From across the ocean and on high, a voice of liberty
Just as this year’s Human Rights Week ended, a British lord unsheathed his sword and skewered George W. Bush.
Great Britain’s highest court, voting 8-1 on Thursday, struck down Britain’s anti-terrorism law under which the government detains foreigners indefinitely without charging them or trying them. Here’s what Lord Hoffman (see photo) had to say:
“The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.”
For a change, the New York Times outstripped the Washington Post by not only plastering it atop A1 but also calling it a “powerfully worded, groundbreaking decision.”
Even the Times story, however, didn’t mention American Judge Gerald Tjoflat‘s similarly eloquent defense of human rights, just this past October, in a case involving protesters at the School of the Americas:
We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War on Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over. September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country.
Is the Bush regime even aware of what judges like Hoffman and Tjoflat are saying? Bush freely admits that he doesn’t read, and his stooge Alberto Gonzales doesn’t read international law—as my colleague Nat Hentoff continues to point out.
But don’t badmouth British cuisine: Bush and Gonzales can’t help but feel the pain from the British court’s skewering and roasting. Tjoflat is merely an appellate judge; these Brits are Lords, and we know how Bush is always talking about Lord this and Lord that. As for Bush’s new attorney general (he hopes), we’ve already seen that Gonzales isn’t much of an expert at the grill anyway.
Lord Hoffman wasn’t the only stand-up guy. Lord Nicholls added:
Indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is anathema in any country which observes the rule of law.
The lords’ ruling was of course blasted by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as “simply wrong.” But Straw and Tony Blair are simply tagging along like puppies behind Bush and Gonzales. Like their American counterparts, they’re flouting international law. As the BBC notes:
The [British] government opted out of part of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a fair trial in order to bring in anti-terrorism legislation in response to the 11 September attacks in the U.S.
Anyone familiar with convention protests knows how Bush and Gonzales feel about, say, Geneva. But even in the U.S., there are occasional flashes of judicial recognition of human rights, like Tjoflat’s ruling.
Maybe more judges will put these shrimps on the barbie.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 17, 2004