[ 13 December 1945 ]

On 13 December 1935, Indian troops led by British officers, acting under the orders of Major General Douglas Hawthorn, burned down the town of Bekassi on the Indonesian island of Java.


Sir John Harding –
via Wikimedia Commons.

[ 13 December 1955 ]

Late in the evening of 13 December 1955, Field Marshal Sir John Harding, the newly appointed governor of Cyprus, banned AKEL (the Progressive Party of the Working Class), a communist organisation. He took the heavy handed measure even though AKEL was the only significant Greek Cypriot political party opposed to EOKA (the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters), a nationalist guerrilla organisation, which was the driving force behind the anti-British insurgency on the island.

In a military roundup, codenamed ‘Operation Lobster Pot’, 128 AKEL leaders were detained by British troops, kicking down doors in surprise night time raids across the island. Those detained included the party’s General Secretary, Exekias Papioannou, (who had previously worked as a waiter in Soho) as well as Georgios Christodoulides, (the mayor of Larnaca) and Costas Partassides (the mayor of Limassol).1 By 16.40 on the following day only 35 known communists were still at large. The party’s newspaper, Neos Democratis, was closed down, AKEL properties seized and the party’s funds frozen. Workers in Nicosia attempted to stage a protest against the mass arrests, but police fired tear gas to disperse them.2


Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in 2005.
US DoD photo by R. D. Ward via Wikimedia Commons.

[ 13 December 2005 ]

Today in 2005, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw lied to the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, telling MPs that ‘there simply is no truth in the claims that the UK has been involved in renditon, full stop.’3 It was not until thirteen years later, on 28 June 2018, that the Intelligence and Security Committee finally published its report into the UK’s role in rendition and torture,  revealing Britain’s direct involvement in hundreds of rendition and torture cases. In at least three instances MI6 and MI5 offered to help pay for rendition flights, while in another thirteen, British intelligence officers were present while detainees were being tortured.

In many other cases they had attempted to keep themselves at a discrete distance, but all the while orchestrating or otherwise colluding with torture by proxy. This included 232 occasions when British agencies willingly forwarded questions despite knowing or suspecting the detainees were being brutally mistreated and another 198 cases when they happily received intelligence even though they knew it had been gained through torture.4


  1. John Newsinger, British Counterinsurgency, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2015, p. 99.
  2. Christopher Sutton (2017) Britain’s Cold War in Cyprus and Hong Kong: A Conflict of Empires, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, p. 187 and ‘Communist Leaders Arrested in Cyprus,’ The Coventry Evening Telegraph, 14 December 1955.
  3. Jack Straw cited in Andrew Tyrie MP, Roger Gough and Stuart McCracken, Account Rendered: Extraordinary Rendition and Britain’s Role, Biteback Publishing, London, 2011, p. 70.
  4. Ian Cobain, ‘UK’s role in rendition and torture of terrorism suspects – key findings,’ The Guardian, 28 June 2018, accessed online at url https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/28/uks-role-in-rendition-and-torture-of-terrorism-suspects-key-findings

Please feel welcome to post comments below.  If you have any questions please email alisdare@gmail.com

© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.