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By John Helmer, Moscow

Prime Minister Theresa May committed a blood libel against Russians in the House of Commons last week. This was the allegation that the Russian state and all Russians are murderers.

May has subsequently asked the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to correct the record by charging that only one Russian, President Vladimir Putin, is a murderer.

The Canadian Government was also requested by the British  to urgently correct the record May has been making in refusing to allow the international rules of the Chemical Weapons Convention to decide what happened in the poison attack in Salisbury on March 4.  According to the new Canadian statement, coordinated with the British, the international convention can be suspended by Prime Minister May in order to make her blood libel stick.

If this is reminding you of Adolph Hitler’s blood libel against the Jews, followed by Austrian support after the Anschluss (union) with Germany of 1938, it should.

A blood libel is an allegation of murder against a race of people. Its history is ancient; it’s most familiar today as the charge of ritual murder against Jews. Hitler and the Nazis followed many others over a thousand years of European history. That history also includes organizations associated with the Russian Orthodox Church and several Romanov tsars. Read a brief summary. The last tsar, Nicholas II, used to read the blood libel aloud to his family during Lent of 1918, and at the family’s Easter service that year, when the Romanovs were under arrest in Tobolsk; for the record, read pages 114-117 of this British history.    

Left: Nicholas with his wife and two of his daughters at Tobolsk. Right: Sergei Nilus, author of a series of blood libel books which were favourites of the tsar. Possession of Nilus’s books was a criminal offence in the Soviet  Union.

In the form of allegations of ritual cannibalism, the blood libel has also been a recurring allegation in inter-tribal, genocidal and also colonial wars in Africa, Australasia, North and South America.

In the UK, publishing or broadcasting a blood libel is an offence against the law, a hate crime. This is what the Metropolitan Police advise is British law, and how to enforce it in cases of verbal abuse or incitement to violence. 

According to the Home Office, as the British ministry of  law and order is called,  a hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.’ This common definition was agreed in 2007 by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system.”

Writing hate on walls is a crime in the UK. According to the Home Office, “offences with a xenophobic element (such as graffiti targeting certain nationalities) can be recorded as race hate crimes by the police.”  The effect of media reporting and broadcasting has been to accelerate the rate of growth in the police statistics of hate crime.

The Home Office reported last October that in the year between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, the number of hate crime offences recorded by the British police was 80,393. That was up 29% over the previous year, and nearly double the number reported for 2012-2013.  

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/652136/hate-crime-1617-hosb1717.pdf

Part of the rate of increase is due to police improvements in investigation of evidence and reporting. Part is due to media publications and statements by politicians. “Part of the increase,” acknowledges the Home Office, “is due to a genuine increase in hate crime, particularly around the time of the EU Referendum in June 2016. There was also an increase in hate crime following the Westminster bridge terrorist attack on 22 March 2017.”

On March 14, in her House of Commons speech on the case of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Prime Minister May declared: “the UK government concluded it was highly likely that Russia [sic] was responsible for this reckless and despicable act… Mr Speaker, it was right to offer Russia [sic] the opportunity to provide an explanation. But their [sic] response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They [sic] have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they [sic] lost control of their [sic] nerve agent. No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia [sic] has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.  Instead they [sic] have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”

May speaking at the Commons on March 14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnmUb0y4T0o

The Latin term ‘sic’ has been added. It’s short for the full Latin phrase, ‘sic erat scriptum’ (‘thus it was written’). It is a term of irony, used to qualify what was said or written when the correct spelling and grammar or the known truth are different.

This was the way in which May intended to refer to all Russians. She did not refer to individual perpetrators of the crime she alleged to have been committed in Salisbury. She couldn’t. She and her government have so far presented evidence of victims, but no evidence of a weapon or a crime.

“So Mr Speaker, there is no alternative [sic] conclusion other than that the Russian State [sic] was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.” The first ‘sic’ indicates that May was lying about the scope for alternative conclusions; there are many alternative conclusions, and these include press-reported leaks from the Foreign Office and the Porton Down  Defence Science and Technology Laboratory .

The second ‘sic’ identifies the term which, in Oxford Dictionary English, means a nation or territory or political community under a single government. May’s allegation was a blood libel against the nation and community of Russians, all of them.

