But then again, would you expect anything different from Lord Rees-Mogg? For some odd reason, the Times Online blog area subtitles his blog with:
Wisdom online from Lord Rees-Mogg, Times columnist and former editor
Blimey. Do they have a different meaning for the word Wisdom?
Anyway, in an outpouring of idiocy I have only just stumbled upon (it is from May), Lord Rees-Mogg shows that he is no coward when it comes to hypocritically reversing his viewpoint when it his “kind” of person who gets targeted. Titled “Bring Back the Prima Facie Test” it gives an insight into the double standards that rightwing hate-mongers love to live with. This article begins:
After 9/11 Britain signed a Treaty with the United States to make extradition easier. That was a natural response to the threat of terrorism. However, the Treaty has not been used against terrorists, but against a number of businessmen. There is now a fear of American extradition, which has led to the suicide of Neil Coulbeck, an innocent witness in the NatWet case.
This pretty much says it all. Lord Rees-Mogg was one of the pundits clamouring for harsher laws and reduced burdens of proof following the 11 Sep attack, and this increased after the 7 Jul attacks in London. Prior to this extradition treaty, a nation which wanted to extradite a UK citizen for trial had to provide sufficient evidence that a “reasonable person” would find the accused guilty – this is a lower standard of proof than is required during an actual trial and it can get a bit confusing. Even Lord RM writes: (Emphasis mine)
Prima facie is not a very high standard of proof; it only requires that evidence should be produced on which a reasonable man could think the accused was guilty of a crime. Yet it is a very important protection.
Yes, it is a very important protection. The idea that a citizen of this country can be sent abroad to face trial without the requestion nation providing this basic level of evidence is horrific. Any citizen. Remember (and this is important) a terrorist suspect is an innocent person. They are protected by the same rights which protect every one else. It has been stressed time and time again that removing the rights from one group of innocent people removes them from everyone. This seems to have been overlooked by the jingoistic right wingers.
I can only assume that, Lord Rees-Mogg assumed that this change to the treaty (“a natural response to the threat of terrorism“) would only impact those guilty of terrorism. That these people would be extradited without sufficient evidence to pass the basic prima facie test was ignored, because lets be honest here, the people getting extradited were going to be a bit, erm, different, than Rees-Mogg’s circle of people. Who cares if a few swarthy characters from lower income groups get sent to illegal detentions eh?
I can only sympathise with the family of Mr Coulbeck and my heart goes out to them for their loss. I do notice, though, that Lord Rees-Mogg has passed sufficient judgement on him (“an innocent witness“) to make me question why he would kill himself rather than provide evidence at a trial. Is it because he was actually a suspect – placing him in the same “innocent suspect” category as the potential terrorists this legislation was aimed at? Lord RM writes:
British businessmen do not trust American criminal law because of plea bargaining, in which the horrors of some American prisons are used as a threat to impel people to plead guilty in return for an agreed sentence. The difference between a possible fifty years in a violent prison and two years in a country camp can be a very compelling argument.
Well, blimey. If British businessmen – with access to lawyers and political support – do not trust the American criminal justice system what hope is there for some one on terrorist charges? Plea bargaining has no place in any justice system but that is a topic for another day, and can you imagine the amount of bargaining which would be taking place if someone was accused of terrorism. Under duress (i.e. threat of execution, threat of years in a borderline legal detention centre etc) people will say anything they think will help themselves. This means people will lie, will implicate innocent people, anything. If businessmen are scared that other businessmen will burn them to avoid huge fines, imagine what people will do and say to avoid the death penalty or a life in Camp X-Ray’s descendants… With a stunning skill of stating the obvious, Lord RM adds to one of his paragraphs:
… Counter terrorist laws, and laws against organised crime can apply to ordinary businessmen, and frame the judgment of business transactions.
Who would have thought it eh? Laws apply to every one. If you make something illegal for terrorists, it becomes illegal for every one else as well. Wow. This touches on another topic which should wait for a rainy day – should businesses and businessmen be treated differently from “ordinary” citizens in the eyes of the law? Corporate actions can destroy the lives of millions, leave countless numbers bankrupt and in poverty and even result in countless deaths (or does it no longer count when they are in, say, India?). Despite this, there is still the idea it is a bit of a “victimless crime” and not something the government and police should be interested in. In fact (if you read most right wing rhetoric) they should spend more time stopping that poor youth robbing the equally poor little old lady and let the big businesses get on with the job of robbing everyone.
With a final burst of hypocrisy, Lord Rees-Mogg concludes with:
I do not know whether the 2003 Act is compatible with Human Rights law, but I should have thought not. We should bring back the prima facie evidence requirement, which still governs extradition to the vast majority of countries.
For once I agree with the Lord, but for vastly different reasons. It is entertaining to read someone like Lord Rees-Mogg citing Human Rights law to defend his opinion, normally it is a diatribe about how human rights are a farce and how the UK should withdraw from the agreements to uphold the laws.
Still, is anyone really surprised when a hate filled rightwing windbag displays masses of hypocrisy when it comes to their “chums?”