Why should not governments entities be treated the same way as the rest of us?
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).
And can you really say that a country is democratic if it strives to decriminalize torture and allow authorities to kidnap and murder? Hear what Yanis Varoufakis says about the UK justice system and the treatment of Julian Assange. We can not pretend any longer that this is a real democracy.
The ongoing pandemic is used not only as a bad excuse for reducing democracy, for example by cancelling referendums. It is also used as an excuse to give up privacy. We have now seen an example of how this can be abused. Read on BBC about how the government of Singapore cheated their people in a programme called TraceTogether. Note that the new legislation that is now proposed, does NOT return to the original purpose of TraceTogether. To be able to use the system against serious crime like terrorism sounds fair, but remember how the accusation of terrorism has been misused before and still is. Singapore works closely with the USA regarding surveillance, where whistleblowers can be equated with terrorists and a questionable concept of a war on “domestic terrorism” is under way. One result is eroding public trust, which can for examle make future health responses more difficult.
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.”