Two days after May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attempted to erase the blood libel from the parliamentary record by broadcasting on the BBC: “The quarrel [sic] of the UK Government is not with Russian people, is not with Russians living here in this country… We have nothing against the Russians themselves. There is to be no Russophobia as a result of what is happening [sic]. Our quarrel — our quarrel  is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision [sic], and we think it overwhelmingly likely [sic] that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe [sic] for the first time since the Second World War. That is why we are at odds with Russia [sic].”

Click to listen: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43429152

Another twenty-four hours elapsed before Johnson ordered his ministry to issue a fresh  qualification of the blood libel.   This reiterated May: “Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts [sic] of the matter – the attempted assassination [sic] of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion [sic] other than that the Russian State [sic]  was culpable. It is Russia [sic] that is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Johnson’s underlings then repeated part of what Johnson had said the day before. “We have no disagreement with the people of Russia and we continue to believe it is not in our national interest to break off all [sic] dialogue between our countries but the onus remains on the Russian state [sic] to account for their [sic] actions and to comply with their [sic] international obligations.”

That last phrase by the FCO means one thing to the British; another thing for everybody else. This was revealed  across the water in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, and at The Hague,  the Dutch headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  This Canadian statement was released on March 15; click to read here.

Source: https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/EC/87/en/Canada_Supplementary_Statement_EC-87.pdf

The Canadian statement insists on “ the rules-based international order on which we all depend”. But Canada says it is allowing the UK to opt out of the rules when it wishes to accuse Russia, the Russian state, all Russians, and President Putin of attempted murder by chemical weapon on British territory. This is the meaning of Paragraph 2: “it remains the prerogative [sic] of each State Party to determine whether [sic] to employ the provisions of Article IX in requesting clarification on any matter which may cause doubt about compliance of another State Party with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The United Kingdom made a request for clarification [sic] directly with the Russian Federation. And as the UK Permanent Representative informed this Council yesterday, Moscow has failed to provide an explanation. Russia’s insistence on employing Article IX procedures is an attempt to deflect and delay – pure and simple – so that it need not provide a credible response to uncomfortable questions.”

For the story of the British ultimatum – in Canadian English, clarification – read this. The Convention, which can be read here,  does not allow a member state or government to opt out of Article IX.  In fact, as international lawyers point out, Article VII is mandatory for both the UK and Russia. This orders:  “Each State Party shall cooperate with other States Parties and afford the appropriate form of legal assistance to facilitate the implementation of the obligations under paragraph 1. “

Article XXII of the convention, entitled “Reservations”, says bluntly there are none.  “The Articles of this Convention shall not be subject to reservations. The Annexes of this Convention shall not be subject to reservations incompatible with its object and purpose.”

The Canadian representative to OPCW, Timothy Edwards, is a junior diplomat from Ottawa who was  standing in for his country at the OPCW because Sabine Nolke, the Canadian government’s official representative,  doubles as  Canada’s ambassador to The Netherlands. Nolke was elsewhere when Edwards was employed to break the Chemical Weapons Convention.  

Edwards didn’t say this aloud in front of other OPCW representatives. Instead, his March 15 “supplementary statement”  was slipped into the OPCW’s mailbox for publication by a secretary on  the organization’s website.  Edwards did give a speech two days before, on March 13. That speech in the OPCW record reveals Canada was carefully avoiding  the British jump  to conclusion that Russia was to blame.

Source: https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/EC/87/en/Canada_Statement_EC-87.pdf

When he was on his feet, mouth moving, Edwards didn’t have May’s script; that would follow the next day in London.  Canada, said Edwards, was ready to “welcome their [British] commitment as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention to keep the OPCW informed as the investigation proceeds.”

How could Canada guess the British prime minister was about to declare the investigation proceeding at an end – and also that the British were unilaterally halting their commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention?

Timothy Edwards in 2013, when he led a union of Canadian diplomats in strike action for better wages. He was then moved from working in Ottawa to The Hague.  Source:  http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/its-a-mess-effects-of-ongoing-strike-by-canadian-diplomats-widely-felt-and-very-costly

By getting Canada to introduce the reservation to Article IX without open discussion by OPCW members, the British arranged an alibi for violating the convention themselves.

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