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Freedom / Pope / don’t dig-away human rights law

Comment 23rd July 2010

There are few rights for world prosecutors to arrest UK visitors, such as Pinochet.

Howoever,  one in Spain did manage to arrest Pinochet here.

The supreme court or law lords did a very unusual thing in first allowing arrest, then reversing the decision on the grounds that one of the judges was active in amnesty international, like that's such a bad thing.

Love it or hate it, this judgement gave the impression to dictators round the world that if they want to evade arrest in the UK they may not lucky next time. This has saved us a lot of police protection bills and saved the taxpayers of dictators the cost of a lot of trips to Harrods. In the mind of a dictator, the self-deception that he is somehow doing a bad thing for a good reason or that he can so easily get away with it can no longer be backed-up by a shopping trip to London.

Imagine my surprise to read a watering-down of the compromise position. From now on, any attempt to arrest a Mr Ratzinger will be a private matter between himself, the government and a man called Mr Kier Starmer who is hired by the government to say he's independent.

That's no way to promote equality before the law.

I propose we restore powers of arrest on human rights charges – even if this is nothing to do with the Pope and his name should not be dragged into it – because these powers prevent dictators from coming here and asking for expensive police protection while they shop at Harrods.

Why does this matter?

  • Equality before the law – even for dictators pontiffs emperors glam-rockers & the like.
  • Separation of legeslature & judiciary
  • Prospects for those who's borderline-arrestable grandees like trips to the UK – not necessarilly this person, but future Pinochets Mugabes and the like; if the law is watered-down we will have to spend time & money building it up again to decide what to do about such folk and the watering-down followed by building-up will confuse potential arestees and encourage them to come and live in our jails at our expense. Meanwhile their allies at home will be sanctioning our exports. One thing after another. Nothing but trouble. And the politicians who we hope will organise things like clea building regulations about damp proofing will be distracted by the need to grandstand on one side of the debate or another as with the current Libyan / US issue.

It's very tempting to embellish this with links to the wrongs of Pinochet which I think are universally acknowledged. But the important point is not what has happened in the past but what happens in the future – if a president from Sudan for example comes to visit. This isn't complicated. I don't want to make it complicated. I want these visitors just to stop and all those who roll-out carpets for them in the form of legal protection or any other way.

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