III. Раскройте скобки, употребив глагол в нужной видо-вре- менной форме.
1. In a year we (to study) criminal law. 2. The case is rather complicated. The jury still (to discuss) a verdict. 3. The convicted person just (to take) to prison. 4. Don't come in! The court (to sit). 5. The doctor said that the victim (to kill) a few hours before.
IV. Из 1-го абзаца текста выпишите предложения, содержащие слова с суффиксом -ing. Определите, какой частью речи они являются.
V. Подчеркните в следующих предложениях инфинитив и определите его форму и функцию.
1. То grant pardon is the prerogative of the Crown. 2. They must have been arrested over a year ago. 3. The victim is the first person to be interviewed. 4. He seems to be investigating a criminal case. 5. A student must pass a group of examinations to obtain a law degree. 6. The aim of the preliminary investigation is to draw up an indictment.
VI. Переведите предложения, содержащие конструкции с неличными формами глагола.
1. The lower chamber having passed the bill, it went to the upper chamber. 2. For any state to become a member of the United Nations it is necessary to accept the obligations under its Chapter.3.They want the execution of the sentenced to be postponed.4.Nobody expected her to testify against her brother. 5. The Queen's Counsels are expected to appear only in the most important cases. 6. He was reported to be preparing an account of the indictment.
VII. Раскройте скобки, употребив нужную форму глагола в придаточных условных предложениях.
1. If the jury (to consider) a prisoner guilty, the judge pronounces a sentence. 2. He would have never taken the case if the barrister (not to believe) in his innocence. 3. If the investigator (to have) more evidence, he would be able to prove the case.
VIII. Переведите предложения, обращая внимание на функции и значение слов it и one.
1. It is not easy to investigate a criminal case. 2. As the trial was open to the public many people attended it. 3. It was the Prison Act (1865) which introduced a new, approach to imprisonment in England. 4. A «writtenconstitution» is one thewhole of which is contained in one or more documents which possess the force of law. 5. One must observe traffic rules.
IX. Определите тип подчинения. В бессоюзных придаточных предложениях отметьте, где может находиться союз.
1. Roman law is one of the greatest systems that has ever existed. 2 They assumed they would be dealing with a gang of dangerous criminals. 3. The Queen formally appoints the judges on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor who makes the real selection.
Judicial control over the legislature was introduced in the Soviet Union in 1989, during Gorbachev's era in the form of the Committee for Constitutional Supervision. It was not a real court and its findings only had limited weight, but it proved eager to emphasise the human rights norms of the Constitution.
The first Russian constitutional court started on 6 May, 1991. The Supreme Soviet decided to establish a genuine court that was separated from the regular court system. The court could also take complaints from individuals. However, it had wide discretion in deciding whether it wished to review human rights complaints. The court concentrated on cases involving the separation of powers and giving the flood of appeals by individuals less attention.
The task of the first Constitutional Court was not easy. The court was often criticised in the press and by legal specialists and was later condemned in legal textbooks for politicising cases. The involvement of the court in the power struggle between the legislature and the President was inevitable but proved to be destructive to the court itself.
President Yeltsin solved his disputes with the Constitutional Court with the same kinds of methods as with the Parliament. He did not dissolve the court, as he did the Parliament, but he suspended the court. After eliminating both the Parliament and the Constitutional Court, Yeltsin had free hands to adopt the new Constitution, which was also clearly needed to legitimise new power and to end the power struggle.
According to the Constitution of 1993, the Constitutional Court can rule on the constitutionality of federal laws, presidential decrees, constitutions of the republics and international treaties that are not yet in force. The court can examine cases on request. The President, the Council of the Federation, the State Duma, one fifth of the deputies of the Duma or of the members of the Council of the Federation, the Government, both Supreme Courts or the executive or legislative organs of the subjects of the Federation have the right to make a request.
The court can no longer start a case on its own initiative, as it did when banning Yeltsin's decree on establishing an extraordinary situation. Regular courts can also request it to examine the constitutionality of applying a law in concrete cases.
