Building Civilization One Trial at a Time


Each trial of an official who abuses his power by murdering those who constrain his freedom of movement adds a brick to the foundations of a civilized world…even if the corrupt official escapes justice. Each effort by a private tribunal or a foreign country furthers the legal and moral conceptualization of a civilized, i.e., just, world.

The history of modern man is the war to the death between Power and human rights. All socio-political divisions based on nationality, party, ideology, culture are secondary. Power seeks the elimination of human rights even as a concept or vision for human rights represent the core obstacle to Power’s freedom of movement.

The history of the last two centuries, in a sentence, thus condenses to the tortured process of moving from the concept of elections to the elimination of slavery to decolonization to the Nuremburg Trials to the dissection of CPSU abuse of power by Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov to the indictment of Pinochet in Spain to the trial of Milosovic to the rejection of South African and Israeli apartheid to the war crimes tribunal in Malaysia that resulted in the conviction in abstentia of Bush and Cheney, living former leaders of a reigning superpower.

In that long bitterly contested process, where Power seems consistently to win from one day to the next but over time can be seen increasingly to be on the defensive, one major sub-process was the exposure of the use by Algeria’s military dictatorship, under the protection of the French ruling elite, of the strategy of massacres as their long-term method of retaining control. A key step in illuminating the crimes of the Algerian military dictatorship is the on-going court case, appropriately being conducted in France, to determine the responsibility for the slaughter in 1996 of a group of Tibhirine monks in Algeria. Having exterminated the democratic movement of the Algerian people in a vicious war lasting from the military coup d’etat in 1992 until recently, the Algerian military dictatorship continues today to demonstrate its “innocence” by vigorously opposing the French judicial investigation.

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Les juges enquêtant sur la mort des sept moines de Tibéhirine ont demandé à l’Algérie d’identifier une vingtaine de témoins et à entendre Abderrazak El Para, mis en cause par des repentis du GIA dans le rapt  des religieux, selon un document consulté mercredi par l’AFP.

Dans une commission rogatoire internationale (CRI) adressée aux autorités algériennes, les juges Marc Trévidic et Nathalie Poux précisent également les conditions dans lesquelles ils voudraient exhumer et autopsier les têtes des moines à Tibhirine avec deux médecins légistes, un expert en empreintes génétiques et un photographe de l’identité judiciaire. [Assassinat des moines de Tibhirine : Abderrazak El Para, un casse-tête algéro-français | DNA – Dernières nouvelles d’Algérie.]

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As with the current trial of Guatemala’s Rios Montt on charges of running death squads, the trial of the Algerian dictatorship is important not just for achieving justice but as a key step in the historic process of creating a civilized world in which justice will be recognized as having precedence over the exercise of power by the elite. Stay tuned. Bringing old criminal rulers to justice is not a matter of wrapping up the loose ends of history; it sets the tone for the future of human society.

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Readings:

Managed Consensus — Seeking justice in Pinochet’s Chile and the USSR

Impunity or Purification — The dangers of granting impunity to political criminals

The First War on Terror — Forgetting the lessons of history

Impunity and the Building of Civilization — On making impunity illegal

Saving Democracy by Force — Algeria and crimes against humanity

Applying Insecticides Is not State Terror — The Soviet case

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