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Giving Europeans a sense of European (rather than national) citizenship and using economic muscle to bear against Capital Punishment are twin benefits - both in demonstrating to the world that there is a new major player on the diplomatic scene, but also in fostering a new sense of collective citizenship within the EU: a 'Civis Romanus Sum' for the 21st century.

I'm all for Civis Europaeus Sum, but I wouldn't like the EU to claim extraterritoriality just like I already dislike the US when it acts extraterritorially. In fact, the EU should be pushing for universal jurisdiction instead of bowing to US pressure to eliminate it from the EU national legislations where it was contemplated. The original meaning of the phrase you quote was an assertion of civil rights vis-a-vis the Roman Imperium, not a claim that the Imperium made its citizens above others' laws (though it may well have).

A phrase repeated with pride by many important Roman figures, it was put forward in order to assert the privileges granted to Roman citizens. Even prisoners were allowed to take advantage of that prerogative, and subsequently they were granted favorable treatment. Paul of Tarsus, under trial and appealing to the Emperor, claimed his right as a citizen to be tried in Rome, and the judicial process was suspended until he, in chains and escorted by guards, was carried to the capital city
Of course, you could trust the British Empire to turn civil rights into extraterritoriality:
The locution was quoted by Lord Palmerston who claimed on June 25, 1850 that every British citizen in the world should be protected by the British Empire like a Roman citizen abroad by the Roman Empire.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:30:16 PM EST
On the other hand, you can take the view that capital punishment is a violation of universal human rights, and thus subject to sanction under universal jurisdiction.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 02:02:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except we've been busy removing universal jurisdiction from our books, under US pressure...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 05:01:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One can take the view that the duty to combat capital punishment and similar violations of human rights arises from an innate obligation towards one's fellow man - an obligation countries cannot simply abscond from by changing their laws. Just as countries are held (in principle) to be bound by their human rights obligations to their own citizens regardless of what their domestic laws say.

But whatever one's stance on European human rights activism outside our own borders, we clearly cannot take any action against China that we demonstrated a lack of will to employ against the Americans on precisely the same issue less than a decade ago. So I guess we're down to the well-worn diplomatic sanction of Sternly Worded Letters.

Particularly when, from the press reports, it looks like the Chinese actually did less of a run-around of our diplomats than the Americans did in their case.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 08:49:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing the EU could do is say this is it for everyone, China as well as the US, from here on out.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:15:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that would work rather better if either a) the EU did not have a record of saying "this is it" to brown people who speak funny, and then turning the other cheek when the Americans do it, or b) we were talking about one of our allies, like the US, Uzbekistan or Israel.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:56:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even an argument from "common law" is considered weak. An argument from "an innate obligation towards one's fellow man" would likely be seen as laudable but laughable in a US or UK court. Such arguments were certainly useless in and of themselves as a remedy for slavery or race based denial or restriction of civil rights in the US. They required laws and/or amendments to the US constitution.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 01:51:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't about what flies in court. There are no genuine international courts, excepting perhaps the WTO arbitration process. I'd like for a body of international jurisprudence to come into being, but until and unless it does... well, you work with the international law you have, not the one you'd like.

So it's about political justifications for intervention by the European Union's foreign service in the internal affairs of another country. That is not, and never has been, about laws. So a political justification is both necessary and sufficient - a legal justification is neither.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 02:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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