There are those who say that a law, once made by the appropriate authority, is meant to be obeyed strictly. As a result, military decrees, edicts and what not, however odious, must be obeyed. Therefore, no matter how draconian, senseless, or downright stupid a law is, once it has been passed by whoever has the authority to make laws, it must be obeyed. For these people, the edicts of Adolf Hitler had as much legality as Acts of the British Parliament, and therefore, persons who murdered, raped, and plundered under these laws had committed no crime. So the wholesale slaughter of Jews and Russians was, in fact, legal.
A friend of mine recently expressed the view that if something is state policy, he had no choice but to obey. So, I asked him, “What if ‘state policy’ said you should kill your father?”
“That’s too personal,” was his reply. “Make it generic.”
“Ok. If state policy said ‘slap any woman seen on the street’, or ‘get a gun and kill anyone you see smiling’ would you?”
“I’d do it because it is state policy, and by acting under that policy, I have committed no crime.”
Needless to say, my jaw hit the floor with the speed of the Enterprise at Warp 12. I then reminded him that it is now established by law (he’s a lawyer by the way) that a soldier who follows an order he knows to be wrong cannot hide behind ‘orders are orders’, and this was established at the Nuremberg Trials of German War Criminals. He scoffed, and said that the Americans who organized the trials were just as guilty of war crimes for dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and murdering millions of innocent Japanese citizens, but the people who gave those orders were being celebrated today. I couldn’t argue with that because I do in fact believe that the use of those nukes was as criminal as anything the Nazis did, so I told him, war crimes are war crimes, and the fact that no one was brought to trial for nuking Japan doesn’t make that act any less of one. It just so happened that, at the time, the Americans happened to hold the whip hand, and naturally, wouldn’t put themselves on trial.
Others, however, say that on certain occasions, it would be legal to disobey a certain law, if it is in fact odious. It is such men of courage who gave the rest of us hope during the dark years of military dictatorship. That was the time we had activists on our judiciary who looked for any and all means to avoid throwing in the towel to decrees. It is such men who were responsible for ordering Gani Fawehinmi’s release from prison. Gani had been jailed under a military decree, which also ousted the jurisdiction of any court to hear any case brought under it. Gani then decided to seek his freedom by reminding the court of the international obligations of the government with regard to the African Charter on Human Rights, and he was freed. The government’s lawyers argued that Nigerian law should prevail, but the judges refused, stating that it was well known in international law that no state could plead internal policies as a valid ground for failing to observe its internationally recognized and accepted obligations.
For my friend, perhaps those judges were in error, for it was indeed state policy that you could be locked up for no reason, and the courts couldn’t do a damn thing about it because the state policy in question said it couldn’t be questioned by any court. Therefore, any court which looked for means to question the law was in violation of the state policy, and was therefore wrong.
And all this came about because of a trip to the cinema. He informed me that a young boy was told he couldn’t watch Die Hard 4 because he wasn’t accompanied by an ‘adult male’. I asked if an adult female was present, and he said yes, but it would take a man to explain things about war to the lad, hence the policy. I told him that was a lawsuit waiting to happen, and he said no one would challenge it because:
a) This wasn’t America.
b) It was ‘policy’.
If the policy said the boy (a teenager, by the way) must be accompanied by an adult, I’d have no problem, but for them to specify that in order to watch an action movie, he must be accompanied by an adult male, is way beyond dumb. In fact, I’d venture to say that it zips past dumb, hammers its way through colossally stupid, and zooms into the George W. Bush Exclusive Preserve Of Idiocy without so much as a tap on the brakes. But, my friend was not to be swayed. He asked what women knew of war and fighting, and how a woman could be expected to explain to the lad that what he was seeing was not real?! I wondered if he was therefore trying to say women were either too stupid to understand the concept of CGI (admittedly complex) or the far simpler concept of acting, but I didn’t point this out. And, given the fact that my friend is not given to the consumption of kparaga of any kind, cheap or otherwise, or any other consciousness altering substances, I was truly at a loss to explain his reasoning.
Perhaps next time the lad wishes to see a romantic movie (of the PG-13 variety, of course) he’ll require an adult female to explain the concepts of romance and love, an area where adult males lag (admittedly) dreadfully far behind their female counterparts.