Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2001-12-06 Entry: "Weak Constitution"

Looks like I'm back on politics. This is a rant. You have been warned.

I made the mistake of catching some of Newsnight last night. I came it at the point where they were commenting on the Americans killing some of their own with friendly fire. Then they claimed that the guy who was going to lead the new interim government might have been injured in the bombing. My first thought? Oh, guess the Americans didn't like who'd been picked! Alright, a little cynical maybe, but this reflects my current view of political maneuvering during this "war."

They continued with commentary of the introduction of military tribunals to try terrorists (because of the security risks of trying to present evidence in an open court). We can ignore for the moment the lunacy of the guy heading the prosecution (the President) being the boss of the judges, which is hardly fair. Then there's the fact that the burden of proof may be lower in a military tribunal - "we can't find enough evidence to actually get a conviction, so we'll try him in a kangaroo court where we can manipulate the result."

The thing that's got me annoyed about this is the way they've worded it - it only applies to non-US citizens. So any US citizen who was involved gets a fair trial in a standard court (probably for Treason), and has a right to appeal. A non-US citizen gets a military tribunal, no jury, and no right to appeal before they're taken out to be shot. I'm glad to see the Spanish have spotted this for the idiocy it is, saying they won't extradite anyone (not that they've got anyone to extradite at present) unless they can guarantee a fair trial. It appears the language is so vaguely worded, that anyone who harboured Nelson Mandela at some point could be brought before a tribunal - and the only defence against this is to trust Dubya not to do it... huh?! We've got to trust a trained chimp? How did that happen?

It's no better in this country of course, where the House of Lords are currently scrutinizing the Anti-Terror legislation that the government thought they could sneak in. It had three days worth of debate in the Commons, which is totally unacceptable, and the Lords want to destroy anything that isn't directly aimed at fighting terrorism. Bye-bye "incitement of religious hatred." Hello "sunshine clauses" so we can get this odious bill off the statute books as quickly as possible. They don't, at present, seem to be eliminating the ludicrous "detention without trial" clause, but at least they're trying to put a right of appeal before a judge into it (so they government would have to prove something).

It does make a mockery of the European Convention on Human Rights - yes, we're all for it except when it's inconvenient. We'll wave human rights for as long as we feel we're fighting terrorism... which will go on for an unspecified time against unspecified foes who have actually been there for quite a few years before September 11th (and quite a few of whom were funded / equipped by us or the United States when it was convenient for us to do so).

Hopefully the Lords will see sense, and then the Commons will accept what the Lords do to the bill rather than pulling out the Parliament Act again and passing it anyway. It does make a mockery of the second house when the first can ignore them at will (and are intending to replace them with a house full of cronies anyway).

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