Canadians Gail Lord and her husband Barry, well known around the world in museum circles, are especially big news in Abu Dhabi. She is president of Lord Cultural Resources, Inc. and he works with her. Gail studied history at the University of Toronto, but her career has been in the arts, as a critic and academic. She helped to set up a program in film and photography at Ryerson University in Toronto and has taught museum planning and management at universities in North America and Europe.
Barry has been an art curator and a federal bureaucrat with Canada’s Museum Assistance Program, where he became assistant director. Together, they have worked on plans for museums virtually around the world. Guggenheim Bilbao, the National Museum of Singapore, the Lowry at Salford Quays in England, and on and on. Now they are hip deep in planning in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is spending $30 billion on developing Saadiyat Island, off its coast, into an international cultural center, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Guggenheim, and other museums, theatre, and hotels. The Louvre in Paris will be lending works from its collection, and it will cost Abu Dhabi $1.3 billion just for use of the name. Gail and Barry Lord are all over the planning for Saadiyat. Nothing will be open till 2012.
Their role in museum and cultural consultation includes over-all planning around core focus and publicity, recruiting and staffing, negotiations with government and other museums, and financing, including ongoing revenue from operation of such facilities as gift shops and restaurants.
While working on plans for Abu Dhabi, they continue with other projects around the globe. Their associates are, for instance, also working on a restoration of a mud brick Saudi village.
U.N., France, shut out of Khadr trial
The heat is increasing on Canadian and American governments over the case of Omar Kadhr, the Canadian citizen sent to Guantanamo when he was 15 for throwing a grenade that allegedly killed an American medic in Afghanistan. He is now 21.
When lawyers for Khadr requested permission for representatives from the U.N. Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict to attend his upcoming trial, probably in May, the Pentagon turned thumbs down. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Representative, is exploring her options in conversation with U.N. lawyers. But that is not all that is happening.
Senator Robert Badinter, a French criminal lawyer, has also been denied permission to attend. Following that refusal, the French government took the occasion to openly express its opposition to trying someone who was a child soldier. Pascale Andreani, speaking for the French Foreign Ministry, said, “We consider that any child associated with an armed conflict is a victim and should be treated as such.”
At a hearing on February 4, a military judge will deal with a motion to quash charges against Khadr on grounds that the charges are a violation of a protocol under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a convention signed by the United States.
Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler, a military lawyer appointed as Khadr’s counsel, questioned how Prime Minister Stephen Harper can continue to allow matters to proceed without objection, with Coomaraswamy being shut out of the trial. Kuebler said that Khadr would be the first child soldier put on trial for war crimes.
Once again, Canada is transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities. Last fall, the transfers came to a halt when Canadian inspectors were shown instruments of torture by a victim in a Kandahar jail, who claimed that the local governor had personally tortured him. Now the Canadian government says that the situation has improved.
As evidence of the alleged improvement, Canadian spokesmen note that a senior Afghan intelligence official was arrested in the case that led to the original halt and that Canada has instituted a training program for jail keepers, including correct methods of interrogation in keeping with a respect for human rights. As well, senior Afghan intelligence officials have been assigned to oversee reform in the Kandahar prison, and a physician is now making weekly visits.
Currently, the prisoner transfers are being made on a case-by-case basis. If the improper conditions have been eliminated, what is the reason that not all captives are transferred?
In the meantime, back in Canada the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International are again in court to demand a renewed cessation of transfers. In speaking of torture, Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said, “You don’t eradicate that and turn it around overnight, or even in a few short weeks.” He called for stronger measures and adequate time to insure that torture has been eliminated.
The régime in Kabul has wanted the ban on transfers eliminated because it served as propaganda for the Taliban.
Evidence leaked in Khadr case
The television program “60 Minutes” ran a clip showing Canadian Omar Khadr, currently in Guantanamo, apparently building a bomb in Afghanistan. Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, his military lawyer, is attempting to determine if, as suspected, the tape was leaked by Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office. The leaking of the tape would be a violation of an order of the military court.
In any case, the tape has no bearing on the contention of the defense in the case that, being 15 at the time, Khadr was a child soldier, hence a victim rather than a criminal.
Barred in Britain, Feiglin to speak in Toronto
Moshe Feiglin, a Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, is scheduled to speak at Congregation Shaarei Tefilah in Toronto on March 27. Earlier this month, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith sent him a letter barring him from that country. She declared that his presence in Great Britain “would not be conducive to the public good.”
Smith’s letter included quotations from Feiglin, including, “Their holy Muhammed is strong, cruel and deceitful.” As well, he said, “In order to declare that we are right, we have to declare war. It’s not the Arabs who are murdering mothers, but those merciful people who gave weapons to the murderers. It’s not the Arabs who are burning babies, but the peaceniks who recognized the justice of the Arabs’ cause. It’s not the cruel people who are bombing us, but the merciful people who showed them mercy. War now! A holy war now!”
She stated further that “It is considered that you are seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.”
Feiglin is challenging Binyamin Netanyahu for the leadership of Likud. He feels that Netanyahu is too moderate. His appearance in Toronto is sponsored by the Jewish Defense League of Canada.
On its website, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith speaks of the JDL’s founder Mier Kahane: “Kahane consistently preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism.” The website lists a large number of incidents of JDL violence in the U.S., including some in which places were bombed.
Arbour slams U.S. practices
Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced on March 7 that she will be stepping down when her term is up at the end of June. In her statement, she took aim at the United States and countries that aided in the secret transfers of captives to foreign prisons. She also made reference to torture in her comments, which in context appear to have reference to practices in Guantanamo.
Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court judge, has been widely criticized by countries which she has targeted with her criticisms, but she received praise from some others, such as Sweden.
Canadian complicity in Iraq continues
Canadian Brigadier-General Nicholas Matern is now in Baghdad, where he will be a senior officer in the Multi-National Corps. He is part of a military exchange program, which Chief of Defense Staff General Rick Hillier claims is necessary to maintaining links with the United States.
Matern is not the only Canadian who has been involved in this war. At least two other members of the Canadian military have recently been engaged in the war, one with U.S. forces and another with the British. At one point, there were 16.
Two Canadians have in the past served as deputy commanders of the Multi-National Corps, Lieutenant-General Walter Natynczyk and Major-General Peter Devlin. All this in spite of the fact that Canadian governments, Liberal and Conservative, have told its citizens that Canada has refused to get involved in the war in Iraq, and Canadians have for the most part believed the lie.