Europe — A Berlin Conference with no closure

Europe — A Berlin Conference with no closure

Catriona Laing

OF course there has always been rules for the goose, rules for the gander.
I am reading a piece in the British Guardian where one Chris Grayling says the Conservative government would withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if a series of changes the UK proposes are rejected.

Chris Grayling is the UK’s Justice Minister.

Or its Secretary for Justice, to use English governmental nomenclature.

But what is the issue?

Well, the UK government wants powers to veto Strasbourg court rulings, to veto rulings from the supra-territorial European Court of Human Rights it does not find sexy.

A withdrawal from the convention could jeopardise Britain’s membership of the EU, which is separate to the Council of Europe whose membership is more open.

Way back, members of the EU agreed to form this supra-territorial court whose seat is in Strasbourg, agreeing too to submit to Strasbourg judgments.

Of course the pace of that submission would vary.

In the case of our British, the decision was that instead of changing their laws wholesale for conformity with expectations of Strasbourg, the British system would proceed by amending those portions of national law to have been successfully challenged in Strasbourg.

For a while, that happened.

An advisory court?

But now, Britain is fed up, and seeks a situation where Strasbourg rulings are no longer binding, enforceable in the UK.

The mechanism for ignoring such unwanted rulings would be local courts and Parliament both of which would then be able to veto any such unpalatable rulings from the EU Court.

This is what the Conservatives are proposing in their manifesto, itself a potent notice of things to come, the more so given that the Conservatives have now acquired a lead in opinion polls, and hope to outflank UKIP by proving better wrappers of the Union Jack.


Charles Taylor

Of course this is a major retreat from supra-national governance, a reassertion of the sovereignty of Westminster.

And as always, freedom for the lion means death to the cow.

Strasbourg then becomes an advisory court to London, if such a juxtaposition is deemed clever and meaningful enough to pass for an oxymoron.

Draping a Zanu-PF flag

And the bone of contention is human rights observation, something the British now think can be trashed in favour of general protection of the realm against “terrorism”.

As we know nowadays, like Strasbourg rulings, “terrorism” is anyone you don’t like.

But here is our Grayling: “If we cannot reach agreement that our courts and our parliament will have the final say over these matters then we will have to withdraw.

“We have a treaty right to withdraw, it is specifically provided for in the convention. We will exercise that right.  There is always  a first time for everything.”

And then sounding like a Zanu-PF politician, Grayling added: “We cannot go on with a situation where crucial decisions about how this country is run and how we protect our citizens are taken by the ECHR (European Commission on Human Rights) and not by our parliament and our courts.

“We also have to be much clearer about when human rights laws should be used, and that rights have to be balanced with responsibilities. People in this country are fed up with human rights being used as an excuse for unacceptable behaviour.

“We will always stand against real human rights abuses and political persecution. But these plans will make sure that we put Britain first and restore common sense to human rights in this country.”

When Strasbourg is not Windhoek or Banjul

I didn’t realise the British, more specifically the Tories, have a facility for Zanu-PF-like arguments.

I have always thought this is one facility aberrational to “people from the bush”?

Why is the civilised world sounding like that?

Like us?

Freud would have put it well: it’s not that we have grown worse; it is just that we have always been less than we have hoped to be.

ECHR? Why does it sound like our Sadc Tribunal? ECHR?


Chris Grayling

Why does it sound like our AU’s African Court on Human and People’s Rights? And both enjoyed British financial and advisory support when they lasted, at least in the case of the Sadc Tribunal.

And where is Charles Taylor and many such people branded like he was?

Penned in some supra-hemispheric court in some European capital. There was furore when Zimbabwe challenged the Sadc Tribunal, and when Sadc endorsed that challenge.

The issue on hand related to our people’s land rights, versus the privileges of some remnant colonial latifundia.

There was furore when Zimbabwe was perceived as trashing human rights here, indeed a feverish attempt to condemn, rule and run it from Banjul, Gambia, seat of the African Human and People’s Rights.

Much worse noise when Zimbabwe opted out of the Commonwealth.

If the British goose can contemplate a retreat from a multilateral arrangement simply because it yields an unwanted, inconvenient result, why can’t the gander?

