Monday, 17 December 2007

Case Law

Proceedings of the Court of Decency

Session 2007/08 CoD 33

Professor Geras vs. Your Intelligence

An interesting case just placed before the court, in which the plaintiff, Professor Geras, attacks the defendant, Your Intelligence, by extrapolating from an anecdotal account.

The facts of the case are clear -

1) That some guy with a website had that Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), in the back of his Decent Taxi, wherein he did single out the Americans for special treatment, to whit -

2) That, in the back of some guy's Decent Taxi, Roth did categorically and maliciously state that American human rights violations will encourage nasty regimes to violate international law.

3) Hence, that in the back of some guy's Decent Taxi, Roth did state that America should be held to a higher standard than other nations. Thus -

C) Kenneth Roth is guilty of the crime of moral equivalence by effectively stating that it is more acceptable for tyrannical regimes to violate human rights.

Your Intelligence contends that it has been grievously insulted by Professor Geras's argument.

Analysis

The case is yet to come to court, and may prove to be a landmark in the evolution of Decent case law.

Firstly, the court will likely accept hearsay evidence obtained in the back of a Decent Taxi without independent corroboration.

Secondly, and controversially, a brief Google search reveals that HRW has repeatedly made some form of the following argument -

"It is highly damaging to the cause of international human rights when the nations that conceived, drafted, signed and have pushed for the enforcement of human rights laws are caught in flagrant violation of them. It is doubly damaging when those nations actively seek to exempt themselves from such laws with mendacious claims of exceptionalism and point-blank refusals to improve their behaviour.

This encourages people all over the world to believe that human rights are merely a stick for beating international pariahs, rather than strict laws which should be adhered to by all nations. The damage this causes may well be irreparable.

In short, the leader of the free world must possess the moral authority to castigate China's human rights record without facing an outbreak of sniggering."

Your Intelligence refuses to accept that a Professor Emeritus of politics is incapable of grasping this simple idea. Further, by implying that this argument means "it is to some extent all right for nasty regimes to violate human rights," Professor Geras has clearly insulted Your Intelligence.

Since Professor Geras has grievously insulted Your Intelligence on numerous occasions in the past, this may seem an open-and-shut-case. Readers are reminded, however, that the Court of Decency has a history of bizarre rulings against Humanitarian NGOs generally and Human Rights Watch in particular.

Full text of Professor Geras's musings here.

3 comments:

dsquared said...

"Higher standards" (Hie-err Stan-dudz).

The same standards. For example, to expect that the USA obeys the UN Convention on Torture, signs up to the International Criminal Court etc, is to hold it to a higher standard than countries which do obey international law. Similarly, to expect Israel to refrain from destroying civilian infrastructure or using cluster bombs is to hold it to a "higher standard" than the relevant Geneva Conventions.

It must surely be counted a weakness in Prof Geras' case against Our Intelligence that he seemingly regards "the US is being held to a higher standard" and "the US is being held to the same standard" as the only two possibilities - perhaps he ought to be an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics as well.

dsquared again said...

(btw, what Geras is groping away from here and what Ken Roth understands is the sensible point that countries like the US, UK etc, ought to be held to higher standard of compliance with the same laws. So for example, under the Financial Services Act, me and my grocer are both equally forbidden from acting so as to manipulate prices on the London Stock Exchange.

But it clearly wouldn't make sense for a Turkish tobacconist to record all his telephone calls, go on quarterly compliance training courses, consult a lawyer for all of his official correspondence etc, whereas it does make sense to expect that from me, because unlike him, I am spending every working day presenting myself as an honest dealer in securities. And because I have an important an long-term interest in the general standards of market conduct on the stock exchange in a way that my grocer doesn't give a tupenny shit about.

FlyingRodent said...

That's all very well, but have you considered whether it's reasonable to expect a superpower not to indulge in torture or high-altitude bombing?

Surely, it's only sensible to realise that great powers will sometimes feel the need to pogo on some diddy country, and failing to recognise this is deeply unserious