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International law and despots

One problem with international law, as opposed to common law in the countries of the Anglosphere, is that we already have our rights and liberties and we do not want international law mucking things up. A second problem with international law is that despots can control it.

Increasingly we see evidence of "the dangerous influence of repressive regimes over the content of international law". And once again Canada's Macleans, a superb magazine, issues a timely warning -

Pakistan and the other nations that have banded together in the Organization of the Islamic Conference have been leading a remarkably successful campaign through the United Nations to enshrine in international law prohibitions against "defamation of religions," particularly Islam. Their aim is to empower governments around the world to punish anyone who commits the "heinous act" of defaming Islam.

An unexpectedly strong critic is Louise Arbour, the former Canadian Supreme Court justice who served as the UN human rights commissioner and who has not always been supportive of free speech in the past. She and others contend that this "is an attempt to globalize laws against blasphemy that exist in some Muslim countries — and that the movement has already succeeded in suppressing open discussion in international forums of issues such as female genital mutilation, honour killings and gay rights".

If enacted, the ban against "defamation of religion" would destroy free speech and the many happy results of free speech, including scientific discovery. It would make the crimes of genital mutilation and honour killings more common and women more vulnerable. It would expose us all to legal persecution.

The problem with international law is that it is accountable to no one because it is supposedly accountable to everybody. The spouted ideals of international law have PR appeal, but in practice international law often lacks common sense or integrity. It famously fails to protect women from merciless fathers, brothers and uncles, while defending the human rights of terrorists.

International law has a fundamental democratic deficit - If you want to change the law because you believe it is unfair - how would you go about it? Become a member of the Islamic Conference?

It will occur to you that it is difficult to change the law in Britain unless you are an EU minister. That is unfortunately true at the moment, but that is my point. When our laws are handed down from people on high who are somewhere else, it is very hard to change them. And if jury trial goes under the EU or international regime, and you are charged under an unjust law, I will be unable to declare you innocent.

If someone can tell me how the democratic citizens of a country can change international law, let me know.

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