Wawa-wait, I have something for you: “The UK and other international investors see opportunities in Zimbabwe but need reassurance that the rule of law prevails and that the environment is predictable.”


Welcome to Zimbabwe, Madame Catriona Laing, the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe.

Wishing you a peaceful and sensible stay in Zimbabwe.

Equipped with a similar frame of mind, your predecessor, Ambassador Deborah Bronnert, harvested much peace, perfect peace!

Fomenting trouble in China

Talking about laws for mice, options for elephants, I have been watching how Western governments have been reacting to the fast collapsing demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The people in that special administrative territory of China have been agitating for the right to pick on their leaders, but without prior vetting from Beijing. So far it has been peaceful, relatively.

But there has been lots of incitement, principally from western media, led by the CNN and the BBC.

I have been long enough in the media to know the massive Chinese wall between reporting and wishing or even making events.

And as if to dispel any doubts, the un-telegenic Kerry has been urging the Chinese government to act with restraint in recognising the complaints of residents of Hong Kong.

Doing so in ways the US government itself would never have tolerated a few weeks back when its own Missouri was on fire and this following fatal racist attacks on black residents.

Second Opium to the Chinese

I mean let’s have a sense of scale, guys.

The Hong Kong residents are agitating for greater elective choice; those from Missouri were grieving over a fellow black, shot dead by a white policeman. What is graver?

And no word from Kerry. Or from any other foreign minister from any part of the world.

Time was in history when the British warred against the Chinese ruling dynasty for refusing to buy opium which had ruined their citizens, but which the British shoving down their throats in the name of balancing “trade”.

Yes, trade imbalance is a causa belli in the British scheme of things!

The venue of that British war against China was Hong Kong, itself the entrepôt of state-backed British opium peddlers.

The Chinese ruling dynasty lost the war, list the right to protect its citizen against ruinous British-peddled hard drugs.

This is how Hong Kong fell and became a British colony, to last until 1987.

Is democracy the new opium for same old hegemonic quests?  Food for thought.

De-marche from big America

There is a piece of news which has gone unreported.

A week or two ago, the US government, through its local embassy, sent an official communication to the Zimbabwean Government, listing the full measure of sanctions the West, led by America, have slapped on Russia.

The communication went further.

It spelt out American expectations on Zimbabwe, namely that Zimbabwe was expected (read required) to support those sanctions by avoiding any association with companies sanctioned by the Americans and their Western allies.

Or their subsidiaries or affiliates.

And . . . yes you guess right, that targets the new US$3bn-plus platinum investment by the Russians at Darwendale!

It should not proceed or else we are under sanctions.

Picture this: Zimbabweans are under America’s unilateral and illegal sanctions for repossessing her land.

Russia has since joined Zimbabwe on America’s sanctions list, again unlawful, unilateral to the extent that these are not UN sanctions.

America then invites sanctioned Zimbabwe to support sanctions against Russia, itself a bird of the same feather!

Oh America!

This is where I am tempted to tell the American government to go and hang, hang on a banana tree, bums up.

What sanctions can come from the Americans to us? I thought those on the ground cannot fall?

Rule Britannia, rule

Another interesting conversation involving a Zimbabwe  Government official and another from a respected EU country.

Pledging real desire to resume ties with Zimbabwe, the official then intimated: “You know what mate, in the EU we proceed by consensus.

“But we also give precedence to former colonial masters of given countries in dealing with the affairs of those erstwhile colonies.  Tell you what mate, it would make matters infinitely better if you guys made up with the Brits.”


So the French would lead in matters involving any Francophone country anywhere in the world.

So the Spaniards would do the same for matters involving former colonies of Spain.

Equally, Portugal would direct discussion and policy on matters involving Lusophone Africa.

And, likewise, the British do give direction in the European Union on matters involving former British colonies, Zimbabwe included.

Did the official say “former”? Did I say “former”? Hahaha!  “Former” is what is bygone.

But this one isn’t bygone.

Thinking we are in the 21st century, we discover we remain in Bismarck’s world, its imperial ethos intact and operational, shaping our fate and fate of our nations.

Cry the beloved Africa.


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