The complicity of the Saudi Coalition in the starvation & destruction of the Yemeni people

Kim Sharif is a London based solicitor, human rights activist and Director of ‘Human Rights for Yemen’.   She has given talks about the worst man made humanitarian catastrophe in the world today at UN Human Rights Council Side Events as a panelist and has spoken and written widely about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the involvement of the UK through its crucial air command support and arms contracts.  The meeting between the Prime Minister and Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 7th March, was opposed by hundreds of protesters and attracted widespread condemnation by politicians, press and the public – Guardian article on protest. See also a recent article by Craig Murray

19th March 2018

 


Algorithms: are they taking control of our lives?

Algorithms are computerised formulae designed to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. They can perform calculations, data processing and automated reasoning tasks, and are used by all sections of modern society – sciences, financial markets, medical research, manufacturing, and numerous business practices, especially those of large corporations and their advertising agencies. These powerful tools largely determine the information we receive about the world we live in, and have a profound impact on the way we think, directing our political and economic choices, our value systems and our consumption patterns. Who designs these algorithms? Whose interests do they serve? And is there any way in which we can control them? All these questions must be addressed when we consider our ethical approach to Artificial Intelligence. 

Kathleen Richardson is Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science and Informatics, De Montfort University. She is a social anthropologist, and much of her work is focused on a critique of coercive models of human behaviour that are transferred to the making of new technologies.  She is Director of the Campaign against Sex Robots, and was part of the Digital Bridges Project, an innovative AHRC funded technology and arts collaboration between Watford Palace Theatre and the University of Cambridge. She is author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines.

Monday 19th February

 


The Prison Crisis – what are the alternatives to incarceration?

As the prison population in the UK, which is now the highest in Western Europe, continues to escalate, we must ask ourselves whether our criminal justice system is fit for purpose. Why are our prisons overflowing? Is imprisonment meant to be rehabilitative or punitive, and what measures would help to prevent criminalisation and recriminalisation? If other international approaches to social problems based on criminalisation and punishment are proving successful, what can we learn from those countries whose policies and practices are producing more satisfactory results? Richard Garside is the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, where he set up the Crime and Society Foundation, and is the lead author of the Centre’s keynote annual publication: UK Justice Policy Review. He is also Senior Visiting Research Fellow at The Open University. Richard is in favour of the long-term abolition of prisons and the development of practices that are socially transformative, rather than punitive, and he writes and broadcasts regularly on issues of crime, criminal justice and social harm.  See Guardian references.

Monday 5th February


Countering Terror with Terror: Kill Lists, Drone Programmes and ‘Targeted’ Killings

When President Trump took office in January 2017, he received more than just the keys to the White House. President Obama also handed him the keys to his go-to weapon in the War on Terror – a Kill List created during ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings and a covert drone programme used to target and kill individuals far from battlefields and in countries where the US is not at war.

In his first year in office, President Trump massively expanded the programme, rolling back safeguards, tripling the number of strikes and dramatically increasing the number of civilian casualties. Worryingly, he’s done so not just with covert support from his allies, like President Obama, but also with increasing public support.   Allies, such as the UK, are now adopting their own Kill Lists, with the UK Defence Secretary declaring last month that the UK will ‘hunt down’ and kill its own citizens suspected of terrorism oversees in an effort to prevent their return.

As the first international NGO to expose the collateral damage of America’s use of armed drones for ‘targeted’ killings in late 2011, Reprieve has been at the forefront of challenging the use of Kill Lists and assassinations as a counterterrorism tool. Through on-the-ground investigations, novel legal challenges and advocacy, Reprieve has challenged not only the secrecy surrounding the programme, but also debunked the myth that these strikes are ‘surgical and precise.’

Jennifer Gibson heads Reprieve’s Assassination team and will talk about the flawed intelligence underlying these strikes, some of the human faces that are too often missing from the debate and the threat drones pose to long established legal frameworks. She will also touch upon the UK government’s own complicity in the US drone programme and recent comments that indicate the UK is following the US down the slippery slope of creating its own Kill List.

With a Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School, Jennifer regularly writes and speaks about her work with those who have been harmed by abusive counterterrorism practices. She frequently appears in the media and has testified about her work before the British and European Parliaments, as well as the US Congress. In December 2015 she gave oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the British use of drones for targeted killing.

Contact: [email protected]  or on Twitter @jennifermgibson

18.45 on Monday 22nd January

 


From Denial to Moral Leadership – Germany’s Remarkable 70-Year Journey

Germany is now the undisputed power centre of Europe. Its journey from defeat and denial at the end of the Second World War, through recrimination, rebellion, and reunification to the self-confident Germany that we see today has involved (and continues to involve) profound changes in the way the country perceives itself and the way it is perceived by others. Steve Crawshaw, author of Easier Fatherland: Germany and the 21st Century, will discuss the extraordinary changes that Germany has seen – and the implications of those changes for Europe today,  including in the context of the strong showing for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in recent elections.

Steve Crawshaw is senior advocacy adviser at Amnesty International, where his previous roles were as International Advocacy Director and Director of the Office of the Secretary General. From 2002 to 2010 he worked with Human Rights Watch as London Director and then as UN Advocacy Director. He studied Russian and German, and lived as a student in Berlin.  He was East Europe Editor of The Independent during the revolutions of 1989, including the fall of the Berlin Wall.  After reunification, he was The Independent’s Germany correspondent (1992-1995).  He co-presented the BBC television series Germany Inside Out (2002).  The German edition of his Easier Fatherland: Germany and the Twenty-First Century was shortlisted for Das politische Buch prize in 2005.  From 2015 to 2017 he was Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics.  His Street Spirit: the Power of Protest and Mischief, foreword by Ai Weiwei, was published in 2017.

18.45 on Monday 4th December