According to the previous law on the Constitutional Court, an individual was allowed to petition the court on the basis of a violation of his or her human rights. The right of an individual to petition the Constitutional Court is unclear in the present Constitution but, according to the present Law on the Constitutional Court of 1994, the Court only examines such cases brought to the court by individuals concerning the constitutionality of laws.
It cannot examine the constitutionality of individual decisions of the authorities, for example, of the President, based on these legal norms. Furthermore, citizens cannot challenge the constitutionality of presidential decrees and governmental decrees or lower legal norms. Often, cases brought to the court by individuals have concerned tax law or criminal law regulations. The new limitation was based on the fear of the Court collapsing under the weight of the number of cases to review law application practices. In cases involving human rights violations, a citizen can turn to the ordinary courts, based on the law of the court system of 27 April ,1993. The possibility of turning to the procuracy also exists.
The Constitutional Court has an important role in clarifying obscure rules of the Constitution. It is a difficult task since many provisions were left unclear since no political compromise was reached. The Court must find a legal solution to continue the work of the drafters of the Constitution. Since the clash with the President, the Court seems to have returned to a cautious and narrow legal positivist interpretation. In numerous decisions, the Court has clarified badly drafted technical rules.
The result has been that the cases have been decided mostly in favour of the President. The most extreme case was the one declaring the secret presidential decrees starting the Chechen war constitutional. The Court has realised its role as the legitimiser of Federal executive power. The court has had the same problem, which its predecessor already faced.
Neither federal nor regional authorities obey the decisions. Ignoring the decisions of the constitutional court is based on tradition, which knows only insider control and knows no actual limits on the power of the State organs. The reluctance in implementing the decisions of the Constitutional Court challenges the legitimacy of the Court. It also reflects the peculiar asymmetrical federalism in Russia.
According to the Constitution, the court system is Federal in Russia. Thus, the courts, from the first to the third or fourth instance, are all Federal. The Federal Law of 31 December 1996 regulating the court system, however, also recognises regional courts. They can be courts of the first instance (mirovye sudi) and are also regulated by regional legislation.
Appeals from a regional court to the federal courts is available, but how this can take place and to which level is not yet certain. The subjects of the federation, however, have not started to establish their own competing regional court systems except in Chechnya. Making mirovye sudi regional, however, is one of the compromises giving the regions more weight, but making them partly responsible for the costs.
The federal courts are divided into two different systems - ordinary courts and courts for commercial disputes. The latter are for disputes between commercial enterprises, individuals and enterprises, and between enterprises and the State. In 1931, economic courts were established to settle the disputes between State enterprises. These courts were called arbitration courts; they were permanent courts, administrative in nature.
The arbitration court system was preserved after the collapse of the planned economy, since the judges of arbitration courts were regarded as the only judges with at least some kind of experience in business transaction disputes. Most of the cases in arbitration courts deal with taxation, as well as many cases dealing with breaches of contracts, company law disputes and bankruptcies are taken before arbitration courts. Other civil law (mostly family law), criminal, and administrative cases go to ordinary courts.
Ordinary courts function in three instances. The first instance is the rayon-level court. The appeal level is a city court in big cities or oblast courts in oblasts. The highest instance is the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, in Moscow.
Both Russian civil and criminal procedure is oral. The decisions, however, are often based on written documents and it is therefore important not to rely on the oral procedure. The principle of lis pendens is not quite established in Russia. There can be several competing decisions from different courts on the same case. This problem, however, is diminishing.
The Constitution emphasises the independence of judges and the judicial system from the executive and legislative power. According to the Constitution, it is the President of the Federation who appoints judges. He is considered to be above the political parties. A panel of judges accepts the candidates prior to the appointment in order to ensure of the independence of the courts and the quality of the judges.
