The nauseating decision of the Portuguese Government (and connived at by the EuroNabobery) to invite the well known Torturer and Kleptocrat “Chairman” Bob Mugabe to its EU-Africa Summit notwithstanding the catalogue of egregious crimes of which he is undoubtedly guilty plumbs new depths. Greed and self-interest, however, do not permit shame to get in the way.

Upon reading my esteemed blogging colleague’s Helen Szamuely’s latest offering on the topic I was prompted to a naughty thought. What is to stop the UK from charging Mr. Mugabe with an offence under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, namely ‘torture’? On the face of it, nothing.

Having laid the charge, a nice little billet doux containing an European Arrest Warrant could then wing its way to Lisbon who would have no alternative but to ship the thieving, torturing little bastard over to us without any further ado: no mucking about with extradition proceedings (the EAW has done for that within the EU), no troubling ourselves with the immunity of Heads of State (The Pinochet case has rendered a Head of State’s Sovereign Immunity nugatory), just clap the derbies on as he makes his way to breakfast one fine morning and by tea-time he could be slopping out with the best at Belmarsh.

A nice idea.

Except that there are two problems with it.

One is that the last thing that any of the EU wants is to offend any of the band of butchers, kleptocrats, torturers, war criminals and assorted criminals who are also invited to this sickening jolly. Arresting one of their number would for sure upset them something rotten, not least because of the precedent it might set, a precedent that might see a speedy mass departure for Lisbon Airport, the canapés unnibbled, of the entire crop of gangsters being thus entertained. That might in turn ruin the appetites of the assembled EuroNabobs which, of course, would never do.

The second fly in the ointment is that everyone says that the UN Convention Against Torture was incorporated into UK Law by S.134 of the CJA 1988. Yet if one looks at the wording of that section and compares it with the terminology of Article 1 of the Convention:

the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

One begins to see that the terminology of each is quite different.

The Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Article 5) and for Rwanda (Article 3) gave them jurisdiction over offences of torture but the jurisprudence of each has followed the terminology of the Convention. In addition each has sought to fix those at the top of the tree, those who do not actually go down to the torture chambers and get their hands bloody, so to speak, but who preside over a regime of torture, not with individual offences of torture but with responsibility as a ‘superior authority’. In this sense Mugabe would be charged with responsibility as a superior in that he knew or ought to have known that torture had been committed or was about to be committed and that he failed to take any reasonable steps to punish it or to prevent it.

Section 134 is much more specific and is directed much more at those who physically carry it out. I doubt if “Chairman” Bob falls within its direct ambit. Mugabe could probably only be nabbed for ‘conspiracy to torture’, but that is a very different kettle of fish from the situation in the foregoing paragraph. It may be that our Parliamentary Draftsmen have actually created a dog’s dinner by not following the wording of the Convention.

None of this derogates in any way from the disgrace that is represented by this tyrant’s presence at and welcome to this nasty little summit. Still, it would be nice to see someone taking some real steps against Mugabe instead of little gestures like Brown refusing to go but sending a second rank minister in his place. We should not be going at all if Mugabe is there. Period. And all should cheerfully risk offending the other guests by arresting him and trying him on home ground for the appalling crimes he has committed since the Convention came into force in 1988.

Then we might claim once more the moral high ground instead of snaking on our bellies through a sewer.

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