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Posts Tagged ‘legal system’

In America, we bring each other to trial on a regular and, it seems, profitable basis. Off course we say we’re not doing it for the money but because issues of justice, fairness and respect are involved. Did a school overstep in strip-searching a thirteen-year-old girl to see whether she was carrying prescription Ibuprofen? Can a chiropractor sue a patient who posted a negative review on the website Yelp.com? Whatever the decisions, it should be noted that both lawsuits involve claims of compensation.

Then there are those court cases that are more about symbolism than anything else. No one expects six onetime Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to actually go on trial for, much less be convicted of violating international law in allowing for the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Nevertheless, a Spanish court is reviewing the complaint and warrants may well be issued.

An even more fraught case involves the indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir and other leaders in the Arab world have united in condemning the indictment as an act of neo-colonialism designed to undermine Sudan’s stability. The African Union Peace and Security Council is seeking to overturn the indictment.

Why bring each other to trial, especially when the outcomes are so dicey?  In many (although not all) instances, a trial will bring particular issues into focus for public discussion – school authority and privacy, free speech and the value of protecting a reputation, torture and international law and sovereignty in the face of incalculable human suffering. Furthermore, there are people around the world who believe coming before a tribunal of presumably impartial judges is the way to go – this despite various attempts in both democratic and less democratic societies to thwart, rewrite, abolish or simply ignore the rule of law. I’m glad of that. The judicial system is often flawed but there is scant evidence the alternatives – incarceration, incapacitation, humiliation, torture or genocide – work at all.

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