Earlier, judges' posts were not permanent and they were elected. Independence has also been guaranteed by regulating that a judge cannot be accused, other than on criminal basis. Charges can only be raised after a panel of judges has approved them.
Judges belonged to the nomenklatura and had great privileges during the Soviet era. Many economic privileges, such as free apartments, have been preserved in many places. Immunity is still guaranteed by the Constitution and in the federal law on the court system. In practice, however, the working conditions, especially in the countryside, are often poor. Telephones or other equipment is lacking and official residences are not available.
Legislation regulating the court system emphasises the right to a salary and that it can not be diminished. The State has paid a much attention to the salaries of judges compared to others. It is understandable in the present situation, since temptations for accepting bribes increase when a salary is low or not paid on time.
Despite all the difficulties in developing the rule of law in a corrupted and economically-weak society, the courts have been able to develop the rule of law considerably. The role of the courts is important in the Russian transition. Independence has given them both prestige and confidence. The development of a commercial law has given new tasks and more power to the legal system.
The rule of law is emphasised in legal education, and the courts have been able to apply formal legal rules emphasising their importance instead of informal rules. Court cases were previously not an official source of law. The text of the law was emphasised as the starting point of judgements. Nowadays, court cases are increasingly commented upon and criticised in textbooks. In this way, the importance of case law has grown and has also increased the importance of courts and judges.
The procuracy is a very old and very Russian institution, stemming from the times of Peter the Great. In the Russian Federation, the decision to create a unified Russian procuracy was taken on 15 November 1991. The Procurator General of the RSFSR accepted jurisdiction over all procuracy agencies on Russian territory. In January 1992, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet adopted the Law on Procuracy, which was amended on October 1995 to incorporate the provisions of the Constitution of 1993.
According to the Constitution and the Federal law, the procuracy is a unified and centralised system of procuracy agencies and institutions of the General Procuracy, under which the procuracies of the subjects of the Federation function. In practice, though, procuracy is not completely centralised. In some republics, such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Tuva, the procurator works under the supervision of the legislative organ of the Republic. Some subjects of the Federation also have republican procurators, as well as the federal procurator, who are responsible for the Republic.
Besides the general procuracy, there are also a number of specialised procuracies, for instance the military and transport procuracy. Apart from being the prosecuting authority, the procuracy is also a supervising institution. It has general supervision over the execution of laws by federal ministries and departments and the respective bodies of the subjects of the federation, agencies of local self-government, military administration agencies and officials and over the conformity to the laws of legal acts issued by them.
A procurator may react on a violation of law by submitting a recommendation to eliminate the violation, bring a protest against a legal act that is contrary to a law, or apply to a court to demand that a legal act be deemed invalid. The procurator may also initiate civil proceedings for recovery.
Protest does not mean that the agency, which issued the act, must necessarily accept the protest - it can also be rejected. The procuracy cannot protest decrees of the Government or laws of the Federal Assembly being inconsistent with the Constitution, but the Procurator General has the right to bring inconsistencies to the attention of the President of the Federation. The Procurator does not have the power to take a case before the Constitutional Court. Supervision over human rights is new to the procuracy. The procuracy also supervises the execution of the laws by agencies effectuating operational search activities, inquiry, or preliminary investigation.
Russian judicial system (description)
The RF Supreme Court is a higher judicial body dealing with civil, criminal, administrative and other cases considered to be within their authority by general jurisdiction courts supervising their activity.
The judicial system in Russia is structured according to two basic principles, implying that decisions and sentences which
The Russian judicial system consists of: the RF Supreme Court, republic supreme courts, okrug courts, regional courts, Moscow and St.Petersburg city courts, autonomous region courts, autonomous okrug courts, district (city) courts and did not come into force can be appealed only once and only at the immediately superior court. Higher courts’ decisions and sentences cannot be appealed or protested. In civil and criminal cases there are courts of primary jurisdiction, courts of appeal and higher courts, which arbitrate lower courts sentences and decisions already in force.
