Char­ity plan to of­fer data to ‘tor­ture regimes’

The Press - - World -

BRI­TAIN: Tony Blair’s char­i­ties are propos­ing to gather in­tel­li­gence on Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Africa for regimes ac­cused of hu­man rights abuses, doc­u­ments leaked to The Sun­day Times re­veal.

Ac­cord­ing to a plan com­mis­sioned by Jim Mur­phy, the for­mer Scot­tish Labour leader who is un­der­stood to be paid more than £200,000 a year to ad­vise Blair, the char­i­ties would of­fer to col­lect ‘‘high­qual­ity data’’ on mosques and schools in African na­tions un­der the ban­ner of ‘‘coun­ter­ing ex­trem­ism’’.

The scheme would ex­ploit ties that Blair has built with African lead­ers and, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, strengthen his char­i­ties’ col­lab­o­ra­tion with African regimes to com­bat Is­lamist ide­ol­ogy.

It will be seen as an at­tempt by Blair to be at the fore­front of the global cam­paign against ex­trem­ism, but it has caused divi­sion and dis­may among some of Blair’s staff who are con­cerned it could back­fire.

An in­sider at Blair’s Africa Gov­er­nance Ini­tia­tive (AGI) said: ‘‘The kind of gov­er­nance we should be in­volved in is to sep­a­rate re­li­gion and state, whereas this pro­posal will en­cour­age gov­ern­ments to ef­fec­tively spy on re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions.’’

An­other AGI source said: ‘‘This pro­posal is dan­ger­ous be­cause it lim­its re­li­gious free­dom in regimes known for fail­ing to dis­tin­guish be­tween Mus­lims who are gen­uine ter­ror­ism sus­pects and those who are rounded up sim­ply for be­ing out­spo­ken.

‘‘As soon as you give dic­ta­to­rial states con­trol over re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, they will start to ex­ploit them.’’

A spokes­woman con­firmed there was a pro­posal to help gov­ern­ments ‘‘col­lect pub­licly avail­able data’’ but said that it did not in­volve per­sonal data and Blair had not seen or dis­cussed the plan.

A 30-page doc­u­ment sug­gests ini­tially tar­get­ing Nige­ria, Mali, Niger, Benin and Ivory Coast. Some of the coun­tries listed as po­ten­tial part­ners have been ac­cused of hu­man rights abuses. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port this year by the cam­paign group Hu­man Rights Watch, the se­cu­rity ser­vices in Ivory Coast have been re­spon­si­ble for the ‘‘mis­treat­ment and tor­ture of de­tainees’’. It ac­cused Mali of ‘‘vi­o­la­tions against sus­pected sup­port­ers and mem­bers of Is­lamist armed groups’’.

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