority. After years of public opinion polls suggesting Britons wanted William on the throne instead of Charles, a poll just after the Jubilee found people now favour a Charles and Camilla reign. Fifty-one per cent wanted Charles crowned, although a sizeable rump (40 per cent) still preferred William.
But polls on this issue do not matter. The monarchy is not a popularity contest. There is a queue and it will be observed, barring mischance. As one male Scottish reader of the Daily Mail commented, “Let’s skip a generation because we have a shiny young attractive couple who photograph well . . . perhaps if the child is very cute we could have the Queen put down?”
So perhaps a more interesting question is the apparently trivial one of the child’s name. As Rowan Pelling pointed out in The Telegraph, this baby will lend its name to an age, as Elizabeth I did to an era, Georges III and IV did to architecture, and Victoria did to old-fashioned rectitude and empire.
“The Duchess of Cambridge . . . has to find a name that pleases her husband, her in-laws, Burke’s Peerage, the Commonwealth, Hollywood and the global army of royal-watchers. It must not sound incongruous when prefaced with the title Queen or King, which rules out a tribute to her mother Carole” – Carole, presumably, being seen as a middle-class name.
But this babe of a modern age, brought into being in a brave new world that says a commoner is fit to carry a future monarch, and a queen can rule as well as a king, will live under one old ban that has not changed. While the 16 Commonwealth countries have agreed to overturn the rule of primogeniture under which a brother always gazumped a sister in line to the throne, that gilded seat is still forbidden to Catholics.
Meanwhile, the baby bonanza has begun for the mercantile classes, with one pottery producing commemorative mugs with “A royal baby in 2013” on one side and “Hooray for Will and Kate” on the other. Along with Kate, Britain’s outnumbered republicans are reaching for the anti-nausea pills for what will be a long haul.

First published in The Age.

