Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Now Optional: the Rule of Law

The Soviet Union had many marvellous and enlightened laws, on paper. So did Nazi Germany, and so do many dictatorial and tin-pot third world regimes today. But the presence of a splendid body of law means nothing if the uniform, unbiassed application of it cannot be relied upon. It has been one of the major bugbears stopping social advancement in the former Eastern bloc, the simple fact that whilst there may be laws condemning corruption, state appropriation of property, theft, nepotism, and all manner of graft, those laws have for years simply been sidestepped by those in a position to do so for their own benefit, and misapplied again when it has stood in their favour. Nothing, and no one, stands to ensure the uniform and unavoidable application of the law.

This is the rot that is facing the UK today - the inability to guarantee the enforcement of the laws which regulate and guarantee our freedoms. The lack of investigation into 7/7, Dr Kelly, the Menezes murder, honours for sale, the Saudi-BA bribery allegations, the lost details of half the population, and countless, countless other incidents, are what is sending us down the dark path we're currently treading. Scandals which in the past would have brought down governments are ignored, and there is no recourse.

In Pakistan, lawyers and the judiciary chose to make a stand, and suffered for it. This is what we need in the UK; action from just those people have explicitly and individually sworn to uphold justice in the UK. Their silence now only abets those who wish to sweep the remnants of it away. If the process can be stopped anywhere, it is at the root which is being invisibly chopped away.

The simple truth is, in the UK today, if you have money or power enough, the law doesn't apply to you anymore. And for the rest of us, who assume we are still protected by that very law, we should realise too that it can no longer be relied upon when we need it.

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