Special courts — the Constitutional Court, whose authorities are defined by the Constitution, and the Higher Court of Arbitration — play a particular role in the exercising of judicial power in Russia.
98—99% of all civil and criminal cases are judged by general courts at the lowest levels, called people’s (district and city) courts. They also judge administrative offenses, complaints about unlawfulness and unfounded arrests and implement courts’ decisions concerning property confiscation etc. There are 2,454 public (district or city) courts in Russia with 13,000 judges. 85 courts of the RF (region, krai, and republic) with a staff of 2,800 judges constitute the next link of general courts. They judge the most difficult cases, taken on at their own initiative, cases where death sentences may be given. They also regulate the lawfulness and validity of sentences and other public court decisions which did not come into force.
A small family business
“One last job”, thought Jack Robino. “One last job, then I’ll finally retire.” Jack already knew that it was time to retire, to give up working and go and collect his pension like other people of his age. He’d been doing this job for a long time now, as many years as he could remember, and he had to admit to himself that he was getting too old. This was a young man’s job.
He wasn’t as quick as he had been in the past. Now he moved more slowly. He had a pain in his knee which he thought was probably arthritis. Now Jack found it difficult to understand all the latest technological advances. And then there was all the pressure, the stress and the risks that a job like his had. Now there was much more pressure, stress and risk than when he had started. Such a long time ago, Jack thought to himself, more than thirty years now. I started doing this job before my son was born. The job was so much easier in those days, thought Jack. It was always much more simple, quick and easy to get a job done then. No, he thought again, now it was definitely time to quit. But before I quit, I’ll do one last job.
With the money he had earned he had bought himself a big house up in the countryside, a long way from the city where he worked, up in New England. Sometimes he went up there at weekends, and spent time in his big country house enjoying the peace and quiet. He was looking forward to spending his retirement there. The money I make from one last job, thought Jack, will be enough to make it possible for me to drive up to my big house in New England and never have to come back again. Think of that!
Even though the risks and the pressure and the stress of his job were so much greater now, Jack had to admit that – at least - the pay was so much greater too! Now he earned nearly ten times what he earned when he started. His pay had risen ten times over. This, of course, had made him a rich man. A successful businessman, that was how he thought of himself.
In his house in the country, Jack planned to spend more time with his son, Jack Junior. “I hardly know my son”, thought Jack to himself. “I’ve spent so much time with my job and my work that I’ve neglected my son. That’s a terrible thing, and I must change it. Now that I’m going to retire I can spend more time with my son, that’s important.” Jack knew that his son had recently got married. Jack was hoping to have grandchildren soon.
“It’ll be nice to have the grandchildren up at my big house” he thought. “I’ll be able to spend lots of time with them when I retire, after this last one job.” He heard from his son once a month or so. It was usually just a quick telephone call. Jack didn’t even really know what his son did. He knew that he hadn’t finished university. That didn’t matter so much to Jack. He himself had never been very good at school. Jack was proud of the fact that everything he knew he had taught himself. There was no university that could teach you to do his kind of work anyway.
Jack Junior always seemed to have lots of money, though. That was important. He also seemed to be travelling a lot. When he phoned his father, he was always in some faraway place. Sometimes he was in California, in Los Angeles or San Francisco, sometimes he was in Texas, or Chicago. Once he was in Mexico, and another time he even called from London. Jack was happy that his son was seeing the world, even if he couldn’t spend much time with his father.
One last job. Today was the day. For the last time, Jack went to the cupboard where he kept the equipment he needed for his job. He opened the cupboard and took out everything that was in it. Two rifles, each with a silencer. One very small pistol which he could put in his pocket, and one larger one that he put in a holster under his jacket. The larger pistol also had a silencer which he took with him. He cleaned the pistols and the rifles carefully, loaded them with bullets then put the rifles in their cases and went outside and put them in the boot of his car. He made sure he had the small pistol in his pocket, and that the bigger one was safe in his holster. Safety was very important in his line of work. Then Jack Robino drove off into the middle of the city to do one last job.
