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Law without ethics? February 10, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights , 1 comment so far

The Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet brings a thought-provoking piece this week by professor Hans Petter Graver, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo. In a recent book by novelist Kjartan Fløgstad, the way the law profession went into the service of Nazi Germany is put in a very bad light.

Professor Graver, far from leaping to the defense of his profession actually defends the depiction by Fløgstad, even giving it current relevance by drawing parallels between the reinterpretation of German law to accomodate Nazism and the reinterpretation of American law under Bush to legitimize coercive interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding” or even hitting a detainee in the face or stomach.

He points to a dangerous tendency within his own profession not to take a moral stand, insist there are two sides to every issue and be servile to government. This may be done under the guise of a neutrality necessary for preserving the rule of law even under bad regimes, but it requires ignoring the original intent of the law, ripping the very foundation out from under the system in the process. There are good examples of the law profession participating in the defense against external enemies, but in defending the rule of law against perversion by internal enemies, the historical record is not very good.

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