Crusading lawyer drops a bomb or two

GEOFFREY Robertson thinks he might owe his existence to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. At the time his father, an Australian fighter pilot, was due to be part of the Allied invasion of Japan. “He was due to report to naval headquarters on the very day that news of Hirohito’s surrender crackled over the wireless,” Robertson writes in his new book. “Instead of reporting for duty, he telephoned the women’s air force corporal he had taken out in Townsville, and proposed.”
It was the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima that gave the emperor his excuse to surrender; without it, his father might well have been one of hundreds of thousands more soldiers to die in the conflict, Robertson says.
That knowledge has always tempered his view of nuclear weapons, which he did not regard as an unmitigated evil. But in his new book, Mullahs Without Mercy: Human Rights and Nuclear Weapons, the international human rights lawyer takes a tough stand. He says it is time the world called the construction and use of the bomb a human rights atrocity, and set up systems to prevent it falling into the hands of “malevolent regimes which seek to gird their loins for Armageddon”.
To wit, Iran. And Egypt and Syria and Libya. But mostly Iran, which has a history of “appalling criminality”, including massacres of political prisoners. Its nuclear ambitions are by far and away the biggest threat to world security because they will trigger a new arms race, he says.
Robertson argues that it is Iran’s progress towards N-weapons that has spurred Israel into its latest bombing of Hamas; Israel is clearing out Hamas’ missiles because it wants to bomb Iran in early 2013, “once it achieves ‘nuclear capability’, which [Israel] confuses with nuclear culpability”.
Robertson, a QC and probably the world’s best-known human rights lawyer, is 66. He has lived most of his adult life in London but was born in Australia. He speaks in the rich, plummy tones of an English toff. Private Eye has accused him of having had “a vowel transplant”; a philologist once said he spoke like an Etonian in the age of Queen Victoria.
Robertson says he talked like that long before he studied as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford: “I didn’t speak at all until I was five and then came out with the inflections of ABC announcers.” Not bad for a graduate of Epping Boys High School in Sydney.
Robertson is popularly known in Australia for his ABC TV series Hypotheticals, in which he hosted debates on topical issues using the barrister’s verbal thrust and parry, often spearing the heart of the question and sometimes panelists.
It was during one of these episodes in 1988 that he met Sydney author Kathy Lette, who won him away from his then-squeeze, the bounteous Nigella Lawson. He and Lette, a lissom, wise-cracking queen of chick-lit, married in 1990. They have two children who are old enough now to be “semi-detached”, as he puts it.
His cufflinks today are a gift from his wife: tiny silver handcuffs. “Only Kylie could get her wrist through those,” muses Lette.
While Lette writes humorously about the personal side of life – froth with a feminist bite – Robertson’s work has been exposing and fighting the worst in human nature, the systematic abuse of the vulnerable.
It began with Aborigines in Australia, a theme continued when he won a landmark 2007 suit to have the remains of Tasmanian Aborigines returned to their people from the British Natural History Museum. He spent five years as president of a special court into war atrocities in Sierra Leone that indicted former president Charles Taylor over crimes against humanity.
He has also acted for high-profile clients including WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange and fatwah-ed author Salman Rushdie, and represents the jailed former president of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Robertson’s books include Crimes Against Humanity – the latest edition required 300 more pages than the one before it, he points out grimly – and The Case Against The Pope, in which he used legal principles to argue the Vatican should be treated as a “rogue state” because of its shielding of paedophile priests. “We must view child abuse as a crime against humanity when it is done on that industrial-scale level,” he says.
So, why a book on nukes now? Hasn’t the nuclear threat been with us since Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Yes, he says, but for decades after that, it was largely a stable two-party threat, with the politics of Mutual Assured Destruction staying the trigger fingers of US and Soviet leaders. Later, the Big Five nations with nukes were all at a level of development where leaders had too much to lose to risk using it: “Wives and children and retirement plans.”
Now unstable nations with aggressive, authoritarian regimes have nuclear ambitions. “We haven’t had an explosion since Nagasaki so everyone is very complacent,” he says. “But we are probably about to fight a war to stop Iran [getting the bomb], and we don’t yet realise that this is Pandora’s Box. There’s nothing to stop any number of countries from reaching for nukes – the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has said it wants some, Saudi Arabia says it will buy some from Pakistan . . .
“We need to spool back the film and look at how dictators have behaved over the past 10 years.”
Robertson points out that Saddam Hussein used Scud missiles against Israel in Kuwait in 1990 even though Israel was not one of the combatants. “If he had had nuclear weapons to shoot at Israel he probably would have done so . . . You can imagine how much more difficult Syria would be if Assad had the bomb, or Libya if Gaddafi had had it. If he had kept building it, he would have had one by 2010, and he would have been quite capable of shooting a missile at Paris or London.”
So Iran’s nuclear program is even more dangerous than North Korea’s simply because it is in the Middle East and will inspire its neighbours to do likewise, he says.
Robertson argues that Iran’s government is particularly unfit to hold nukes because of its appalling history of human rights abuses: international assassinations, mass torture – including women prisoners of conscience given 15 lashes five times a day – and the 1998 slaughter of a suspected 7000 religious and political prisoners.
Robertson likens these murders to the mass graves of Srebrenica and the Japanese death marches of prisoners of war. It is Iran’s theocratic leaders whom he has dubbed “Mullahs without mercy”.
But still, he does not support a pre-emptive attack on Iran by Israel or the US.
He thinks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting precipitately because he fears the millennialist thinking of Iran’s Shia Muslim leaders. They believe that a messianic figure, the 12th imam, will return to the world to reward believers and destroy infidels following a time of great chaos and “screaming from the sky”.
Netanyahu and others, Robertson writes, “discern great danger in this . . . belief, so fervently promoted by [Iranian] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . . . they fear that an excessively devout Supreme Leader . . . might one day decide to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel in much the same spirit, to create that chaos”.
But he warns that a pre-emptive strike in the absence of a direct threat from Iran would be illegal under international law and would create its own humanitarian disasters, killing thousands of civilians and releasing poisonous clouds into the atmosphere.
He doesn’t think Iran would use the bomb unless it was attacked and “the regime was tottering”.
He thinks the weapon used to fix the problem should be international law and wants laws passed that would criminalise governments that acquire new nukes, and political will to be harnessed to force disarmament by those nations that already have them.
Robertson says nuclear weapons should be banned entirely, as are dumdum bullets and landmines.
And the legal regime needs teeth, not just to gnash but to bite. The International Atomic Energy Agency is a poor monitor and has no power to punish those who breach its guidelines, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty has no enforcement mechanisms either, he says.
But does international law have any force? Wouldn’t this just be another lawyers’ picnic, with duplicitous or defiant states going their own way regardless?
Robertson points out that international law is now gaining great traction over war crimes with the prosecutions of leaders such as Charles Taylor, who copped a 50-year sentence, and Ratko Mladic, on trial over genocide in the Bosnian war.
“Aggressive authoritarian dictators have been given pause by the fact that there is now law. It’s not so much the dictator himself but the generals and the army heads. We saw that in Libya where the prospect of being charged with crimes against humanity . . . led generals to defect during the NATO strikes in 2011 . . . ”
Robertson acted for Human Rights Watch in a British case against the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet over his record of torture. There was an attempt to extradite Pinochet from Britain so he would face trial in Spain.
Britain found him too ill to stand trial but contrast the existence of that legal action, Robertson says, with the position he was in when he joined Amnesty International in 1979: “One of my first tasks was to write a letter about the torture chambers. ‘Dear General Pinochet . . .’ ”
Mullahs without Mercy by Geoffrey Robertson is published by Vintage Australia. RRP $34.95
Geoffrey Robertson will speak at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne at 6.30pm on December 14 and at the Sydney Opera House at 4pm on December 16.
First published in The Age.

