Terror struck Brussels today, 22 March 2016, at the beginning of Easter week. We saw the aftermath of the metro bombing from the office window. Some of us had passed through the airport only a few hours before the explosions there. Everybody is affected. Everybody is shocked. Everybody is asking how it will all end. Now everybody understands Kabul, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Gaza, Ankara, Istanbul, New York, Boston, London, Madrid, Glasgow, Paris and all the other places where people are blown out of existence in the name of we know not what.
It is difficult to work in a law office and argue legal niceties when barely 100 metres away, corpses are being put into body bags and the injured taken en masse to hospitals calling for blood donors. Law is designed to help us all live together. When it breaks down, one wonders, for a moment, if our skills are of any use. They are of course, but there are these doubting moments, like today, when we simply cannot apply them. So those who could went home. It’s been a black day. I write to make it less black.
My friend and the hardest working human rights activist I have ever met, Willy Fautré, wrote in an HRWF communiqué just an hour or so ago that in the light of the events in Brussels today and “the other recent terror attacks around the world, HRWF commits itself all the more to the vision of a world where life, dignity and freedom for everyone are universally respected. In such a world, violence has no place. Now it is up to all of us to create the peaceful and tolerant world in which we want to live”.
That is the perfect message for moments such as this.
Note its elements: life, dignity and freedom, being the fundamentals to be respected universally as part of a world vision and the responsibility of each and every one of us to create the world of peace and tolerance we all want to live in.
To achieve this we need collective enforcement. So let the British Government’s policy of individual human rights enforcement be quashed and buried as a dangerous aberration.
May also the peoples of the European Union understand that closer union means standing together not only when the going is good, but under all circumstances. Twenty five years ago, the BBC came to Brussels to interview Belgian schoolchildren on what they thought of the European Community. One seven year old said with a strong Flemish accent but in otherwise excellent English, “It means that when one country has a problem, the others will help it.” So, in simple terms, and today is a day we can and must speak like this, if we all have the same problem we must all help each other.
Let then the British people vote to help and to be helped by others.
The economic case for the UK’s membership of the EU is overwhelmingly powerful. It has been made by many, and in particular by the Economist, in terms all can understand. The environmental case for union is self-evident, as are the logistical, fiscal, law enforcement, cultural, social and all other cases. The EU is a force for good and for this it is to be cherished.
None of that is changed by the atrocities we have witnessed in Brussels today. But let these atrocities, and those elsewhere as well, draw us all closer together to resist the forces of evil that would drive us apart through fear, prejudice, ignorance and hatred. Because only by drawing together will we achieve “the peaceful and tolerant world in which we want to live”.Scott Crosby is an avocat (advocaat) in Belgium and a Scottish solicitor, and human rights officer of the European Criminal Bar Assocation