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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rule of Law

In commenting on the Pussy Riot “witchtrial” in Moscow, I broke my general rule not to comment on ongoing events. My blood boiled, however, as I read the live coverage yesterday of the judge’s justification of the two-year sentence she inflicted on the band’s young members for their brief act of defiance in a Moscow church earlier this year. “Conspiracy driven by hatred of religion” indeed! Judges (and priests) in so many of the countries in which I have lived in the past 22 years are so illiterate and craven that they probably cannot even begin to understand the meaning of civil disobedience (see the late 1990s book - Why Angels Fall).

Amidst all the rhetoric in the past 2 decades about democracy one thing is clear. Without the semblance of “rule of law” it is meaningless. That means a system in which the judiciary owes no favours to the political executive. And Russia and China have made it clear that such a system is not for them. I was, two years ago, tempted to China to head up a project which purported to advise the authorities on how to bring such a system into existence (along with lots of other fashionable things such as performance management). After 6 weeks I could see what a nonsense it was – and got out.

The only bright light here in Romania is the independent spirit being shown by prosecutors and judges – one of the probable reasons for the high-handed actions being taken by the new Prime Minister. Hopefully the genie will not go back in the bottle.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, European governments tear up what was left of “rule of law”. The UK, for example, is tearing up the Vienna Convention of 1961 which has allowed people to take refuge in foreign Embassies. This is an excerpt from an ex-British Ambassador’s post on the matter -
The UK government has decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange. This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.
The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms. There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.
Article 22 - 
1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution. 
Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen. Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies. This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation. But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them. If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

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