Baby frenzy: Kate’s pregnancy news causes debate and delirium


When the Queen was pregnant with Charles, an oblique announcement said merely that she “would undertake no public engagements until June” – and left the world to figure out what that meant.On Monday, Kate and William put news of her pregnancy up on their website, which promptly crashed. Serious newspapers began live-blogging on the issue. TV reporters were stationed outside the hospital. Twitter buzzed with quips like “Dilatey Katie”.

Bookies announced Elizabeth (8/1 ) and Diana (12/1) the top favourite names for a girl and Philip (14/1) and Edward (16/1) for a boy (and you can bet on the hair colour, too, 6/4 brown, 2/1 blond).

And columnists began speculating about when, precisely, the baby might have been conceived. The holiday in France that spawned the topless pictures? Maybe, concluded one paper, though perhaps it could have been during the couple’s tour of South-East Asia. Another magazine reports “insider” claims that the baby is the result of a passionate night in their rented home in Wales.

Princess Diana felt her pregnancies were too public – “The whole world is watching my stomach,” she once said – but the level of intrusion is already far greater for Kate, particularly now that details of her medical situation are known.

The news is a blessing and a curse for women’s magazines around the world, which will be madly pulling scheduled covers in order to roll out (pre-prepared?) spreads on royal baby bliss and pregnancy misery. But the very illness that has made the pregnancy such hot news will later bedevil the media, as it means Kate is much more likely to spend the next seven months living a private life rather than providing joy for paparazzi. Severe pregnancy-nausea of her kind can go on for up to 14 weeks, and in rare cases can last the whole pregnancy.

The media upside: extreme pregnancy nausea is also slightly associated with a higher likelihood of twins. Princess Mary of Denmark could get a run for her money.

The royal baby-to-be means unalloyed happiness for Prime Minister David Cameron, wrestling as he was with the Leveson fall-out and welfare reform and the euro-crisis, but now likely to be revelling in the spotlight turning to what an Independent columnist has sourly dubbed “the feel-good foetus”.

The London Telegraph’s Tom Chivers is doing a similar bah-humbug, saying he needs to coin a new word for what he is already feeling: “Babigue? Pregxhaustion? Ennuioetus?” Several of the Top Ten Stories Zoe Williams of the Guardian doesn’t want to  read are already up on newspaper websites, including advice on what Kate should and shouldn’t be eating and speculation as to how Diana would have reacted.

The Queen is probably still sorting out her own reaction. She was told only as Kate was being taken to hospital. The official announcement talks of her delight. But for her and her dynasty, this is about more than an old woman’s pleasure at the promise of her first great-grandchild.

