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The Misrule of Law

To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS is republishing a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary, Ana Palacio showed how leaders who are more interested in authority than legality are using the language of the rule of law to legitimize their dictatorial behavior.

MADRID – Once upon a time, despots simply acted like despots. Nowadays, they dress up their dictatorships in the trappings of the rule of law.

Consider Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Less than a year after his narrow victory over opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential elections, Tymoshenko was arrested on trumped-up contempt charges. She is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for supposedly abusing her position as Prime Minister by signing a gas deal with Russia – and awaits the completion of two more trials.

Unlike most politically motivated trials, Tymoshenko’s case benefits from the oversight of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which recently ruled that her pre-trial detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights. But Yanukovych continues to feign respect for the rule of law, insisting that he cannot consider granting her a presidential pardon until the legal proceedings have been concluded.

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Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

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Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

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