Roger writing the LAWmag
27
Mar 2011

Rule of Law Attacked ... By Our Own!

The rule of law is the bedrock behind all of the comforts and security of modern life in free and democratic states. It, and it alone, creates and sustains a safe and fair society to which flock wave after wave of immigrants seeking sanctuary from anarchy.

But even this new religion, the rule of law, is subjected to constant threat. With an AK-47 firing shots into the air, revolutionaries - when they deign explain to the victims why they are murderous - justify the damning of the rule of law by calling it slow and plodding; as favouring the rich, and as favouring the political apparatus of government over the rights and freedoms of individual citizens.

Travesty in Pakistan

On January 4, 2011, the rule of law suffered a horrific travesty.

Pakistan was recently in the throes of a constitutional crisis in which the Chief Justice and many lawyers were imprisoned. Lawyers from around the world rally support their colleagues and the rule of law in Pakistan (including this website: see our Nov. 2007 article, The Noose For Lady Justice? Pakistan Throws the Baby Out With the Bath Water). In the aftermath of a worldwide swell of condemnation, the president of Pakistan resigned and, it appeared, the standing of the rule of law in Pakistan had risen a notch.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is distinct from its historic motherland of India because it is Muslim and has Islamic law. Islamic states are in whole or in part, theocracies, a form of government which, if history has shown us anything, is often anathema to the rule of law. For example, the criminal law of Pakistan prohibits and punishes blasphemy for which the punishment can be death.

First, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Province Punjab in Pakistan, was assassinated by his own bodyguard.

Why?

Simply because the politician had publicly condemned a Pakistani court decision sentencing Ms Asia Bibi to death for alleged blasphemy. In the heat of a 2009 neighbourhood dispute, Ms Bibi apparently disparaged Muhammad. At the time of her alleged remarks, Mr. Muhammad, more properly Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh, had been dead for 1,377 years.

The governor filed a petition to the court asking for mercy in regards to Ms Bibi.

Days later, his bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri emptied his machine gun into his principal, killing him instantly.

The flame of the rule of law then flickered in Pakistan. When Qadri was brought to court in Islamabad to face murder charges for which he was adamantly confessing, the detail of sheriffs was almost overrun by Qadri supporters who chanted with religious zeal. Qadri yelled back.

And then the horrific moment for the rule of law, as Declan Walsh reported from Islamabad for the Guardian newspaper:

"Lawyers flung rose petals on (Taseer's) killer, Mumtaz Qadri, and celebrated him at street rallies."

That is not a typo; the story was reported by numerous news agencies. Lawyers (yes, lawyers) even managed to break through the security guards and put a wreath of roses around his neck, some offering to defend him for free out of sheer religious zealousness, while their orthodox religious leaders ordered Muslims to support the murder or suffer the same fate as Taseer!

Made in Canada

Julian Assange, the exotic Australian mind behind Wikileaks, is presently in jail in England waiting for extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault charges.

Assange's troubles are many not the least of which is the complete disclosure of thousands of pages of secret diplomatic and military communiqués on his Wikileaks.org website.

His actions reveal the uncomfortable marriage between government's sponsorship of the rule of law and how they conduct their international affairs; that while espousing transparency and open government on the one hand, those same governments sustain and support international espionage networks. Even Canada has a spy agency: Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency (website: www.csis-scrs.gc.ca). The primary target of Assange's brainchild is the disclosure of whatever such spy agencies, or their military peers, harvest.

So far, so good. Like it or loathe it, Assange operates within states with a strong tradition of the rule of law and freedom of expression. The biggest problem for Assange should simply be the reach of domestic treason laws with exotic titles such as official secrets statutes.

Our made-in-Canada, rule of law OMG moment came from Tom Flanagan, a Ph. D.-educated (Duke University) Canadian and a former chief of staff to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. He teaches political theory at the University of Calgary where, like everywhere else in Canada, the Criminal Code applies and prohibits the encouragement of murder. Other than the kill and kidnap rights of marauding aboriginals pre-colonization, there has never been an era in Canada where execution would precede trial.

But on November 30, 2010, Flanagan stated to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC):

"I think Assange should be assassinated.

"I think (American president Barack) Obama should get out a contract (on Julien Assange's life) and maybe use a (unmanned military) drone or something.

"I wouldn't feel unhappy if Assange disappeared."

Flanagan tried to backpedal once his comments backfired and offered an apology in which, he showed moxie in referring to the "due process of law".

But the Globe and Mail and Canadian Press report that when he received an email from Toronto resident Janet Reymond chastising him for his remark on CBC. Ms Reymond wrote:

"So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with.... Agree with us or get assassinated?"

Apology?!

Flanagan shot back:

"Better be careful, we know where you live."

Almost as surprising, Flanagan still receives phone calls from Alberta media to comment as a political authority. And he still teaches young adults at the University of Calgary.1

A Treasure

The rule of law is a treasure to be protected and upheld at all costs at all times.

As Justice Paris of the British Columbia Supreme Court wrote in 1952:

"Once our laws are flouted … the whole fabric of our freedom is destroyed. We can then only revert to conditions of the dark ages when the only law recognized was that of might."

To have shots fired at the rule of law by community leaders such as lawyers and university professors, is disheartening but it reminds us of the constant vigilance we all must show and the responsibility we have, as lawyers or as citizens to rise, proudly fly, uphold and protect the banner of the rule of law at all times, everywhere, be it Calgary or Islamabad.

REFERENCES:

  • Barber, Mike, "Complaint filed over call to assassinate WikiLeaks founder", Vancouver Sun, December 6, 2010
  • Canadian Transport Co. v. Alsbury, [1952] 6 W.W.R. (N.S.) 473. Cited with approval in John v. Lee, 2009 BCSC 1157, at 18
  • Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, §22
  • "Entre Nous", The Advocate Magazine, Vancouver, British Columbia, Vol. 69, March 2011, at pages 169-173.
  • Graveland, Bill, "Tom Flanagan threatened me over WikiLeaks comment, Toronto woman says", Canadian Press, December 7, 2010
  • Note 1: According to the Vancouver Sun, British Columbia lawyer Gail Davidson has filed an official police complaint against Flanagan for his assassination remarks.
  • Voice of America, January 6, 2011, Demonstrators Prevent Court Appearance of Alleged Pakistani Assassin
  • Walsh, Declan, "Shahbaz Bhatti Funeral Tinged with Anger", The Guardian Newspaper, March 4, 2011
  • You Tube, YouTube - Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri in Court.flv, at youtube.com/watch?v=N-Uaz9VNVrs, viewed on March 25, 2011
  • You Tube, Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange's Assassination Call, at youtube.com/watch?v=b2-GQ2Xhq1M; retrieved on March 27, 2011

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