Jack parked his car at the usual place. He always stopped at a telephone box on the corner of Madison Avenue and West 42nd Street, near the Grand Central Station, just next to a bar that he liked. He knew that his employer was going to call him on that phone in exactly five minutes. He checked his watch. He sat in the car for three minutes. Then he got out of the car and stood next to the phone.
Two minutes later, the telephone rang. He picked it up immediately. There was the usual voice on the end of the line. It was his employer’s voice. It was the voice that always called when there was a job to be done. He had heard this voice now for more than thirty years, always telling him what to do, where to go, who to look for. He had never met the man who owned this voice. Jack didn’t care. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t important who owned the voice. The voice told him what to do, he did it, the money arrived later. It was a good business arrangement. The voice spoke.
“Single white male. Aged 32. Short black hair. He’ll be driving a black Mercedes sports car. He will be alone. He will drive past Central Park South in precisely one hour, then go into the car park of the Seadale Building approximately ten minutes later.” The phone went dead. Jack had as much information as he needed.
He now had one hour to choose the best position to do the jb. It wasn’t too difficult. The Seadale Building was only a few minutes drive from whee he was now. He knew it well already. He had worked there before. It was a big building full of lawyers’ offices, and some very expensive apartments. It was the kind of place a lot of people in Jack’s line of worked lived or worked. To go into the car park of the Seadale Building it was necessary to stop at a barrier first. There was a barrier across the entrance. To open the barrier, you had to stop your car, roll down the window and put a ticket in a machine. When you put your ticket in the machine, the barrier went up and you could drive into the car park. It was a good spot. The barrier was automatic. Nobody worked there. The car park was underground, so it was quite dark, and there were very few people around. Jack could easily wait until the right car came, wait for the driver to roll down his window, and then...well, one shot would be enough. It would be quick, clean and without problems. Nobody would see him. He could easily put the gun back in his pocket and disappear. Nobody expected a respectable 65 year-old man to be a killer.
He chose the gun he needed. The large pistol would do the job. Perfect. He put it in its holster under his jacket, and put the silencer in his pocket. He had an hour. He went to the bar he liked near Grand Central Station where he sat down to read the newspaper and have a coffee. He couldn’t spend too much time there, he knew. He didn’t want anybody to remember seeing him there. Still, it was a busy place, and because it was next to the station, there were lots of people coming and going all the time. He checked his watch. He still had lots of time. He got up and took the bus to its stop just outside the Seadale Building. He was still early. He walked around the block, stopping every now and then to look in a shop window. He checked his watch again. About 30 minutes to go. He wasn’t nervous. He didn’t get nervous anymore. He was used to it. He just felt tired now. Still, this was the last one, he told himself again, this one was the last job. He was thinking more about his nice big house in the country, and the days he wanted to spend with his family.
It was definitely time to retire. The job had become more violent over the last few years. Before, he thought of himself as a businessman who did jobs for a client. It was always quick and efficient. Today, he found things more difficult. It wasn’t only because he was older and not as quick as he was when he was young. He had had enough of violence. Some of the people around today seemed to enjoy what they did far too much. It wasn’t really an enjoyable job, thought Jack, but it was usually a necessary one. For Jack, it was just a job. A job similar to any other. No job is really morally innocent, he thought. People who work in banks take money from poor people. He knew a lot of lawyers who defended people they knew were guilty. Politicians were all corrupt, he thought. His job was no worse than any other. Jack never worried about the people who were his targets. That was how he thought of them “targets”, “objectives”, “goals” even, but never “people”. Most of the people who were his targets were gangsters or corrupt politicians. Perhaps they had some family, but he wasn’t really getting rid of any good people. Jack thought that the world was probably a better place without a lot of the people he worked with.
He checked his watch again. Only ten minutes to go now. He decided to take his place. He knew exactly where the entrance to the car park in the Seadale Building was. It was on a backstreet, not one of the main streets, so there were no people around to see him as he walked along the small road which went under the building into the basement car park.