William, Kate and their children are likely to become the new face of the monarchy long before they sit on thrones. It is an age where image, not monarch, is king; they are young, handsome, apparently in love, and ready objects for the projection of their subjects’ longing for the fairy-tale.

They also seem to have “the common touch”; friendly, approachable, down-to-earth.

The Queen has had many moments of glory. The oceanic swell of people turning out for her Jubilee was, to a non-Brit, extraordinary. But she is respected rather than loved. And, while she has kept her footing on deck during some truly stormy seas, she is like the wall-paper of Britons’ lives: there, seemingly, forever, but faded now, and reminiscent of another era and its ways. The gloves alone say it all about her un-touchableness.

But before William and Kate come Charles and Camilla. A poll just after the Jubilee suggested that, for the first time, the British populace favoured a Charles and Camilla combo on the throne ahead of a William-and-Kate ensemble. Fifty-one per cent wanted Charles crowned, although a sizeable 40 per cent still favoured William. Camilla is successfully chipping away at the national resentment over Diana.

But polls on this issue do not matter a hill of beans. The monarchy is not a popularity contest. There is a queue and it will be observed, failing mischance.

And seductive as youth and beauty and cute babies may be, next year’s royal arrival is just as likely as Charles to grow into a middle-aged monarch-in-waiting. According to James Kirkup on the London Telegraph, life-expectancy data suggests the child due next year would probably not succeed until 2068, when he or she was 56 years old, and might well reign into the 22nd century.

By which time he or she might also find themselves sharing the limelight with an expected grandchild who will represent the new face of the monarchy…

First published in The Age.

Kate pregnant: royals confirm news after Duchess taken to hospital


Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.

The child will be third in line to the throne and is destined to be monarch regardless of its sex, as the British Government is negotiating with all Commonwealth countries to change the law so that a first-born girl can inherit the throne even if she has brothers.

The news was revealed after Kate was admitted to hospital on Monday afternoon for treatment for severe morning sickness. No due date has been announced.

St James’s Palace issued a statement announcing the pregnancy and saying, “The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII hospital in central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, her royal highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.”

Acute morning sickness is normally treated with extra hydration and nutrients, which might include an intravenous drip. Unpleasant though it is for the mother, the received wisdom is that it suggests a healthy pregnancy because it means the level of pregnancy hormones is high. It affects only two per cent of pregnant women.

Only a small number of women are understood to experience the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum  throughout pregnancy.

”It will mean that the patient may need to be re-admitted throughout their pregnancy… but in terms of any particular complications, if it’s treated well and they’re kept well hydrated it’s something that is relatively easy and well treated,” consultant obstetrician Daghni Rajasingham from Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said

Royal pregnancies are not normally announced until they are passed the fragile 12-week mark and it is thought that the duchess’s hospitalisation is the reason for the press release at an early stage. The couple reportedly wanted to avoid speculation about her condition.

News of the pregnancy comes just three days after Catherine visited her former school St Andrew’s, where she ran around a hockey pitch wearing high-heel boots, laughing and playing with children.

It is 18 months since Kate married Prince William and speculation has been rife that a pregnancy might be on the way. A columnist in The Daily Mail last week wrote about the duchess’s new haircut and warned that women tend to change their hair when they have a drastic life change, adding, “Predictably? Kate’s new cut has sparked speculation that she may be pregnant. (And if she is keeping a Very Important Secret, then that demure fringe is perfect for hiding behind.”)

A remark that now looks as prescient as the not-so-ditsy speculation a couple of years ago about her sudden five-kilo weight loss – which was almost immediately followed by the announcement of the royal engagement.

With hindsight, it seems that an American magazine report last week was the first to break the news. US Life and Style magazine headlined with “A baby is on the way!’, citing an unnamed close friend of the couple as the source.

There must have been something in the air. Last week, Prince William accepted a home-made baby suit from a young mother in the crowd as he and Kate toured Cambridge. The suit read, “Daddy’s little co-pilot”.

Wellwishers have already signalled joy at the couple’s news, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying ”the country will be celebrating with them”.

