26 July 2011
Tristan Hallam asks: will there ever be justice?
I remember seeing with horror the pictures that came out of the Yugoslavia when the country as it was, began to break up all those years ago.
The violence that then ensued and the shame on the world for standing idle for too long, in particular the European community and America, will last as a memory for many years.
I remember seeing in particular the scenes at Srebrenica, a UN safe haven guarded by UN Dutch troops who shook hands with the Bosnian Serbian General Mladic as they allowed men and children to be taken away and shot. In some cases, UN troops even forced out refugees from the UN compound. A disgrace.
I raise this issue as Holland, long haunted by the memory of those days has finally seen sense and through the Courts, have found in favour of those family members of refugees who were forced into the hands of the aggressors, taken away and shot. Compensation should follow.
It apparently came as some surprise to the Dutch Government that the Appeal Courts ruled in favour of the families. It should not have done.
In the same way that dictators are increasingly brought to justice via the International Criminal Court, it is only right that Governments should be held accountable in situations where their citizens, acting as representatives of that Government (I am not impressed by arguments that it is the UN rather than the Dutch government who should bear the burden), not only fail drastically in their duty, but actively participate in the harm and death of others.
I for one consider that Government immunity, in this country known as Crown Immunity to be an abhorrence. The principle has been rolled out time and time again and continues to be rolled out in response to claims brought by members of this country’s armed forces who have been killed in the current world conflicts.
If the Government considers that they have acted properly and reasonably, they should not hide behind Crown Immunity. To do so is nothing less than cowardice.
On the one hand therefore we have the Dutch Appeal Courts taking a true and rightful stand and on the other we see Governments paying paltry amounts into the current famine fund for East Africa.
I understand that the Disaster Crisis Appeal requires immediately a sum in the region of £130 million. This is a paltry sum compared to the hundreds of billions of Euros that are required to bail out the Greek country and which in turn was in no small part placed in its current debt crisis by the world financial implosion.
Is it not therefore disgusting and no less so, for us to read about the crisis around the world, children in their thousands dying of starvation and being told that bankers are yet again being paid record bonuses.
I understand the bonuses run into billions. Even a small fraction of this would help alleviate the crisis in East Africa. Nothing short of a disgrace.
Tristan Hallam is a Principal Lawyer in Personal Injury in the London office of Slater and Gordon.
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