Consider the following:1) Ken Livingstone Suspended from Office
London's mayor (Ken Livingstone) has been suspended from office on full pay for four weeks for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.2)The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill currently before Parliament
The Adjudication Panel for England ruled Ken Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute when he acted in an "unnecessarily insensitive" manner.
The hearing followed a complaint from the Jewish Board of Deputies, which had not called for the mayor to be suspended over the comment he made to the Evening Standard's Oliver Finegold outside a public-funded party.
The chairman of the panel, David Laverick, said it had decided on a ban because Mr Livingstone had failed to realise the seriousness of his outburst.
Here's the gist of it
The extraordinary Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House, gives ministers power to amend, repeal or replace any legislation simply by making an order and without having to bring a Bill before Parliament. The House of Lords Constitution Committee says the Bill is “of first-class constitutional significance” and fears that it could “markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process”.3) Holocaust Denier Convicted
There are a few restrictions — orders can’t be used to introduce new taxes, for instance — but most of the limitations on their use are fuzzy and subjective. One of the “safeguards” in the Bill is that an order can impose a burden only “proportionate to the benefit expected to be gained”. And who gets to judge whether it is proportionate? Why, the minister of course. The early signs are not good. Having undertaken initially not to use orders for controversial laws, the Government has already started talking about abstaining from their use when the matter at hand is “highly” controversial.
Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust — a crime in the country where Hitler was born.4) Lawsuits over "Racism"
Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In 2002 in Switzerland the Islamic Center and the Somal Association of Geneva, SOS Racisme of Lausanne and a private citizen sued her for the supposedly racist content of The Rage and The Pride. In November 2002 a Swiss judge issued an arrest warrant for violations of article 261 and 261 bis of the Swiss criminal code and requested the Italian government to either try or extradite her. Roberto Castelli, Italian minister of Justice mentioned this fact in an interview broadcasted by Radio Padania affirming that the Italian Constitution protects the Freedom of Speech and thus the extradition request had to be rejected, the episode is mentioned in her book The Force of Reason
I seem to recall that there have been a few more of these suits in the past several years but cannot recall them.5) Proposed UK Religious Hatred Bill
Controversial plans to make incitement to religious hatred illegal have been unveiled by the government.
The new offence gives equal protection to all faiths. Jews and Sikhs are already covered by race hate laws.
Critics say the reintroduced plans - which cover words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up religious hatred - will stifle free speech.
Ministers insist the new law would not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".
The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material.
The aim is to protect people from incitement to hatred against them because of their faith.
(text of bill here
)6) Double Jeopardy Protection Not Absolute
All members of the Council of Europe (which includes nearly all European countries, and all members of the European Union) have signed the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects against double jeopardy. The Seventh Protocol, Article Four, says:7) Gun Rights in Europe
No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State.This specific optional protocol has been ratified by all EU states except six (namely Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom). Those members states may still have the provision in their respective constitutions (if any) providing a prohibition against double jeopardy.
In many European countries the prosecution may appeal an acquittal to a higher court (similar to the provisions of Canadian law) - this is not counted as double jeopardy but as a continuation of the same trial. This is allowed by the European Convention of Human Rights - note the word finally in the above quote.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed legislation in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett to abolish the previously strict form of prohibition of double jeopardy. Retrials are now allowed if there is 'new and compelling evidence'. All cases must be approved by the Director Of Public Prosecutions and the Court Of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal.
(not really relevant but I thought I'd throw it in)Help Me Out
The story about London mayor Ken Livingstone was the genesis for this post and is what got me thinking. I saw it the other day on one of my favorite blogs
, and almost could not believe what I was reading. How do you "suspend" an elected official over something he said, no matter how offensive or stupid it was?
In the comments section I asked just this, but haven't received a satisfactory answer.
It is simply inconceivable in the United States for an elected official to be removed by some board. My understanding is that in most all jurisdictions elected officials can only be forced to resign if they are convicted of a crime, and usually a felony at that. Obviously the details will vary from place to place, but I think I have it right as a general rule.
Further, the concept that someone could be charged with a crime for denying the holocaust is also inconceivable. But I understand that this is the case in several European countries. What else is it against the law to say over there? Here freedom of speech is pretty absolute (exceptions of course are libel, slander, shouting "fire" when there is none, but those things are different).
All of the other things listed above simply could not happen in the United States, at least as a matter of federal or local law. Universities have been known to pass "speech codes", but that's not quite the same as Congress passing a law making it illegal to criticize another's religion (which is basically what the British bill would do).
The only exception I can think of is a qualifier to double jeopardy. Here in the US they do have civil rights laws, and in the infamous Rodney King case, some Los Angeles cops were found innocent of using excessive force against him, but were later convicted of violating his civil rights. But even this doesn't really violate double jeopardy.
This got me thinking of other things I've read recently. My general perception is that in general Europeans do not have all the rights that we take for granted here in the United States.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not about to go off and label any part of Europe "not free". They're part of the Free World. We're still allies, still share common values (or should), and are all in this fight against Islamic radicalism together, whether all of us know it or not.
But help me out here. Do I have all this right about Europe? My main question is about freedom of speech, as most of the issues above revolve around that.UpdateWhat is Going on in Europe II
is up over at The Redhunter. I'd copy it here but as usual it's long and doesn't change my thesis, but just adds to it. There's an editorial by Tony Blair in which he expresses his contempt for due process, British representatives to the EU called for "regret" over the 12 cartoons, and Douglas Murray writes that "Europe is shuffling into darkness" because of Muslim intimidation.