”I’m delighted by the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby. They will make wonderful parents,” Mr Cameron posted on Twitter, later admitting he learnt of the pregnancy when handed a note during a meeting.

Bookmakers will be taking flurries of bets on what the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will choose to call the eagerly anticipated new prince or princess.

Speculation as to what they might name their first child began even before Kate was pregnant, with predictions posted ranging from Mary and Matilda to Edmund and George on the mumsnet website before their wedding.

Their decision – be it traditional or unusual – will most likely set a trend for the next generation of babies.

Royal youngsters are mostly given safe, historical names which are passed down through the monarchy such as James, Edward, Charles, George, Mary and Elizabeth.

First published in The Age.

Cameron accused of Leveson betrayal


VICTIMS of phone hacking have accused Prime Minister David Cameron of betrayal after he rejected the recommendation of the Leveson Report on how to regulate an “outrageous” press that “had wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”.
After nine months of hearings involving more than 600 witnesses, Justice Brian Leveson said Britain needed a tougher form of press self-regulation, backed by legislation. He denied that this amounted to statutory regulation because his proposed independent watchdog would not involve politicians (or newspaper editors).
Mr Cameron said he welcomed Justice Leveson’s principles but was wary of legislation that might infringe on free speech. “The danger is this would create a vehicle for politicians, whether today or some time in the future, to impose regulation and obligations on the press,” he said.
The founder of the Hacked Off campaign, Brian Cathcart, said: “Despite years of abuses and outrageous conduct, it seems that the Prime Minister still trusts the editors and proprietors to behave themselves.”
Mark Lewis, a solicitor for several phone-hacking victims, including the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, said some of his clients were feeling let down: “Cautious optimism lasted for about 45 minutes and then the Prime Minister spoke and said, well, he’s not actually going to implement a report that he instigated . . . He called it the victim test; he called it the Dowler test. It looks like he failed his own test.”
Mr Cameron’s stance was directly contradicted by his deputy in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who said changing the law was the only way to ensure the new regulator was permanently independent. “We need to get on with this without delay. We owe it to the victims of these scandals, who have already waited too long for us to do the right thing,” Mr Clegg said.
He was joined by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said his party “unequivocally” backed the report.
Justice Leveson found that politicians had become too close to the press and that this was responsible for decades of political inaction over press abuses and the concentration of ownership. He criticised some police for poor judgment, but found no evidence of widespread corruption involving press relationships with police.
He said News International, the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World, seriously failed in corporate governance over phone hacking. And he found the account of a key event by James Murdoch, then executive chairman of News International, was less credible than that of an executive with a different story.
Justice Leveson found that News International and its parent company, News Corp, failed to investigate evidence that phone hacking was widespread among its journalists.
“There was serious failure of governance within the NotW. Given criminal investigation and what are now the impending prosecutions, it is simply not possible to go further at this stage … What can be said is that there was a failure on the part of the management at the NotW to drill down into the facts to answer the myriad of questions that could have been asked and which could be encompassed by the all-embracing question, ‘What the hell was going on?’ ”
That the company clung to the line that hacking was confined to “one rogue reporter” was “extraordinary” and said a great deal about the paper’s approach to ethics.
Justice Leveson found evidence was unclear as to what James Murdoch knew of hacking allegations. Mr Murdoch had been sent an email chain in which a hacking victim alleged that illegal practices were “rife within the organisation”. Mr Murdoch told the inquiry he had not read the whole chain and was unaware of this claim.
Justice Leveson concluded: “James Murdoch replied to the email within two minutes of receiving it. The speed and content of his reply appear to support his claim not to have focused on the key allegation.”
Mr Murdoch had also said he was never shown or told the significance of a different email, headed “for Neville”, that was also evidence that hacking was more widespread. In contrast, the then legal chief of News International, Tom Crone, told the inquiry the significance of this email was made clear to Mr Murdoch on June 10, 2008.
Justice Leveson said he concluded “that Mr Crone’s version of events … should be preferred to that of Mr Murdoch”.
Justice Leveson recommended legal protection for freedom of the press; increased damages for people who win libel or invasion of privacy cases; a system to protect media plurality; and rules to encourage politicians to reveal meetings with editors and publishers.
But he was criticised for failing to deal more thoroughly with digital media, devoting only one page to “new media”.
■An independent regulator, underpinned by statute, with power to fine newspapers up to £1 million ($A1.5 million) or 1 per cent of turnover for breaching a new code of conduct. No power to prevent publication.
■Majority on board of new body must be independent of the press, with no serving editors and no MPs.
■Arbitration to enable wronged parties to seek swift redress through a prominent apology and fines, if appropriate.
■”Kite mark” (standards) system for publications that sign up.
■Whistleblowing hotline for journalists put under pressure to breach the new code of conduct.
■Communications regulator Ofcom to review how new body is working every two years and to act as regulator if publishers refuse new body.First published in The Age.

