I’ve just watched 12 Angry Men again. The key phrase used in the film is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – and unless the jury finds the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt, they must find him not guilty on so serious a charge it could lead to the death penalty. Well, now it seems we have been presented with all the evidence we need that two named Russians carried out the attempted Skripal murder. Putting to one side the fact that government ministers had reached their guilty verdict months before the evidence was found, perhaps there are now sufficient grounds to agree with them. Even though – even though – the evidence remains circumstantial. CCTV footage of two men walking around London or Salisbury is not in itself enough to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. The Guardian mentioned today that ‘traces’ of Novichok had been found in the men’s hotel. If so, that would go quite a long way to removing doubt, though why the alleged perpetrators would fiddle around with the nerve agent’s container in their hotel room does need explaining. Playing the role of Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, RT (Russia Today) seeks to question the veracity of the government’s line here.
It would be foolish to say the UK government’s position isn’t feasible, even if in so many other areas what they say is unfeasible (Brexit for example). But there is more explaining to do, and I think we should know more about Skripal’s ongoing work or contacts with MI6 – was he still active and if so, doing what? The British public, in Salisbury at least were exposed to risk and in classic ‘elf’n’safety’ speak, perhaps we ought to be told what risk assessments are made when double agents move in down your street.
Now let’s look at something completely different. Now that the Labour Party has adopted the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, some of the IHRA possible examples need to be examined in the light of recent events. Funnily enough, this includes Russia’s alleged dirty doings. In response to Skripal the UK government has sought tougher sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and other measures. OK, let’s say that that is fair enough, we don’t want to sit back in the face of political assassinations, here or anywhere else. Which begs the question, what sanctions has the government sought against Israel on account of its alleged program of systematic political assassination? Let’s recall that one IHRA example of possible anti-semitism is “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Isn’t it curious that notwithstanding the use of the word ‘democratic’ in this example, we are expecting of Russia a higher standard of behaviour than of Israel – since the UK government has not joined or called for any action to impose sanctions on the latter? Shouldn’t we expect the same standards from any country?
Is there evidence of Israel having a program of targeted political assassination? Judge for yourself here.
It’s a rather long list, starting in 1956, and since double standards can work both ways, it would seem that the UK government’s double standards in this case could well fall foul of the IHRA example, though not for the reasons intended. What makes the whole sanctions issue more laughable are the attempts by some, including the U.S. Congress to make support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement illegal. I am sure that western double standards don’t go unnoticed in the uncivilised rest of the world.
Incidentally, it was the issue of double standards that finally got to the last juror in 12 Angry Men, and made him change his mind to deliver the now unanimous not guilty verdict.