Archive for Trial

Even Neo Nazis Should Get Due Process

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 29, 2013 by Jonathan Kent

The test of democracy and of the rule of law, both here and in Greece, is not how it treats the best of us but how it treats the worst.

For that reason the Abu Hamzah case did not leave me aghast, but rather reassured.

If an objectionable, foreign thorn in the side of the British establishment could get due process to the point where the UK government was forced to push for a change in the law in Jordan to make inadmissible evidence gained through torture, then decent citizens here have good reason to expect justice.

That doesn’t mean we should be complacent. There are real threats to justice in Britain, such as cuts to legal aid. However the battle is clearly not yet lost.

Meanwhile in Greece the authorities have moved to arrest members of the Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, including its leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and four other Golden Dawn MPs. They’ve been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation and it’s claimed that guns and ammunition were found in Michaloliakos’ home.

Recent posts by reservists belonging to elite Greek military units calling for a coup, the killing of a prominent leftist musician, sustained attacks on immigrants and left wing protesters, had all brought things to a point where the state seems to have felt it had little alternative other than to act.

I feel obliged to say two things.  Firstly that I believe in muscular democracy; in other words I do not believe that a democracy, in the name of democracy, should hand the means of its own destruction to non-democratic forces. When Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared at one point that he saw democracy as a bus, ‘you use it to get to your destination and then get off’, he associated himself with autocrats everywhere, from Hitler onwards, who have exploited democracy. The minimum qualification for being allowed to seek power through the democratic process must be a commitment to surrender power democratically when citizens demand it. For that reason it’s hard to justify allowing Golden Dawn or any other anti-democratic group an electoral platform.

The other thing I would say is this; however odious Golden Dawn the party and its members may be they must get due process and a fair trial. It’s not so much a concern about creating martyrs. Most knuckle dragging far right thugs would fetishise a rotting dog’s carcass if it served their warped cause. Nope, it’s because the damage done to Greek democracy by further degrading its already damaged institutions would be almost as bad as letting Golden Dawn damage them.

There’s a passage in A Man For All Seasons, where Sir Thomas More is debating with his son-in-law William Roper, that puts it better than I could.

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Bang ‘em up, throw away the key and all that, but do it proper and do it so a better, more confident, more self-respecting, more honest, more democratic Greece can come out of this.

(Thanks to Mr. James Mackenzie for directing me to the passage above)