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Preoccupation with a legal perspective

Misapplication of International Legal Norms in Socially Abnormal Situations (Part #5)

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It is clear that people in the West are increasingly aware of the inability of the law to protect certain rights, at least in the case of certain classes of people. Whilst this situation may be far from comparable with the situation in Russia (where it is many degrees worse), it is important to recognize the limitations of reliance on legal provisions.

Whilst there is great merit in elaborating and agreeing on legal norms, especially at the international level, there is a need to recognize the total inadequacy of legal provisions under certain conditions. This is especially the case in Russia. Current trends indicate that, to a lesser degree, this may be increasingly the case in the West where there are few indicators of possibilities of improvement (other than in the most publicized cases).

It is clearly essential and admirable to:

  • enunciate legal principles in the light of international legal norms
  • draft and adopt appropriate legislation
  • stress the importance of enforcement procedures
  • recommend, and undertake, training of the judiciary

But, under the circumstances noted above, whether in Russia or in the West, it is also important to address the issue of the failure or ineffectiveness of the rule of law.

It is not sufficient simply to deplore specific defects and any resulting social injustice. It is important to acknowledge the ways in which the legal perspective may totally fail to address social reality. Whilst such defects may be considered temporary from a historical perspective, it is vital to recognize that people and groups live for long periods of their lives, and are subject to injustice, in anticipation of effective legal enforcement.

Failure to deliver justice may be seen as clearly in the effective indifference of police to burglary of private homes as in the failure of international security systems to respond to the peoples of Bosnia. Increasingly people live in what amounts to a legal no-man's-land, unprotected by any effective enforcement of legal provisions -- however the admirable the international legal norms. For many this situation appears to be getting worse rather than better.

There is some merit to the comparison of legal systems with religious systems. In the latter case it has long been common to deplore failure to respect such principles as the 'Ten Commandments'. Those advocating the rule of law are in danger of being similarly marginalized in deploring the failure to respect international norms.

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