Diplomatic Wars

Today’s news: our government has started expelling Russian diplomats, over their failure to extradite the murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi.  There may be other subplots, but that’s what they’re telling us.

Should Lugovoi stand trial?  Probably yes.

Could he expect a fair trial in the UK?  Emphatically no!  We have a dismal history of unsafe convictions in highly political trials of foreigners.  Numerous convictions of Irish people for IRA terrorist outrages overturned as unsafe after many years – Birmingham six, Guildford four, etc, etc.   And the Irish are not very foreign.  A highly politicised trial of the Lockerbie Two, and a conviction of one of them that nobody trusts.  Can’t blame the Russians for not wanting to expose their citizen to that.

That’s even if they could legally extradite him!

Could he be tried in another country?  As I understand it, the Russians have offered to conduct a trial there.  Would an international court be another option?  If so, has either side proposed it?

As for extradition, isn’t the UK a haven for people who are wanted for serious crimes in quite a lot of countries?  Even when they have no claim to Britishness, it can be very difficult to extradite them.  Most famously in recent times, look at the Pinochet case.

Talk about double-standards!

But it’s worse than that.  The Russians want to extradite Berezovsky, a man who poses a real and current threat to them.  There’s a similar argument about whether he could expect a fair trial in Russia.  But refusing to extradite him doesn’t have to mean giving him carte blanche to use his ill-gotten billions to work for the violent overthrow of an imperfect but nevertheless democratically-elected government.  So long as we do that, the Russians have a legitimate grievance that dwarfs anything else in the relationship.

Todays news is yet another announcement that makes me ashamed to be British.  The first under the Brown government.

Posted on July 16, 2007, in politics, russia, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Nick! I’m Russian. I live in Russia. I love Russia.
    I have to disagree on many points.

    “democratically-elected government” – according to one of our most prominent puppeteers – head of pres’s administration V. Surkov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladislav_Surkov) we don’t have straight democracy. We have “sovereign democracy”. In practice this means propaganda only TV. Domination of goverment in press and radio. Server difficulties for public non-commericial organizations and non-government approved political figures and entities. Unlawful limitations for opposition political activities. Direct repressions – police violence, politically motivated groundless sentences. People actually go to jail for their political beleifs. Once again in our history.

    Second point I disagree on is Mr. Berezovsky. He’s got very bad reputation here. When he is vocal and epatageous figure but indeed incapable of doing anything useful or otherwise in Russia. Whomever he finances in opposition is doomed. To tell that an oppositionist organization is financed by him is to kill it. Kill people’s trust in such an organzation. Nobody shall follow him. So he’s vocal but totally harmless. (Our pres. might be afraid of him. But that’s only because it was Mr. Berezovsky who put this pres. into his chair. And as a child is afraid of his daddy Mr. Putin is afraid of Mr. B. But that’s groundless. Simple Mr. Putin is such a coward).

    Financial crimes of Mr. Berezovsky? Don’t make me laugh. Every prominent figure in Russian business has done the same. Including those close to current goverment. Not to give back Mr. B is simple justice. If others are not prosecuted for exactly same why should he be?

    And finally to the Mr. Lugovoy. Nick, please tell me in whole honesty, do you have any doubt that these were these two people – Lugovoy and Kovtun who killed their former colleague? And do you have any doubt that this has been done on a direct order from Kremlin?

  2. Anton, I don’t want to defend your government. I’m criticising ours. It’s right that you should be concerned about what’s wrong in Russia, and that I should be concerned about what’s wrong in the UK.

    Britain is *very* bad about extraditing criminals to other countries, even when the crimes are on a global scale and when we have an extradition treaty with the country that wants to put the criminal on trial. A famous recent example was the former Chilean dictator Pinochet, who was one of the bloodiest rulers of the 1970s/80s, and much more recently as an old man came to the UK for specialist medical treatment. It’s right that we should want to put Mr Lugevoy on trial, but complete hypocrisy for our government to be surprised or offended when Russia refuses to extradite him.

    As for Berezovsky, the relevant parallel seems to be between the UK giving him sanctuary and Afghanistan giving sanctuary to another very rich and dangerous man before 2002.

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