Friday, November 05, 2010

The UK and international justice

In 2003, Mongolian dissident Damiran Enkhbat was kidnapped from a McDonald's car park in Normandy. Attacked by four men with stun batons in full public view, he was beaten, forced to drink a sedative, and stuffed into the boot of a car. He was then driven across Europe before being forced onto a Mongolian Airlines flight in Belin and rendered to Mongolia. In Mongolia, he was tortured to death.

The man allegedly responsible for that kidnapping, Bat Khurts, has since been promoted to chief executive of Mongolia's National Security Council. And he is now in jail in the UK awaiting extradition to Germany, having been arrested the moment he stepped off the plane on a diplomatic visit.

This is a victory for international justice, but at the same time, it highlights its continued imperfections, especially in the UK. The British establishment normally conspires to shield visiting international criminals from the law, even going so far as to tip them off so they can escape arrest. And at the same time as they have arrested Khurts, the British government is promising to amend the UK's war crimes law to protect Israeli politicians from prosecution. The message is clear: international law applies only to the weak. The strong are allowed to commit crimes with impunity.

This has to change. The law has to apply to all, or it means nothing. The problem is forcing self-interested, back-scratching, war-mongering government ministers to accept it.