Five minutes to go. He found a good place in a dark corner at the entrance to the car park. From here he could see everyone who was coming into the car park. A couple of cars passed. A red sports car, a big grey 4x4. He was sure nobody could see him. Jack Robino was a professional, an expert. Then it came. A black Mercedes sports car. Jack touched the pistol in its holster. He was ready. He took one step forward out of the shadows. He put his finger on the trigger. Now. He began to pull the gun out of its holster. But. No. Wait. Stop. Stop!!!
This wasn’t a single white male. It was a woman. She was blonde. She had a child on the seat behind her. Jack stopped immediately and took one step backward, back into the shadow of the corner. He hoped the woman hadn’t seen him. Be careful. Be very, very careful. Jack had never once made a mistake in his job in over thirty years. You couldn’t make mistakes in a job like Jack Robino’s. One mistake meant you were finished for ever. Jack breathed carefully. He had nearly made a terrible mistake. He was getting too old for this job. He knew it. Still, this was the last one.Next car. Again. A black Mercedes sports car. Here it was. This was the one. Driving the car was a 32 year-old white man. He had short black hair. It was him. And Jack Robino recognised him. This was his man, his target, his goal, his objective. But Jack Robino didn’t do anything. He looked again at the driver of the car. He held out his gun but he didn’t shoot it.
“Hi Dad!” said the man driving the car. Jack Junior looked surprised to see his father. “What are you doing here?”
A Prisoner’s Plea
August 16, 1988
The Honorable H. Calvin Spain The Curcuit Court of Virginia Beach Municipal Center Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456
IN RE: Joseph Roger O'Dell, III -v- Commonwealth of Virginia Dear Judge Spain:
I have been in contact with Dr. Robert Schaler of "Lifecodes" Laboratories in Valhalla, New York, getting pertinent information concerning DNA Fingerprinting and the prerequisites of having evidence sent to his laboratory for testing the above-referenced case.
The first step is obiously [sic] making a request for the evidence to be released to "Lifecodes" and a "Chain of Custody" established. I would like to request that all the serological evidence in the above-referenced case be prepared by a person not connected to the Police Department or the Prosecution, and that this person be delegated by this Honorable Court to deliver this evidence to a "Federal Express" Office and have the evidence shipped directly to Doctor Robert Schaler, "Lifecodes," Old Saw Mill Road, Valholla, New York 10595. . .
"Lifecodes" has an impeccable reputation, and is used by Police Departments and Prosecutors Offices all over America, so I do not anticipate any objections from the Commonwealth concerning their credentials. Further, I do not think the Commonwealth would want to object to the DNA Fingerprint Testing being done in this case... it is in their best interests as well as mine. They do not want an innocent person being executed and this test will prove innocence or guilt to an acceptable "Absolute Certainty." It is so acceptable that VIRGINIA is setting up their own DNA Testing Laboratories and are training personnel to conduct the testing.
If I were not innocent of this crime I would have to be insane or non compos mentis [sic] to request DNA Fingerprinting. I believe that the Commonwealth of Virginia owes me this chance to prove my innocence, and on the other hand, they owe themselves the opportunity to KNOW that they either have the RIGHT or WRONG man on Death Row. This is no "Self-Serving" request Judge Spain... this request affords me the chance to prove my innocence, and it affords the Commonwealth of Virginia the chance to prove guilt. One of us has to be wrong...we both cannot be right, and I am the one that is adamantly professing my innocence....now I have the chance to prove it. If the Commonwealth of Virginia refuses to allow me this chance, then it is going to appear that they are hiding something, and further, it will appear that DNA Fingerprinting is being used to only CONVICT accused persons. This is an opportune time for Law Enforcement to prove that they protect the Innocent as well as prosecute the Guilty.
I ask this Hornorable Court, humbly, to consider this request and allow me the chance to prove my innocence.
