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The letter of the law
by Thanos Kalamidas
2014-08-30 15:32:38
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The last few weeks - and despite all the other problems - there is a very tense talk in Greece about a new anti-racist law. A law that will specify what hate crime is what racism is and the punishments for violations of the law. I’ve been writing about this case the last few months – when the talk started – and I have openly express my doubts on how this law will help.

My main disagreement is that every democratic country – including some not so democratic –has in one of the first articles of their constitution – the supreme law for every state – one that declares: every single inhabitant of the country is equal, regardless race, religion, colour, gender, sexuality, education etc. A fundamental law that covers everything; period. Then it is up to the courts to see over punishments for violations.

My opinion is that when you create a new law, on top of a constitutional one, aiming to clarify and specify the letter of the law, you actually create exceptions where there weren’t. I think in most cases like that, the new laws have created more confusion that clarification and on top of that, they have given more excuses for legal violations of the law. To my opinion the need of a law that will clarify what a constitutional law says means that the state has failed to apply the constitution per se.

I know that in an era where hate crimes happen too often, with neo-Nazis raving in Europe and a policeman killing a teenager in USA because of a race profiling, I sound controversial. But instead of creating a new law that complicates more a case at the court why don’t we simply enforce our constitutions?

Still this was not my only objection. The new law in Greece includes a paragraph about the holocaust and punishments for the denial of the holocaust.  Again there was a disagreement because some MPs (actually a few, enough to make the government retrieve the law and perhaps re-write it) demanded the law except the holocaust to include the Pontian and the Armenian genocide from the Neo-Turks in the beginning of the 20th century. My question to my compatriots was, why not include the Tutsi genocide?

And what about the Zulu from the Brits in the 19th century, why not the Koreans from the Japanese, everybody who is not ISIS from the ISIS now, aren’t these genocides? And furthermore what is genocide?

Most of the countries nowadays have adopted laws against the holocaust denial and I absolutely agree with it. The problem is that we shouldn’t take the law by the letter because as I said before, that way we create exceptions. The holocaust was the supreme genocide, the worst genocide in human history and is used by the laws as fundamental example. Any crime that is based on colour, race, religion, sexuality even believes has the characteristics of hate crime and consequently genocide. Any crime. It doesn’t need to be 10 million victims to call it genocide. I actually never understood this thing with the numbers. When do we start to call it genocide? When the victims are 10, 10,000, 100,000 or 10,000,000?

Even one is enough. What ISIS does this minute in Iraq and Syria is genocide. And it should been dealt and punished as that. Ironically, the Iraqi constitution has this paragraph about equal rights and this constitutional law gives the right to the Iraqi government to call it hate crime or genocide if they want, to deal and punish. And if Iraq feels that they cannot deal with the situation, they can always ask for UN to help, it is part of UN’s obligations to guard and protect equality.

But we need first to clarify with another series of laws and decisions if something is genocide or not. That’s why the Tutsi were nearly slaughter, exterminated a few years ago. Because we were all waiting for the clarification, if it was just another civil war or a genocide. Instead of using fundamental and constitutional laws.

Greece is not the only country with an antiracist law. Actually is one of the very few yet in Europe without one. Have these law stopped hate crimes against Roma in Hungary? Have they stopped the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece hit and torture Bangladeshi immigrants with the police watching? Has it stopped a policeman in St. Luis killing a teenager because of colour profiling? No! Sadly the answer is no. So what’s next? New laws? More laws? Why don’t we start enforcing the fundamental laws before creating laws that clarify and most of the time create exceptions through reading of the letter of the …new laws?

When a Greek Golden Dawn MP is videoed to hit inhumanly a Bangladeshi immigrant in the centre of Athens he will not be punished because the law doesn’t specify that a Bangladeshi immigrant is included? We cannot deny the holocaust or the Pontian genocide but we can say that what happened with the Tutsi in Rodesia was fine because the law forgot to include them

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Emanuel Paparella2014-08-30 22:22:56
Good point, Thanos. Human rights are not legislatable, although legislation can mitigate the effects of racism and create the climate of what is permissible and what is not. The wisdom of the founding fathers of the US was that they recongnized in the constitution that equality and human rights are more than just civil rights; they are inalienable rights; they are universal and accrue to any human anywhere in the world. Of course, placing that in a Constitution meant that eventually a civil war had to be fought between those who believe in inalienable rights and those who did not believe in them, or simply paid lip service to them (as unfortunately some founding fathers did). And, in act the civil war arrived some eighty years later. I suppose the lessons of history are always learned the hard way.

Leah Sellers2014-08-31 23:57:48
Good points made by both of you Insightful Gentlemen. Thank you.
Legislation will help to Shape and Mold the Environment for which these Ideological struggles will emerge, converge, diverge, surge and Transform. In times like now, Laws can give Structured Discipline and Guidance to all of the Energies involved.

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