Yesterday I commented on the fact that the organizers of next week's meeting between EU and African leaders couldn't see their way to excluding Robert Mugabe. In that connection I spoke of political interests and calculations hampering the development of international law. A counter-argument to the case for excluding him doesn't surprise me one bit if it is made in the simple instrumental terms that securing the participation of other African leaders is more important than is penalizing Mugabe and his regime. Simon Tisdall, however, adds another dimension by turning Gordon Brown's refusal to attend the meeting if Mugabe does into a matter of playground ethics. Tisdall regrets the desire of Brown to 'hide from dictators'. He tells us that 'the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has argued that Mugabe's critics should tell him what they think face-to-face'. You might imagine that the issue is about whether Brown has the guts to be in the same room as this miserable tyrant; or is about Mugabe's just needing to be, like, told - told to his face where he has gone wrong so that he might see the light - rather than its being, as I argued yesterday, about applying meaningful penalties against state criminality.
Apropos: if this report (via Mick) is to be believed, the other African nations participating in the EU meeting now want not only that Mugabe should be there as well, but that he shouldn't be subjected to criticism. How very reasonable! What is thought, by those who make them, to be the justification for demands such as these? That European nations have no business taking a view about what African leaders do? I don't know. I'd like to see that justification articulated and defended. All these leaders and these states are part of an international system signed up to conventions, treaties and, generally, standards, the implication of which is that anybody and any country is free to take a view about the conduct of any government anywhere.