Last night I went to Tooks Chambers for a Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers talk given by Antonia Mulvey, the Senior Justice Expert for the Norwegian Refugee Council based in New York, on Palestinian housing issues in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (specifically Area C).
This was not long after a complaint for professional misconduct against Michael Mansfield QC, one of the senior barristers at Tooks, had been dismissed by the Bar Standards Board.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine had held an anti-Israel hatefest at the Law Society on the weekend of 20th and 21st November 2010. RTOP is a Kangaroo Court where anti-Israel activists get together to make up international law with which to condemn Israel.
It’s a bit like playing doctors and nurses, but as lawyers.
They even have a “jury” and on 22nd November 2010 Michael Mansfield QC, as head juror, pronounced all the firms “on trial” guilty of complicity in Israel’s “breaches of international law”. This “judgement” was given at Amnesty International.
At the end of Mansfield’s “verdict” the following exchange occurred in response to a question on the legalities of civil disobedience. Mansfield was possibly encouraging the law to be broken, especially in light of what immediately took place at the Ahava shop in Covent Garden. The following transcript formed the basis of the complaint to the BSB (listen to audio at end of post):
“I just wanted to ask, do you think the findings have any ramifications on those engaging in civil disobedience as a means to highlight corporate complicity and promote the BDS campaign?”
“Yes, I can answer that one directly. The answer is yes.
In fact we heard from a lawyer who has been involved in two actions where there were criminal prosecutions. He represented those who had actively protested in relation to two different companies; one in Northern Ireland and one not.
And the position is very important and it stems again, not only from the advisory opinion, but it is there in the advisory opinion. Because what the advisory opinion is saying to governments and everyone; we all have an obligation to bring the wall and the settlements to an end, which means that those who wish to, as it were, actively protest in relation to that here, in this country or in Northern Ireland, wish to protest about that, are entitled if and when, they are not always prosecuted, if the prosecuting authority decides that they are, for criminal damage or whatever it happens to be, they are going to prosecute the individuals who entered offices or whatever it is, then the individuals who are prosecuted have a, a defence, sometimes called “necessity”, in which they are saying “there is a greater good”.
Yes, there is damage, but the damage was done as of “necessity” to prevent a greater evil being caused. So, actually…if people, come and tell us that is exactly what is being (unclear), and jurors, that’s the interesting thing, courts in the United Kingdom, juries, ordinary people in the United Kingdom, the democratic aspect of our system, are saying “we find you not guilty because of the greater good”.
So it’s extremely important that it’s a two-pronged thing: One is proactive, in other words actually going to companies and corporations, the other is reactive, if we get accused then we have a perfectly legitimate defence.
And may I just add a foot-note on this. I know time is restricted, what we are equally horrified to note is that the Israeli government is currently considering making protests and objections along these lines a criminal offence. So therefore this is, as I see it, a totally appropriate situation in as much as you are not going to be easily allowed to stick up against it.
Can I just add as a footnote – there is a protest, a perfectly lawful legitimate nonviolent protest, going on in London now, today, in relation to a company, Ahava, that you may have heard of, that produces goods that are mislabelled for a start off, but in any event are exploiting natural resources in Israel/Palestine and it is essentially complicit, we will be dealing with it in the full report, complicit in the illegality that people have already talked about. I don’t know exactly where it is happening in London, but it is happening now.”
“Monmouth Street, Covent Garden.”
“Thank you very much….Dead Sea Products, yes….How are we doing on time….fine, any more questions?”
So, at the very least, Mansfield seems to admit to knowledge of events at Ahava where Jessica Nero and Christopher Osmond entered the store either during or soon after his speech and were eventually arrested. On 21st April 2011 both Nero and Osmond were convicted of aggravated trespass, given 18 month conditional discharges and ordered to pay £250 costs each.
And guess who represented Nero and Osmond at their trial? James Mehigan, a barrister at Tooks!
The BSB dismissed the complaint for professional misconduct against Mansfield in a letter from Natalya Browning, an assessment officer, on the following grounds (Browning’s response is edited for brevity):
1. Mr Mansfield QC incited the crime of aggravated trespass:
The BSB does not have the power to consider allegations of criminal conduct. If you consider that Mr Mansfield QC is guilty of a criminal offence, you should refer the matter to the police in the first instance. I would also point out that Mr Mansfield’s comments were made in his personal capacity and not in connection with the provision of a legal service.
2. Mr Mansfield QC profited from inciting a crime, by representing two defendants who had committed the crime, possibly with the use of public money in the form of legal aid:
Mr Mansfield QC would not have been paid a share of the fees earned by Mr Mehigan. I can see no evidence on the information before me to suggest that Mr Mansfield QC profited from Mr Mehigan’s representation of the defendants and, as explained above, we cannot consider whether or not Mr Mansfield has incited or encouraged a crime.
Sadly, the police should have been informed within six months of Mansfield’s speech, incitement being a summary-only offence.
I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, but please be careful if leaving a comment below the line. I don’t want to be sued.
As for last night’s Haldane Society talk, Antonia Mulvey spent an hour propagandising about alleged illegal evictions of Palestinian “women and children” and the route of Israel’s Security Wall. The case studies she mentioned are still being challenged through the Israeli court system.
She claimed that a Palestinian family had been fined for nuisance for sitting outside their old home having been recently evicted from it and that Palestinians must pay for the demolition of their homes and for removal of the rubble, which they can’t afford along with the huge fines for not having a valid building permit.
Sat among the audience, some of whom were calling for boycotts of Israel and for Israel to adhere to Jewish values as set out in the Torah (ex-Labour MP Martin Linton even accused Israel of “ethnic engineering” the Palestinians in east Jerusalem), I mentioned that many of the case studies given by Mulvey were no different to property disputes common in Britain.
I also pointed out that the backdrop of Palestinian terrorists constantly attempting to murder Israelis might mean that Palestinians were inconvenienced by the route of the security wall. I asked whether she preferred the inconvenience or more Israelis, like three-month old Hadas Fogel who was decapitated in her bed by a Palestinian, being murdered.
For her answer she relied on the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice 2004 on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall. Mulvey said that the opinion (which, being only an “advisory opinion”, is not binding) criticised the building of the wall inside the green line.
So one might infer that Mulvey has no qualms about the beheading of Hadas Fogel; it being preferable for the security wall to be moved to the green line so exposing even more Israelis to Hadas Fogel and her family’s tragic fate.
(Thanks to Sharon and Leslie for their cooperation)