Mugabe’s Friends

When you are a vicious dictator known for fixing elections by intimidating and torturing opponents and any of their supporters, while still managing to have time to drive your country further and further into economic ruin, it’s always nice to know you have friends. In the case of Robert Mugabe, it is China and Russia.

As befits a non-democratic institution, the United Nations is run by a council of fifteen countries, five of which are permanent members, each with veto power, because of the nine votes required to pass any resolution, five of them must come from the five permanent members. That’s why when it comes to severe human rights abuses verging on genocide, Russia and China are always there to keep the world at bay. The two foxes always guarding the global hen house.

After all, China has had to lock down the population of entire cities whenever the Olympic torch has passed through, just to avoid the embarrassment of protesters. And of course most of those protesters are protesting about the Chinese takeover of Tibet, something the United Nations did nothing about because the Communist government of China was not the recognised government of China in the UN at the time.

It wasn’t just Russia and China that voted against sanctions for the Mugabe regime. There was Libya. Yes, the chief perpetrator of terrorism in north Africa is also a member of the Security Council. Now isn’t that comforting? Gee, I can’t imagine why Libya would be against international sanctions applied to a rogue government.

Another vote against sanctions came from Vietnam. No bastion of human rights there. Just this week they only allowed a state-sanctioned Buddhist group to organise the funeral services for Thich Huyen Quang, the leader of a dissident Buddhist group which promotes human rights and religious freedom. He spend many years under house arrest.

So there you have it. This is the body created to maintain world peace and stability. Thanks to the UN, Robert Mugabe will continue to maintain his oppression of the majority of Zimbabweans.

Sharia Justice

A Saudi man was rendered impotent by a witch. We know this because the witch, Fawza Falih, admitted it. She was beaten before she confessed, but as any good CIA agent working in the war against terror knows, sometimes you have to use a little force to get the truth. Falih was beaten so badly that she had to be hospitalised.

And sometime it takes a while for criminals such as Falih to finally admit their crimes. She was held by the religious police for 35 days.

She didn’t exactly sign the confession, as she is illiterate. But there’s no denying her fingerprint is on it, and there’s no reason to believe that someone who has been beaten would have their finger forceably inked onto something they can’t read. Why should the religious police even read your confession to you before putting your fingerprint on it? They are the religious police after all. If you can’t trust them, who can you trust? And if you confess, why do you need to have your lawyers in the courtroom or present evidence of your innocence? Isn’t the claim of impotence by a man proof enough?

It’s a mere technicality that witchcraft isn’t a crime under Saudi law. She was sentenced to death anyway.

She managed to appeal and the appeals court overturned the verdict, saying she couldn’t be sentenced to death solely on the evidence of a retracted confession. Appellate decisions don’t carry a lot of weight in Saudi law. The trial court reversed the appeals court. It sentenced her to death on a “discretionary” basis, as this was in the “public interest”. There is no right of appeal from this second sentencing. Only the King can intervene and commute it.

There’s not a lot of international pressure on King Abdullah. It seems many countries used up their political capital last year when they persuaded the King to pardon a girl who was sentenced to lashes for getting herelf gang-raped. So Fawza Falih may die, but Saudi Arabia will remain a key ally of the West.

Paying for an Apology

The new Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has apologised to Aborigines who were taken from their families under the policy of assimilation. While I’m not in favour of apologies for wrongs committed before living memory, I think this apology is perfectly acceptable. After all, this policy continued into the 1970s and the damage done by it very directly affects the lives of people today.

But as with all these social apologies, there are still some who think it hasn’t gone far enough. Some human rights lawyers want Britain to apologise as well. Since the policy started in the 1880s under colonial rule, which lasted until 1901, they feel the British should bear some of the responsibility. I feel not.

I’m not just concerned that British taxpayers could then be subject to legal claims like Australian taxpayers are about experience. This is not hypothetical or conjectural. One Aborigine, Bruce Trevorrow, won A$525,000 (£220,000) in the South Australian Supreme Court last year after proving he had been treated illegally and with negligence when he was taken from his parents as a baby. Previously, claims such as Trevorrow’s would have been limited because of the lack of a paper trail in many situations. Claims also would not have extended to people generations removed from the actual act of being taken away from their brith family.

The official apology from the Government could create lines of legal causation – proximate cause – that could empty the Australian treasury. I have great sympathy for Trevorrow and the Stolen Generation. I think those who can make claims for themselves should either do so or persuade the Australian to set up a compensation fund. I don’t think the British (or I, as a UK taxpayer)  should pay for this too.

What’s Bugging Lawyers

Any time Big Brother is not watching, he may still be listening. In what is one of the clearest indications of how Britain is becoming a totalitarian state, it has emerged that the police bugging of a conversation between a Muslim MP and his constituent is not a fluke. And it is not confined to terrorism or national security cases.

A whistleblower at Woodhill Prison has let the press know that hundreds of lawyers have been bugged while meeting with clients.  This should have the Government worried – not because they are under a lot of pressure from opposition parties to explain how this has been allowed, but because judges could start throwing out convictions, even in some high profile cases.

If notorious criminals start hitting the streets because their human rights have been flagrantly violated a lot of people are going get unhappy very fast.

It is worrying that the State has such a need to control that it cannot afford to allow the privilege that has long formed the bedrock of the lawyer-client relationship. It must have information at all costs.  After all, information is power and the closer the State gets to omniscience, the more powerful it becomes.