08 October 2009

Italy opts for the rule of law

The rule of law simply means the law applies to everyone equally. It includes both governor and governed, but in its application it is most important when applied to the governors, to the people at the top. We at the bottom can be assured the law will be applied to us. We lack the power to avoid it. It is only when it is equally applied to the influential and the powerful that it has real meaning. The very intention of the rule of law is to safeguard against arbitrary governance.

We have seen a number of examples recently where attempts have been made to justify exceptions to the rule. Some conservatives have suggested the Bush Administration should be exempted as it was leading the country through perilous times. Some artists and politicians have suggested Roman Polanski should be exempted apparently because of his artistic stature. And then there was the legislation passed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government last year that gave him immunity from prosecution for as long as he remained prime minister.

The latter attempt to negate the rule of law has been struck down by Italy's constitutional court. Berlusconi may now have to face the music on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery. We shall wait with interest the fates of the Bush administration and Polanski.

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