Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Interesting developments in the story of Craig Murray, the former British Diplomat who was sacked for speaking up about human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, the country where the Foreign & Commonwealth Office had posted him. You have to wonder why anyone who gave a shit about human rights would get a job at the FCO, one of the most unreconstructed parts of the British state, and bastion through the centuries of endless dirty wars, covert ops, hush ups, blind eyes and back-handers, etc.

He has apparently been ruffling a lot of feathers by spreading his arguments around via various blogs - most importantly, some letters which the UK government has tried to prevent the publication of, as they show the FCO's senior staff not tacitly but openly condoning the use of torture to gain evidence. More on the story...

On a separate note, but still running with the FCO theme, they are proving to be rather incompetent when it comes to renewing my colleague's passport. He handed in all the documentation to the High Commission in Maputo in early November, and paid extra to get the "fast" service. 2 months have now passed, and the Comission staff say they have no idea where his process "is at". A pity as 2 days from now he will be effectively illegal. Also embarassing when you compare it to our Brazilian colleagues - their embassy emits passports directly within 5 days, for less money!

It appears that the bottleneck is caused by a "rationalization" carried out a few years ago - all passports in the Southern African region are now processed in South Africa, not in individual countries. This means your application documents have to be sent by Diplomatic Bag to London, then out again by Bag to Pretoria. A round trip of about 20,000km just to submit the application when in fact Pretoria is less than 600km from Maputo! Although it might seem more "businesslike" to centralize operations like this, it certainly does not help "UK plc" - my colleague, who regularly sends money back home, is effectively an exporter of services for the UK economy - but at least the FCO is hindering rather than helping in this case.

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