Murdochs survive, but the fallout is serious

Karen Kissane, London 

Prime Minister David Cameron can now afford to exhale. Rupert and James Murdoch — perhaps not quite so easily.

Mr Cameron now faces a difficult task to build consensus on how best to implement the Leveson principles, given that his deputy, the Opposition and a fair proportion of his own back-bench support the idea of a new press watchdog that is underpinned by law.

Mr Cameron, on the other hand, warns that laws to regulate the press are a danger to freedom of speech. He told the Commons, “In this House, which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries, we should be very, very careful before crossing that line.”

Whatever political process follows next will be messy and divisive, but Mr Cameron is likely to be relieved that is the worst he has to handle. The Leveson report does not seem to represent a major nightmare for his government (although its 10 kilos and 2000 pages could be consumed in a day only by a wunderkind, so it may contain small landmines that have yet to be discovered).

Here is the good news for Mr Cameron.

Justice Leveson did not savagely criticise former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his handling of the Murdoch bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB. He merely rapped Mr Hunt over the knuckles for the unwisdom of appointing garrulous adviser Adam Smith, whose over-friendly communications with News International during the Sky bid process sparked headlines earlier this year.

Justice Leveson did not condemn relationships with red-headed media executives, or loans of horses, or in fact any particular encounter between Mr Cameron and a News International chief. Nor did the judge find that any specific policy by Mr Cameron’s government had been unduly influenced by connections with, or fear of, the Murdoch empire.

His condemnation of the undue closeness of politicians with the press was carefully couched in general terms, along the lines of “a pox on all your houses”.

The British police got a relatively clean bill of health, with a finding that there was no evidence of widespread corruption in their dealings with the media.

And several key players in the phone-hacking scandal got only the most glancing of mentions. This will be due to the law of inverse proportion that follows any arrest: the deeper the legal doo-doo in which a person stands, the less likely a judge such as Leveson would be to examine his or her conduct in any detail, for fear of imperilling future trials.

The fallout for Rupert and James Murdoch and their empire might be more serious.

The phone-hacking scandal and the inquiry it sparked have left them personas-non-grata in British politics. From figures all sought to win over — some saw them as makers and breakers of British governments —  they are now men with whom English politicians cannot afford to be publicly associated. In April, Mr Cameron told Commons, “I think we all, on both sides of this house, did a bit too much cosying up to Mr Murdoch.”

The loss of political influence in Britain has been mirrored across the Atlantic by challenges to the family hold on News Corporation in the United States, where institutional investors have been trying to oust Rupert as chairman and his sons James and Lachlan from the board. The rebels have used the phone-hacking scandal, its costs to the company (around $US 244 million) and related inquiries by US authorities to bolster their case.

The criticisms of the Murdochs by Leveson are carefully-phrased attacks on their corporate competence and, in James’s case, on the accuracy of his evidence to the inquiry. They will add fuel to the fire of already-angry institutional investors.

In the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and the Leveson inquiry, Rupert Murdoch has resigned a few roles; his son has moved on from News International; and Rupert’s beloved newspapers are being split into a separate entity, so as not to sully cleaner and more profitable areas of his empire.

But in the end, does any of that that really matter to a man worth an estimated $US9.4 billion?

 First published on