14 March 2006

Milosevic: Distorting justice

Should a tyrant's medical condition enable them to avoid or distort justice? Cybershrink investigates Milosevic.

Milosevic was a very evil man - a merciless opportunist, willing to do anything that would maintain and increase his power. He presided over appalling acts of genocide, rape and the massacre of a great many innocents. Some have said that, compared to earlier mass murderers, like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, his were smaller atrocities. That's like deciding that Jack the Ripper was a much nicer bloke than any other serial killer whose total score of victims was higher.

Megalomaniac power addicts, unhampered by personal conscience, tend to destroy and damage others on whatever scale is practical and convenient for them. They do as much as they can get away with. Just like economists speak of Maximum Sustainable Growth as a goal, so the tyrant seeks Maximal Sustainable Repression.

What suits them in the short term is often ultimately self-destructive, as well as obviously highly destructive towards others. Each of these odious despots inflicted enormous damage on their country, and ultimately brought about their own downfall. But only recently has there been even a realistic possibility that they might be brought to trial, let alone punished for their deeds and decision.

Old Boys Club
There's a sort of Old Boys Club that protects retired tyrants. If they're not killed by their own people during the unrest accompanying their ruin (like the awful Ceausescu and his wife); they often live a long, comfortable, wealthy and protected retirement - like Idi Amin.

It is far too rare for them to face justice in formal court proceedings. When they do, it is becoming rather common for them to use medical complaints, real, exaggerated or faked, in order to evade or postpone justice and to frustrate due process. Pinochet (and his ardent supporters) has twisted and schemed and avoided the justice he so obviously deserved, for many years now, pleading a range of medical complaints. After avoiding his just deserts for so many years, he then had the cheek to plead old age and senility as a reason for evading trial. And the legal system tends to pussyfoot around such men, being peculiarly protective and indecisive, in a manner they would never even momentarily consider where ordinary people face similar charges.

So the larger issue is: how much attention should be paid to the medical conditions and complaints of such VIP prisoners? Of course they should receive a full objective assessment by more than one neutral physician (not one selected by the prosecution or by their supporters) to establish what, if anything, is genuinely the matter. Then they should receive competent normal treatment according to generally accepted, international standards.

But they should stand trial without special concessions. Any ordinary accused serial killer with hypertension would have stood trial normally, without indulgence of his petulant complaints and protests. People who have spent years behaving as if they were above the law, must be tied fully in accordance with the law, and without special laws designed or interpreted so as to indulge them.

The VIP accused must not be allowed to use any medical condition they might have so as to evade justice (like Pinochet) or to greatly delay it (like Milosevic) - no more than any ordinary accused killer would be allowed. Their trial and sentence may be necessary not merely for themselves, but for the health of their society, and of the body politic itself. If they weren't too sick to oversee the death of many other people, they shouldn't be too readily assumed to be too sick to stand trial. - Prof M.A. Simpson, Health24's Cybershrink


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