Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"What are the bugles blowin' for?"

posted by k

"The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe, so everyone who breathes it becomes free."

These words are given the date 1772 and attributed to Judge William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. They have been cited in other law-cases. This year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the British abolition of the trade in slaves.

Tomorrow an Uzbek asylum-seeker, Jahongir Sidikov, will be deported to Uzbekistan. According to Amnesty International, Uzbekistan has announced plans to abolish the death penalty next year, but there are no plans to commute existing sentences. There are no statistics on the number of people sentenced to death or executed. Human Rights Watch documents widespread torture in the "justice system". As Craig Murray has pointed out, opponents of the regime are frequently killed.

Jahongir Sidikov is a member of Erk, the banned opposition party in Uzbekistan. There's a strong chance he will be tortured or executed after his forcible return to Uzbekistan. I wonder if the people involved in his deportation - or members of the government that encourages such deportations - could be charged and taken to trial. The government suggests downgrading murders caused by "reckless indifference" to a kind of 2nd degree offence so they might not receive an automatic life sentence. But anyone complicit in this deportation may risk a long prison sentence - and will certainly deserve it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What can one say? This criminal behaviour is unspeakable even for this government and party. I've not heard even a bleat of protest from the others in Parliament either.

It is well that you cited Mansfield CJ's dicta in R v Knowles ex parte Somersett (or Somersett's Case), because it is germane to the way so many targeted people in today's UK are being treated by the government and its agents. If it weren't for the Law Lords we would be even further down the road to tyranny than we are.

Another relevant dictum is Atkin J's in the famous Liversidge and Anderson 1942 AC: "In England, amidst the clash of arms, the laws are not silent. They may be changed, but they speak the same language in war as in peace. It has always been one of the pillars of freedom, one of the principles of liberty for which… we are now fighting, that judges are no respecters of persons, and stand between the subject and any attempted encroachments on his liberty by the executive, alert to see that any coercive action is justified in law".

Let's hope the Lords rise to the occasion again.

11:17 pm  

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