The Misrule of Law

Legality has emerged as the basis of authority in the modern world, replacing tradition and charismatic leadership. The problem is that those who are more interested in authority than legality are using the language of the rule of law to legitimize their dictatorial behavior, weakening the rule of law in the process.

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 Yulia 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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