by Frank Schnittger
Thu Oct 1st, 2020 at 12:26:54 PM EST
Two things puzzle me: Firstly, how can the UK government presume to rely on the benefits of WTO membership when it is itself in flagrant breach of international law in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement which was ratified only this year following a general election won on recommending its terms?
And secondly, why is the EU's only response to date been to threaten legal action against the UK before the ECJ when one of the stated aims of Brexit is to break free of the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Why would the UK respect the judgement of a court it has explicitly sought to delegitimize?
Allowing states to flout the law has real consequences for real people, as the people of Northern Ireland can testify only too vividly. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for the wilful gunning down of 26 unarmed civilians, 14 of whom died, in Derry in 1972. Now the Northern Ireland Prosecution Service has announced that only one soldier, named soldier"F" at the enquiry, is to be prosecuted, almost 50 years after the fact. Hence my draft letter to the editor below:
Draft letter to the Editor
Newton Emerson writes that the decision not to prosecute the perpetrators of Bloody Sunday (with the sole exception of soldier "F") will satisfy the demands of neither truth nor justice. (Bloody Sunday decision on soldiers shows limits of `truth or justice' model, Opinion, 1st. September)
The tribunal of enquiry would not have been necessary had the police and prosecutorial services been doing their jobs in the first place, and now they can cover up their malfeasance because all evidence submitted to the inquiry is inadmissible in a criminal trial, making prosecutions effectively impossible.
The ongoing UK government strategy of procrastination and delay has had its desired effect. So much time has passed, so many witnesses have died, and so many recollections have dimmed that prosecutions would be pointless. Instead of holding individuals accountable, the UK government as a whole must shoulder the blame. Not that it shows much sign of caring.
For the bereaved, the healing must come in some other way. Perhaps the relative peace since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has provided some solace. But now the willingness of the UK government to break international law puts its commitment to even that agreement into question.
The biggest issue isn't even justice for the bereaved but making sure lessoned are learned so that it can never happen again. The fact that most of the perpetrators got off scot-free with official connivance poisons our politics to this day. The implication is that you can get away with murder provided you are powerful enough or can rely on the support of the establishment. Tolerating crimes makes us all guilty by association.
Would the UK government be so insouciant about international law if it had been held to account for its stewardship of Northern Ireland? The EU is proposing to take the EU to the European Court of Justice for its breach of the Withdrawal Agreement, but why would the UK comply with an ECJ ruling when one of the main justifications for Brexit was to break free of the jurisdiction of the ECJ?
The reality is the Withdrawal Agreement, and by extension the Good Friday Agreement, will only be upheld if there are effective trade sanctions for not doing so. The protections of the World Trade Organisation should not apply to a rogue state in breach of international law.