The saying goes that if a frog is put into a pan of water and the heat is gradually raised, it will never react to the rising threat and die as a result.
This fable will likely resonate with those observing the state of democracy in the UK today.
Some of the problems highlighted by HRW are:
The government’s disdain for parliament is also evident in its handling of the pandemic. The government has used decrees and fast-track laws in ways that cut parliament out of the law-making process and make it harder for MPs to scrutinise how the laws that affect our lives are being used.
The ways in which the UK government has undermined the country’s independent legal system is long and growing. It wants to water down the power of British courts to review government decisions. Both the prime minister and home secretary have pilloried the legal profession, dismissing human rights lawyers as “activists”, “lefties” and “do-gooders” merely for doing their jobs
However, there are democratic problems not only with Boris Johnson’s conservative government. For example, Spelthorne Borough Council has recently lost half of its Labour Party councillors, who resigned in protest at the party’s direction. One of them says: “We were elected by voters who support the policies in Labour’s manifesto and we cannot in good conscience remain in the party when these policies are not being honoured.” Also, remember the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, which included threat of mutiny from the military (similar to what happened to Olof Palme before he was murdered in 1986).
In several western countries, we are witnessing a rapid decline of democracy.
From the USA, increased censorship of the president and many others is reported. Twitter now motivates this by how messages can be interpreted. Just like after the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago, overreactions to the events can be more destructive than the events themselves. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls on the platforms to be more transparent and consistent in how they apply their rules, but seems to miss that government agencies are involved with the tech giants and ordinary people have no say in such decisions. Anyone who has been censored on by the tech giants knows how difficult and meaningless it is to try to contact them. Even the president appears to have no control of some government agencies. Whatever we think of Donald Trump, we need to realize that it is certainly not democracy if an invisible government together with huge corporations are imposing censorship to undermine their president, who said he would “drain the swamp”. In Wilhelm Agrell’s article in Swedish from 2017, with the translated title “Against the deep state, no one can win”, he writes that:
No one can control the guards anymore.If anyone ever could.
What Donald Trump has challenged are thus not clowns in Langley or easily drained small puddles on the edge of the Washington swamp, but the deep state in its most developed and expanded form.In such a power struggle, in the long run there is only one possible winner…
Another example is Sweden, which now has a new pandemic law, strongly criticized for giving the government dictatorial powers. There is a risk that such temporary laws can be extended and abused.
Before our eyes, the confidence in institutions which should uphold the rule of international law is falling apart.
Craig Murray has read the report that closes down the investigation of British war crimes in Iraq. He calls the International Criminal Court (ICC) “simply indefensible” and comes to the conclusion:
Unfortunately, the decision of the ICC to close down its investigation into War Crimes committed by the British in Iraq is the last straw for me in continuing to harbour any hope that the ICC will ever be anything more than an instrument of victors’ justice.
One of the many comments on his blog says:
A whitewash is worse than no wash at all. The ICC is diplomatically lying through its teeth, which undermines any credibility it might try to claim in the future. It has demonstrated itself to be fraudulent. It would have been far better for its credibility to release a simple statement saying “Under threat, physical or otherwise, the ICC has decided not to pursue investigation of the UK’s failed war crimes prosecutions. We refer you to the MoD and the British Prime Minister’s office.”
For years, many murders where other governments are believed to be responsible have also taken place in Iran. The latest is the deadly attack by a hit-squad on nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which is widely believed to increase the risk of an open war with Iran.
The tensions with Iran have also resulted in shooting down two civilian airliners: IR655 in July 1988 by USS Vincennes (for which the captain and the air-warfare coordinator were later awarded) and PS752 in January 2020 by Iran themselves (for which there appears to have been arrests of a person who posted a video of the missile strike and of low-level officials).
Last week, two board members of Accoun had the pleasure to participate in Gothenburg Democracy Day 2020, which was held online. One topic we brought up was transparency, because we have seen how the Swedish transparency principle is about to erode – on central level as well as local level (link to content in Swedish) – and believe transparency is important to prevent crime and abuse of power.
During the day, Ten Priorities for the Future of Democracy were identified:
1) Education, starting as early was possible, about democracy to
avoid complacency and allow new generations and immigrants
to create their own interest and varieties of democracy
2) Linking modern Direct Democracy with education by providing
political workshops in schools/for adults
3) Develop a Global Charter for Truth Mentoring Program
4) We need Dialogue, we need Time, we need Curiosity – that
5) Everyone must realize how Serious the Situation is, and do
whatever one can – at local level or wherever one can – to
safeguard democracy against its enemies.
6) Include as many people in democratic process as possible: the
young and the foreigners by giving them the right to vote, or at
least let them bring up issues to the local parliament, and
everybody by introducing a city card giving access to all city
7) To involve young people and to narrow the gap to the power
8) Participation on equal footing!
9) UN 2.0 – time to revamp!
10) Transparency and having access to all information on
It has been known for years that Julian Assange was given a special treatment, in a negative sense, in Sweden. However, there is a collective silence in Sweden, especially in government and parliament, regarding the abuses done to Assange. Hardly anyone there will stand up for the rights of Assange. An exception is Amineh Kakabaveh, who has asked a critical question about Assange (all links in this post are to content in Swedish).
The famous journalist Günter Walraff says about the Swedish culture of silence:
– The treatment of Assange can be seen as a yardstick, a litmus test for the future global boundaries of journalism and freedom of speech. It’s a scary perspective. Nils Melzer calls the ongoing treatment of Assange in Belmarsh Prison a deliberate form of psychological torture. Normal prisoners, including those convicted of murder, may receive children and relatives. They may hold confidential talks with their lawyers. Assange is denied all this. You consciously create difficulties in his daily life. You want to make him desperate through a conscious form of disorientation. The strength of the abuse is constantly increasing. Assange is barred from attending the trial on normal terms. In the courtroom, he is placed behind a glass wall, much like an animal to be observed and at the same time kept separate from humans. He can be isolated eleven hours a day. He is not even allowed to hug his own children. And he was denied contact with his lawyers for several months.
– All this is about depriving him of his dignity, of breaking him down as a human being.