Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 7. 30th May, 1957
Books . . . — In The Name of the Law
Books . . .
In The Name of the Law
- "Justice Enslaved: A Collection of Documents on the Abuse of Justice for Political Ends". International Commission of Jurists, Hague, 1955.
- "Was Justice Done?—The Rosenberg-Sobell Case" by Malcolm P. Sharp, New York, 1956.
- "Law and Disorder: Scenes of Life in Kenya" by Peter Evans, London, 1956.
"There is, a terrible sameness about political trials, be they in Moscow, Washington, Prague, Peking, Belgrade, Madrid, or Kapenguria. The common attitude is summed up in the belief "we do justice; they stage a trial"; and as with most myths, it is very difficult to get people to examine its foundations . . . It is usual for judges in political cases to intone periodically, rather like the desponses in the C. of E. Litany, that the accused is not being tried for his opinions, but for breaches of the criminal law . . . This enables those taking part—and the public—to persuade themselves that the matters about which they are wrangling are the real issues for which the accused is on trial. This jelly little game, compounded of conscience and hyprocrisy in equal measure, is played (like Association football) by the same or similar rules in both the new democracy and the free world, though the damage sustained by the players is apt to be severer in both Russia and America than in Western Europe."
Thus London barrister Peter Evans cums up the chief conclusion one comes to after reading these three books.
The I.C.J.'s compendium of material on law and judicial procedure in the U.S.S.R. and East Europe contains valuable documentation of the violation of fundamental human rights from refugee's affidavits, and, more convincing, from official publications of the countries concerned, there is a heap of evidence on the persecution of independent thinking, arbitrary arrest, gerrymandered elections, trade union servility, extorted confessions.
This is a fairly through indictment. Rut the compilers are not on nearly such firm ground when they deal with the property laws of these lands as if the act of socialization itself was an infringement of human rights as heinous as the suspension of habeas corpus.
At the I.C.J. Conference in Athens where the general thesis of this volume was presented as a paper, an Indian delegate said: "We should not condemn Communism as a system, as this would imply a condemnation of socialism too. . . We condemn the complete enslavement of the individual, but not the elimination of private economy."
But I.C.J. is a generally right-wing body, and this line was too subtle for most of them. However, the Indian delegation's insistence ensured that I.C.J.s next full-scale report will be on South Africa.
Professor Sharp's book on the Rosenberg case suggests strongly that the Communists have no monopoly of gross injustice. On the eve of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's execution for espionage in New York in 1953, sufficient people were disturbed by the uncertainties of the case to set in motion a sizeable campaign for a reprieve—which included a number of V.U.C. faculty members. After reading "Was Justice Done?" Professor Northey (Law, A.U.C.), says: "Few could doubt that the Rosenborgs were the victims of a misscariage of justice."
Professor Sharp is himself a Professor in the Law school at Chicago University. He first interested himself in the case when moved by the severity of the sentence. But having looked into it thoroughly, he became coninced that the verdict was mistaken.
The work of a careful scholar, this book is deeply disturbing to all who see the West as the upholder of the rule of law.
Peter Evans is also a lawyer—of the public school, Inner Temple variety. He was on a chance visit to Kenya when the emergency was declared in 1952, and stayed on to observe the Kenyatta trial.
He makes a host of points, all backed with weighty evidence, and none favourable to the settler interest in Kenya, or the Colonial Office.
That Kenyatta would never have been convicted in an English Court, that the Kenya African Union had no connection with Mau Mau, that Kenya blacks are doled out a secondrate brand of justice, that Mau Mau violence was the direct offspring of a vicious system of white supremacy—are among his contentions, and, the reader must grant, among his proven ones.
This book is sad testimony to the smallness of the area over which the rule of law prevails. We had thought of Britain as its ace defender—but as Chesterton once remarked per Father Brown) "every impartial police is more like a Russian secret police than we like to think", and Britain's empire is certainly no exception.—C.B.