Friday, December 17, 2010

Reading the Riot Act and other unAmerican activities

Reading proclamation

67. A person who is
(a) a justice, mayor or sheriff, or the lawful deputy of a mayor or sheriff,
(b) a warden or deputy warden of a prison, or
(c) the institutional head of a penitentiary, as those expressions are defined in subsection 2(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or that person’s deputy, who receives notice that, at any place within the jurisdiction of the person, twelve or more persons are unlawfully and riotously assembled together shall go to that place and, after approaching as near as is safe, if the person is satisfied that a riot is in progress, shall command silence and thereupon make or cause to be made in a loud voice a proclamation in the following words or to the like effect:

Her Majesty the Queen charges and commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business on the pain of being guilty of an offence for which, on conviction, they may be sentenced to imprisonment for life. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 67; 1994, c. 44, s. 5.

I don't want to make it seem like I don't like Americans: some of my best friends are American and certainly the American Constitution is one of the great inventions of humanity, now unfortunately under attack. I have faith, but not as much faith as in British Parliamentary decmocracy which has evolved haphadardly over centuries, always in a direction of human rights and democracy, and is still alive. One would not know that by examining in isolation the arbitrary rule of Tony Blair's government of strategic communication.

But here it comes again, now in the guise of the British High Court, and in particular, Justice Ouseley who, after denigrating Julian Assange's less reliable supporters, set him free on the grounds that there was no reason not to. This was only after some 10 days in the Wandsworth nick, apparently in the cell occupied by Oscar Wilde when he was in the slammer for alleged sexual offences, a coincidence not likely to be believed were it portrayed on Masterpiece Theater.

Julian Assange might well have a case to answer in Sweden, but you wouldn't know that from the bizarre details of procedure involved with his European Arrest Warrant, a legal device enacted in panic after 9/11, and described in knowedgeable circles as an accident waiting to happen. I don't think one can be extradited in the European Union for parking fines, but I'm not sure about it.

The Swedish "charges" against Assange are not clear, at least in English, and the British Crown Prosecution Service seems to have no idea what it's doing or why, or who's in charge. The Swedes say the appeal in the High Court was an internal British matter, and the CPS says the Swedes put them up to it. Either way it looks terrible, and it's not clear, if the Swedish prosecutors want to interview Assange, why they can't do it via videoconferencing or directly at the Swedish Embassy. There seems to be a mindless driving need to have Assange's body in Sweden, even though it's not clear - despite assertions by The Guardian - that any charges have been laid.

The European Arrest Warrant reminds me powerfully of vile sections of the Canada Evidence Act (38.01 and 38.02) also passed in panic after 9/11, that allow arbitrary arrest and detention.

Me, I'm betting on habeas corpus and British parliamentary democracy. I'm wishing the Americans the best of British luck.

Is Julia Gillard on the take?

PS: Well, we're starting to get some information on Canada's duplicity in Cuba, but it seems a bit rich coming from a country that had participated in civil rights abuse in Chile, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.