The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'geoffrey robertson qc'
The Independent has a profile of Geoffrey Robertson QC, the eminent human-rights lawyer who recently wrote an indictment of the Pope for knowingly fostering child abuse and whose next project is likely to be defending Wikipedia editor Julian Assange from extradition to the US on espionage charges:
Robertson decided that his future lay in Britain. He was eventually called to the bar 1973 and embarked on a remarkable career. Cause célèbre followed cause célèbre. In 1978 he defended two journalists who had been accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act when they interviewed a former intelligence officer. The acquittal of the journalists was a landmark victory for press freedom. Robertson went on to defend Gay News and the National Theatre from the legal assaults of Mary Whitehouse. These trials – and their outcome – helped to deliver the coup de grâce to cultural censorship in Britain.
As a QC he prosecuted the Malawian dictator Hastings Banda and defended dissidents detained by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. He appeared in many Caribbean death sentence appeals at the Privy Council. And in 2002 came a move from defence to judgment, when Robertson served as a judge on the United Nations war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Robertson's private life has been as eventful as his public one. But his marriage to the wisecracking Australian novelist Kathy Lette has kept him close to the media spotlight, even when not in the court. The two met in Brisbane 20 years ago filming an episode of Robertson's long-running Australian current affairs television programme Hypotheticals. Both were in relationships at the time, Robertson with the future television chef Nigella Lawson, and Lette married to the Australian television executive Kim Williams. "Opposites attract" is Robertson's explanation of the unlikely union of the crusading liberal barrister and the author of such works as Foetal Attraction and Men – A User's Guide.IMHO, Robertson is one of the heroes of our age.
Veteran human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has published a new book, in which he calls for the Vatican to be treated as a rogue state until it substantially alters its ancient canon law, which, among other things, protects child rapists:
''The worst that can happen, other than an order to do penance, is 'laicisation', that is, defrocking, which permits the paedophile to leave the church and get a job in a state school or care home without anyone knowing of this conviction. Canon law has no sex offenders registry.Robertson also argues that the Pope is not a legitimate head of state, with the 1929 Lateran Treaty, which established the Vatican, not being a legitimate international treaty, but rather a deal between Mussolini and a pro-fascist Pope.
The current Pope is about to make a visit to the UK, which is being treated officially as a state visit. Various humanist, secularist and human rights groups are organising protests.
As revelations of endemic child rape supported by the Catholic Church for decades (if not centuries) emerge, including claims that the current Pope was instrumental in protecting rapists, the Church has responded,
apologising profusely, handing suspects over to authorities and liquidating its assets to pay compensation, rubbishing the accusations as "petty gossip", blaming "gay culture" for child abuse and comparing criticism of the Church to anti-Semitism. Some are calling for the Pope to be dismissed, though, unfortunately, there is no way to sack a Pope, what with him being infallible and all that. Now, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has called for Pope Benedict XVI to be put on trial by the International Criminal Court; Robertson argues that the sovereign immunity of the Vatican is too flimsy to stand up, and even if not, heads of state who preside over atrocities can be stripped of it to face trial:
It hinges on the assumption that the Vatican, or its metaphysical emanation, the Holy See, is a state. But the papal states were extinguished by invasion in 1870 and the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave – 0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats – with "sovereignty in the international field ... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world". The notion that statehood can be created by another country's unilateral declaration is risible: Iran could make Qom a state overnight, or the UK could launch Canterbury on to the international stage.
This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights. But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.