Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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Shielding Power From Scrutiny

Daithi O’Donnabhain disagrees with the Mick Hall take on the treatment of Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets. Daithi O’Donnabhain is a former resident of Tower Hamlets.

Daithi O’Donnabhain

Lutfur Rahman was deposed as mayor of Tower Hamlets in April 2015 when he was found guilty of bribery, of undue spiritual influence/injury, to be in breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which forbids false statements against an opposing candidate’s personal character during a campaign period. He was also found not to be a credible witness.

Recently Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly was roundly condemned for an election leaflet that referenced a shifting religious demographic in North Belfast, in a nakedly sectarian (thus un-Republican) play for a Westminster seat, and it is unlikely he would have faced the same charges. Rahman sympathisers allege the difference between one being prosecuted and the other ignored delineates along the same lines as difference of skin colours i.e. essentially racial reasons.

Leaving aside the incomplete nature in mentioning racism in the context of a mayor from a 34% of population ethnic minority who appointed a cabinet only made up of this 34% grouping, could there be another reason?

I would contend that Rahman is an individual whose oleaginous qualities meant that few of many accusations levelled against him over the years could stick. For example, when it is alleged his supporters shouted homophobic abuse at council members during meetings, he could deny association. When it is alleged he sold council properties below market value to companies owned in part by supporters of his, it was under powers delegated to the mayor, nothing illegal there. When it is alleged he oversaw paying millions of pounds of council money to Somali and Bengali charities, it just showed what a giver he was, and the political support he received in return was unexpected. When it is alleged he donated public money to Bengali language TV station who then gave him gushingly favourable coverage it was coincidence. The list goes on, but his opponents could only go with what they could prove in a court.

But if you are a leftist like Mick Hall there is no list, and its more an issue of right or left than right or wrong. Rahman is a leftist. Perhaps the likes of Hall view the ‘diversions’ of the £1.1 billion Tower Hamlets budget, and the wrecking of the functions of office via nepotism, as anti-state?

Hall’s article states:

So lets get things straight, Lutfur Rahman an elected Mayor of one of the most economically deprived boroughs in the United Kingdom can be removed from office under an ancient and discredited law…What a sorry excuse for a democracy the UK is, a nation in which unelected politicians and  judges can make the laws and the democratic will of the people can be trampled upon.

Omitting the smallish issue that the democratic will expressed at the election was influenced by corrupt and illegal practices such as vote rigging, seeking undue spiritual influence through local imams, and incorrectly branding a Labour rival as racist. Issues so serious that the result was rendered void.

Darling of the left Naomi Woolf noted George Bush supporters intimidating people outside the voting centres in the 2000 US Presidential elections, comparing the chino wearers to Hitler’s brown shirts in her book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. It formed part of her contention that America was becoming a fascist state. What then could be said of Rahman supporters, who were alleged to have gone one step further by standing over vulnerable women as they voted in the booths, and spitting in the face of someone who voted ‘incorrectly’? The judge found this to be common law intimidation, but there was not enough proof for criminal level sanction.

It should be clearer by now why the prosecution went with what they could and it is utterly depressing (and utterly predictable) to hear Mick Hall reduce this to an argument of race or class. Rahman’s accusations of racism against his opponent were tested in court and found to be false, this issue is not in contention for anyone fair minded.

Admittedly the depression lifts somewhat with gems such as the concept of a
“mockney” trial. I imagine the transcript of it’s something along the lines of:

Rahman you been bleedin’ caught telling pork pies and tealeafing!
Im innocent Guv’!
Are you mugging me off sunshine? To the rusty nail wiv ‘im!

I for one will enjoy seeing how the police now deal with the other Rahman allegations. But always remember who tried shutting the debate down, who shielded power from scrutiny.


AM said...

If process justifies outcome rather than ends justifying means then the method used to topple Rahman is seriously compromised. That he was not fit for purpose seems beyond doubt: how to process it justly is more important than the mere securing of a just outcome.

DaithiD said...

Its the process that gets you every time isnt it AM?

AM said...

Not every time. I think it is a human trait to be consequentialist. But as a political and societal guide it is dangerous.

DaithiD said...

The rule of law is known as nomocracy,it would of been political whim to ignore him. If someone as powerful as Rahman transgressed like others but only he is sent to a tribunal, its more an argument that he should not be there alone, rather than he should not be there at all, and if the process is corrupted, its in the case of these missing others .

PS I know of none that could/should be there off the top of my head.

AM said...


you a normocrat against the peace process?

Process justifying outcome is not restricted to the law alone.

I agree. Sometimes in offence of war criminals not being in the dock it is said that some other war criminal is not in the dock. Why put Bagosora on trial but not Kissinger? One war criminal on trial is better than no war criminals on trial with the proviso that we don't delude ourselves that the Kissingers of this world are not on trial because they are not war criminals.

Rahman should not be there on his own but the question raised by Mick seems to be even if the judgement is correct was it arrived at justly?

DaithiD said...

Was it arrived at justly? Oooh good question, I dont know is the honest answer.
I know the Irish Republicans suffer at the whims of the law being stretched to ensnare them in ways it wouldnt be for others. Perhaps I am feeding the crocodile,hoping for it to eat me last. Its something I didn't properly consider while writing the article, I will need to think some more on that.

AM said...

I don't think it was the issue you sought to address in your piece. And you wanted to highlight something else. Everything can't be covered.

Simon said...

"Sometimes in offence of war criminals not being in the dock it is said that some other war criminal is not in the dock." I agree with this to a great extent although I know it is flawed.

When only those war criminals unpopular with the west are prosecuted for war crimes like Milosovic and others like Sharon who are popular are feted it is a strong argument to either prosecute them all or none at all. Although it is obvious that one war criminal being prosecuted it is better than none at all I would say not when a blind eye is turned to popular leaders. Although my argument only makes sense legally or to a lesser extent in the area of human rights generally.

