Neil Durkin
Neil Durkin is a Press Officer at Amnesty International UK, specialising in media relations for Amnesty on the Middle East, the USA, counter-terrorism, the death penalty, Russia & "STAN" states, Afghanistan.

Other interests include music (regular London gig-goer, sometime even get out of London), cinema (regular watcher of DVDs at home, sometime even go to the cinema), literature (subscriber to the LRB, sometime even finish reading it).

Entries by Neil Durkin

The Immoral Maze of the Death Penalty

(15) Comments | Posted 2 April 2015 | (00:00)

The US state of Oklahoma's recent move to introduce nitrogen gas executions has apparently been "inspired" (if that's the right word) by the former Conservative minister Michael Portillo's TV programme about supposedly "humane" execution methods. If the proposal goes through it means that in the event...

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Syria After Four Years: Back to the Dark Ages

(0) Comments | Posted 24 March 2015 | (18:19)

In the town where I grew up the council have started switching off most of the street lights at night to save money. Warwickshire County Council say the night-time switch-off is needed because of budgetary deficits - it's a so-called "austerity" measure, as well as a way to...

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Don't Judge Me, but I Don't Like Marvin Gaye or Pharrell Williams

(2) Comments | Posted 15 March 2015 | (23:00)

The furore around a US jury awarding millions of dollars in damages to the children of the singer Marvin Gaye because a recent hit song from Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams was deemed to have stolen from a 1977 Gaye song is ... well, pretty interesting.

No doubt...

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Death Disco: Music, Torture and the Diary of Mojamedou Ould Slahi

(0) Comments | Posted 3 February 2015 | (10:45)

Reading about the Guantánamo diarist Mojamedou Ould Slahi's experiences of being tortured by the US military, two things leap out. One is that he seems to have been targeted for sexual assault by a female interrogator/torturer. And the other is that, along with numerous other US detainees subjected...

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Je Ne Suis Pas Un Vrai Charlie

(0) Comments | Posted 12 January 2015 | (16:27)

A quick challenge. Imagine, for a moment, that a satirical magazine like Charlie Hebdo had been based in Saudi Arabia. Having trouble? Me too, because it's unimaginable. Independently-minded discussion of "sensitive" matters like politics or religion in Saudi Arabia simply isn't tolerated. Even as the search for the Hebdo attackers...

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The Al Jazeera Case: Egypt's Descent Into Fear, Loathing and Televised Raids on Places of Debauchery

(1) Comments | Posted 29 December 2014 | (08:37)

Some recent developments in Egypt: raids on an "atheists' café" and on a bathhouse for "debauchery", 439 civilians sent for military trials for "rioting", a prominent analyst denied entry to the country, and more than 600 children reportedly being kept in a...

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Islamic State: Can the Laughter for a Bunch of Rapists and Murderers

(18) Comments | Posted 23 December 2014 | (23:00)

They're the baddies we love to hate. New (or relatively new) international outlaws whose very depravity has given them a special status. Could it be that some parts of the media are half in love with their almost picturesque excessiveness, eagerly pouncing on every "shock" video, rapidly launching them out...

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CIA Torture Report: The Lid Lifted?

(3) Comments | Posted 10 December 2014 | (23:00)

Is the long-awaited report into CIA torture during the so-called "war on terror" an exercise on transparency or something rather less than that?

Seems to me it's clearly the latter. This is a 525-page "executive summary" of a 6,700-page report (sprinkled with 38,000 footnotes apparently), or about one...

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The Number One News Formula: Sport and More Sport

(0) Comments | Posted 24 November 2014 | (14:58)

So there I was, driving along, listening to the radio, when the news comes on. Wow. What's this! The top news is ... it's unbelievable. Forget Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Never mind Theresa May talking about immigration or tackling terrorism. There was something far more important happening. Lewis Hamilton had...

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Fireworks: Spare Me the Torture of These Horrible Things

(0) Comments | Posted 4 November 2014 | (15:29)

On 5 November 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that "This 5th November is observed exceeding well in the City; and at night great bonfires and fireworks."

Already a five decades-old tradition by then, the annual celebration of "deliverance" from the 1605 Gunpowder Plot was bedding in...

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Why Do the Libyan Militias Run Amok?

(0) Comments | Posted 30 October 2014 | (17:52)

In Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Michael Fengler's memorably-named 1970 film Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, a depressed white-collar worker is seen meandering his way through stiflingly boring days before killing his wife, his son and a family friend in an act of sudden, apparently senseless violence.


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The Ghoncheh Ghavami Case: Another Iranian Own Goal

(0) Comments | Posted 21 October 2014 | (12:16)

There's quite a good Twitter account I follow which specialises in anti-jokes. The jokes go a bit like this. "Q: How do you explain the offside rule to a woman? A: With a video recording of a football match and Fifa's Laws Of The Game rulebook." Geddit? Well,...

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'Mostly They Kidnap Sunnis': Iraq's Sectarian Abyss

(2) Comments | Posted 14 October 2014 | (15:47)

Despite ISIS and despite the suicide bombings and incessant carnage, one of the things we've been hearing a lot from Western politicians in recent weeks is how things in Iraq are better than they were because an "inclusive" government now exists under prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

The desirability...

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Noise Noise Noise: Making Music, Not War

(1) Comments | Posted 4 October 2014 | (00:00)

As I write this blog I'm listening to Orlande De Lassus' Penitential Psalms, played by the Hilliard Ensemble. Beautiful devotional 16th-century music which is pouring out of the hi-fi in my flat and... well, er, hang on a minute. You're quite possibly already thinking - "What's this pompous...

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Gangster Theatre: The Islamic State Execution Videos

(1) Comments | Posted 23 September 2014 | (12:40)

Islamic State's blood-thirstiness has been much commented on, as has its use of modern technology. Posting videos of a man issuing threats before killing a hostage ... this is the "new normal" for Islamic State comms, but somehow it's exercised a strange power over many western commentators and politicians.


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This Blog Is Not About Sport

(1) Comments | Posted 10 September 2014 | (00:00)

No, it's about protest, torture and death. Sport is just the backdrop. Starting with... the Brazil Olympics in 2016 (yes, you're probably already counting the days).

Given the widespread protests against the Brazil World Cup this summer, I can only suppose that there'll be further demonstrations against the...

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After the Islamic State Deluge, Who Will Save Iraqis?

(6) Comments | Posted 26 August 2014 | (16:44)

With news filtering out via the United Nations that Islamic State fighters may have killed some 650 prisoners they took from a Mosul jail in June, there currently seems to be no limits to the sheer horror of the group's actions.

It's almost overwhelming and it's hard...

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We Tortured Some Folks...

(0) Comments | Posted 7 August 2014 | (00:00)

Barack Obama's now rather famous phrase from the end of last week is quite something.

As others have observed, it's not the first time he's referred to the mistreatment of detainees during the USA's "war on terror" as torture (though it's still rare to hear it)....

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Do You Believe in the Death Penalty?

(20) Comments | Posted 2 August 2014 | (00:00)

When I was about 18 one of the records I bought was Do You Believe In The Westworld?, Theatre of Hate's soaring post-punk anthem. I think half of the appeal was that strange questioning title. Believe in it?

The song comes to mind (my mind anyway!) in the wake of...

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The Edgy Ambience of US Supermax Prisons

(0) Comments | Posted 16 July 2014 | (18:51)

One of the bars in London I've frequented over the years is a basement place done out with industrial-chic steel and concrete fittings. It's a small DJ venue with very few seats, but it's the seating that sticks in the mind. There are three tables made out of enormous blocks...

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