Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Keep going, British Council

In my experience, generally in litigation when your side is being reasonable and the other unreasonable, the wise strategy is just to go on being reasonable. After all, sooner or later each side's behaviour will be considered by a judge who is professionally reasonable and fair, and will take a dim view of the unreasonable side. So it was good to hear about our ambassador in Moscow's polite but firm stance yesterday when the Kremlin gave him a reprimand for the fact that the British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg (somewhere in the Urals, I gather) have reopened, despite an order from the Russian Government to close them. Russian officials have described the action against the British Council as a retaliatory measure. If the British Council is really doing something wrong then the Russian Government should deal with the problem by fair and proper procedures. And if, as seems on the cards, in due course this comes before the International Court of Justice, the judges are unlikely to be impressed by bullying tactics.
In English law, unless I am mistaken, government by edict was proclaimed illegal during the reign of Charles I (by Sir Edward Coke, CJ, who told him he only had such powers as the law of the land allowed: see The Case of Proclamations, 1611). If the Russian legal system cannot enforce such a principle, it is scarcely functioning as such.

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