Op-Ed Commentary by Chris Devonshire-Ellis – April 04th, 2022
It is not cool, or politically correct right now to be holding up any banner of resistance to actions against Russia, however there are aspects of the West’s sanctions that leave a great deal to be desired. These reduce, not increase, democratic values in the West, in addition to conveniently by-passing any normal legal due process, a fundamental part of ensuring the freedoms we enjoy are maintained. Due process is the right to an examination of facts, to ensure that the innocent are protected. That right has been removed from multiple Russian nationals, and is a serious cause for concern. Why? Because in removing due process – what could today be Russian’s could tomorrow be you. It is an insidious movement by the West to decrease individuals rights, and consequently is a threat to democracy. Yet no-one has raised a finger – alarming in the extreme.
Personally, I neither care or have much truck with businessmen who blow their wealth on expensive luxuries rather than use their money for perhaps more worthy causes. Greed, however is universal, and isn’t only indulged in by Oligarchs.
But what is more abbhorent than the displays of excessive, individual wealth have been the state mechanisms used to take that wealth away. Russians are being targetted because of whom they may know, or have met in the past. No criminal activity, home, or overseas, has been discussed in courts of law. No evidence presented to either prove, or disprove alleged facts. There is also no apparent leave for appeal.
The most highly visible oligarch, Roman Abramovich – Russian and Jewish – has been singled out for sanctions despite no-one actually accusing him of any crime. This is a man who has invested billions into the UK in particular, yet is now having his wealth systematically removed without any criminal cases being brought against him. Instead, the punishment meted out to him appears to be because he has met Vladimir Putin.
I too, have met Vladmir Putin, albeit it at a distance. I once asked him, at the APEC conference in Shanghai in 2001 whether or not North Korea should be considered as a guest attendee. (Kim Jong-Il had visited Moscow a month earlier). Regionally, North Korea is an APEC nation, and influential, albeit in terms of regional risk assessments. The question, which raised audible gasps among the American contingent were answered at some length by Putin, we had a brief conversation. Should I be sanctioned for it?
I have also, over the years, attended other conferences in Bali, St.Petersburg and Vladivostok and heard the man talk about global geopolitics, with recent guests among them being Chinese President Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan among them. I am guilty of have been in Putin’s presence on numerous occasions. Should someone repossess my house and give it to refugees in an unquestioned penance for my quite deliberate actions?
And this is the issue – decisions are being made by nameless politicians, without any recourse to transparency, decision-making or any logical rationale – concerning the removal of people’s property without the need to go through the courts. It is the presumption of guilt with no opportunity to prove innocence. There is no argument. You are guilty, we take your possessions away. This is what Vladimir Putin means when he uses words like ‘Nazism’. It is a reduction of legal process, due process and by-passes any notion of the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ maxim – except that in these cases no crime appears to have been committed. The West, for all its shouting from the rooftops about ‘democratic values’, ‘transparency’ and ‘individual human rights’ appears to have forgotten about these values when it comes to Russians.
But next time, it might not be just Russians. It could be Indians. Or billionaires. Or even you, if you have visited Russia or any other country deemed ‘unfriendly’ to the West. “Have you visited China recently? We’re going to freeze your bank account or stop you working until you denounce Beijing”. Which is exactly what has happened to Russian musicians Valery Gergiev and the singer Anna Netrebko, although in their cases they were asked to denounce Putin. But you get the point.
I don’t care for the Russian Oligarchs. But I do care about the whole concept of due process. What is happening is a very slippery, totally law-ignoring, slope with a complete lack of transparency.
Or maybe, we should just call it what it is: State-sanctioned theft.
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