Thursday, October 08, 2009

Italy Shows US The Way Forward.

It's a sad day for the United States when Italy appear to be showing them the way to guarantee that no-one is above the law, but that's what's happened.

A controversial law granting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi legal immunity has been dramatically thrown out by the country's top court, raising the likelihood that the media mogul will again face prosecution on corruption charges.

As the political pressure mounted last night, the 73-year-old premier lambasted the Constitutional Court judges as "red toga-wearing tools of the left" and vowed not to quit, despite predictions by opponents that the ruling could force him to resign and hold a snap election. "We must govern for five years, with or without the law," Mr Berlusconi told reporters outside his residence in Rome.

"I'll take time out from taking care of state business to go and make liars of them all. These things fire me up, they fire Italians up. Long live Italy, long live Berlusconi!"

The notion that any person or group of people should be immune from the law is a travesty of the notion that we are all equal under the law. And yet, in the US, we recently witnessed the FISA Amendment Act, which granted retroactive immunity to Telecoms who had illegally taken part in Bush's surveillance programmes.

And that's before we get to the fact that both the previous US president and vice president are on public record as having authorised torture and no-one seems to want to do anything about it. The United States under the Obama administration are ignoring clear admissions of war crimes.

Two US senators, Russ Feingold (WI) and Dick Durbin (IL), have proposed the JUSTICE Act which would reform the most abusive characteristics of the PATRIOT Act and would also roll back a controversial provision of the FISA Amendment Act that granted Telecoms retroactive immunity for their participation in the Bush administration's extralegal warrantless surveillance program.

Both Fiengold and Durbin are only trying to make the point which was clearly emphasised yesterday in Italy. It is wrong for any government to pass a law which exempts itself or people who acted on it's command from the rule of law.

Berlusconi and his cohorts may rage and fume...
But in a provocative warning before the court's ruling was made public, Umberto Bossi, Mr Berlusconi's coalition partner and rabble-rousing leader of the Northern League, said: "If the court throws out the law we could go into action, mobilising the people."
...but the principle which has been established is so basic that I doubt many would take to the streets to object to it.

"All are equal under the law." After all no private citizen can expect immunity from the law so why should such a thing be granted to Telecoms, or Berlusconi, or any other elected official?

It's hardly a controversial notion.

And yet, in the US, this would be described by the Republicans as criminalising "policy differences", as if the law - on issues as serious as war crimes and the warrantless wiretapping of individuals - can really be looked at as "policy differences" or as Cheney put it, "criminalising policy disagreements."

The Italian courts have rejected the notion of immunity for Berlusconi. In doing so they have re-established one of the most basic principles of law; that we are all equal under it and that none of us should have immunity from it.

The US would do well to follow Italy's example.

Click title for full article.

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