Justice is meant to be blind and in the case of popular war criminals going free it would only encourage atrocities. Justice is meant to be evenly dealt and although it makes practical sense to prosecute one war criminal rather than none at all it doesn't make legal sense.

I understand if there was no sanction at all war crime would be more common.

Under the current set up justice isn't blind and offenders aren't treated equally. Legally all offenders should be treated the same on a case by case basis.

AM said...


which means scratch my back and I yours

what would that say to the victims of Bagosora if he was to be allowed off just because Natanyahu isn't tried? That would be a war criminals' charter. I think the argument has to be made for widening of the process not the narrowing of it.

Simon said...

AM, you're right of course. It would be a war criminals charter. But trying some war criminals and not others because they're liked or in good favour isn't justice or equitable in any sense. Legally every one should be treated the same or it's not justice and there is no legal philosophy behind it. It is purely retribution.

It makes practical and legal sense to try everyone. It only makes practical sense to try some. It only makes legal sense and some practical sense to try no-one if some are always going to be untouchable. There are major difficulties with a war criminals charter but it is only justice if everyone is treated the same.

Partial retribution takes away from the war crimes tribunal's authority, ruins the concept of international law and just process. (It ruins the reputation of the court and damages the rule of law.)

I am in favour of trying some war criminals but have major reservations regarding the status quo where the favourites get off. My argument that trying some as a lesser evil is not a legal one but a practical one. However, the ones that avoid justice tend to re-offend. Palestine is a case in point.

It is better than everyone re-offending but it isn't justice.

Simon said...

Of course the argument is for widening it. That goes without saying. I hope my omission of that statement wasn't mistaken for support for war crimes. They are dastardly crimes, arguably the worst.

AM said...

A war criminal going down for life is justice. The outcome is just. The methodology of the justice system that nails the war criminal and the ideology-cum-hypocrisy that informs it is something else entirely. If they are guilty they can go down. It would be much worse were they not war criminals and went down for war crimes. But as they are war criminals and have gone down it is fitting provided that their guilt has been properly established.

The whole structure of the justice system has its integrity called into question when it does not operate fairly. But all courts have a disposition towards the rich and powerful yet we don't call for everybody not to be tried until the bankers are. Imperfect world, imperfect justice, but it is better justice than telling the victims of Bagosora "look we are going to behave twice as badly just to be consistent."

AM said...

It was perfectly clear that you were not endorsing war crimes but rather trying to think your way through a complex matter. On war crimes I came across Quagmire yesterday - did you read it yet and what did you think?

Simon said...

I haven't heard of Quagmire. Who wrote it? I checked online and there are a few with similar titles.

The lack of objectivity, the nepotism and favouritism endemic within international law sickens me. Although not as much as the crimes themselves. The international legal system and the other international organisations such as the United Nations are crying out for major reform and in some cases going back to first principles.

I understand that all legal systems act without balance but it is those regarding war crimes that stand out as the least balanced. They don't even give a nod to equal treatment for similar or more horrific crimes. The nature of war crimes also betray a greater lack of justice because they are more extensive and weighty. The openness of the lack of balance is sickening. People know they will remain untouchable.

I would be interested in the book you mentioned if you would recommend it.

DaithiD said...

The International Criminal Court is only for black Africans isnt it?

AM said...

and certainly not for white Americans!

Organized Rage said...

As far as I can see it is only war criminals who are on the loosing side who end up in court, Goring ended up at Nuremberg Truman did not, the only difference as far as I can see was one of degrees. Dropping a nuclear bomb on two cities seems an act of a criminal to me. Bombing cities like Coventry ditto let alone all the other wicked work the fat field marshall went in for.

As to Rahman he was fitted up and by the best, no one is better at bending the law than the English ruling class, if it was to their advantage they would make a pile of shit smell nice and kid people to stick their faces, better than the best face cream they would claim and they will always find someone to say, indeed sir, I will take a gallon of that life enhancing cream.

I can think of at least a dozen councils in the southeast and London who are worse than Rahman, starting with Boris of the garden bridge. I opposed what happened to him because it was plain wrong. Would I have voted for him if I lived in Tower Hamlets, no I would not. I'm with ‎Martin Niemöller on this.

DaithiD said...

Thanks Mick, no doubt if the allies lost the war they would of faced their own equivalent of Nuremberg.
But if there are others worse than Rahman, then as stated in the other comments, they should removed too. Its not an argument for keeping Rahman in place.
Its all very well referencing Niemoller, but I was nearly lynched for wearing a football shirt outside Tower Hamlets Sainsburys on the same day as an EDL march in 2011. About ten ANTIFA thugs took me for one of the EDL'ers and surrounded me.They wanted to beat someone up, and my protests of innocence were irrelevant to them. Only for the fact my missus is Japanese and rescued me from them did I not recieve a good kicking. Im absolutely certain Leftist thugs display all the nasty properties that made Fascists social pariahs.

AM said...


I saw it in a SVP shop and didn't bother getting it but I'll have a look during the week if it is still there and pick it up

Simon said...

Let me know what you think of it. I enjoyed Helena Kennedy's "Just Law" which explains how the government frightens us into accepting less stringent safeguards of our own civil liberties.

AM said...

I'll pick it up for you if it is there - I'll hardly get time soon to read it! Was actually thinking about that Helena Kennedy one today when I came across a reference to it

Simon said...

Thanks for that, Anthony. I would read it. However, it may take a long time to get round to. If you do buy it, wait until you finish it before passing it on.

It would sit on my shelf for a year or two in any case. I am reading books that I bought over ten years ago. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.

"Just Law" is as readable as it is informative. Worth going out of your way for.