Joseph Roger O'Dell, III
"My heart burnt within me with indignation and grief; we could think of nothing else. All night long we had only snatches of sleep, waking up perpetually to the sense of a great shock and grief. Every one is feeling the same. I never knew so universal a feeling."
The quote above was the reaction of Elizabeth Gaskell, an English writer, on hearing of the shooting of US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865; but it could well describe the feelings of millions on November 22nd 1963 when another US president fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. The event so etched itself into the collective memory that years after people could remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. There are few other types of historical moment that affect so many people in quite this way.
When in Rome
Back in the days of the Roman Empire, being the top dog was just as risky a business and assassination was an occupational hazard. If you take a look at the long list of emperors who met their death at the hands of others, you wonder what made the job so attractive. In the period between 284 and 41 BC, more than half of the 40 or so emperors came to a premature and violent end while in office, often at the hands of the soldiers who were supposed to protect them - from Heliogabalus down to Claudius and Julius Caesar, not forgetting Caligula this very week in AD 41.
Where it all began
The earliest known examples of assassination may be in Iran, where three Kings were done away with after palace intrigue in the 5th century BC. The father of Alexander the Great, Phillip of Macedon, received his coup de grâce in similar fashion a century later. The word itself is supposed to derive from an 11th century religious sect in Iran called the Assassins or Hashishim, who saw it as their duty to eliminate enemies in this way, their name coming possibly from their habit of eating hashish.
Throughout history, political or religious succession has often been a bloody affair. In virtually every society, the phenomenon repeats itself. In the United States, four presidents have been assassinated, most recently of course John F Kennedy on that day in Dallas, Texas in 1963. In Russia three Tsars have perished in the same way. In Italy seven Popes, in Egypt, one President and two Prime Ministers, in France three kings, including the last…or was that merely execution?
So what exactly constitutes an assassination? The word always implies the murder of someone important, usually involved in politics. And the assassin is sometimes doing it for money, but more often for a cause. The Anarchists of late 19th century Europe saw it as a legitimate political weapon which would cause the downfall of the whole ruling hierarchy: President Carnot of France, the Empress of Austria, and King Umberto I of Italy were all sacrificed to this philosophy, although the edifice refused to crumble. Political extremists of the Far Left followed the same path in Italy and Germany in the 1970s. At certain points in history, however, such acts can set off a far larger chain of violence, as occurred after the slaying of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austro-Hungary in 1914 or the Prime Minister of Rwanda in 1994.
Democratisation of death
The demise of absolute rulers in the 20th century hasn’t put an end to this type of selective killing. Prime Minister was just as dangerous a position to occupy as king or emperor before it; Afghanistan, Burundi, India, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Rumania, South Africa, and Sri Lanka are among the nations that have had at least one PM assassinated at some point. A certain ruler of the United Kingdom narrowly escaped death from a bomb meant for her in 1984.
Political activists are also seen as legitimate targets for assassination by those who disagree with their views. Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Chico Mendes immediately spring to mind. More recently, it is powerful men in the world of business and law who have become prey to the dedicated assassin. In Europe, since the 1980s, German industrialists, Greek ship owners, Spanish bank directors and Italian judges have all been bumped off.
Other states are sometimes involved in assassination by proxy: a prime example being SS leader Heydrich in Czechoslovakia during WWII, killed by resistance fighters on the orders of the UK government intelligence service. The involvement of foreign powers is suspected but still unproven in other cases: Salvador Allende, Prime Minister of Chile and Samora Machel, President of Mozambique, are but two; Belgium has now apologised for the part its intelligence services played in the death in 1961 of Patrice Lumumba, PM of Congo.
Give us the tools…
And how has the assassin plied his trade? In ancient times, the knife was favoured for a quick end and poisoning for a slower lingering death, while in modern times it is usually the gun, but not only. The bomb, the plane crash, the ice-pick and the exploding cigar have all been employed. And as for that infamous Russian personal lifestyle coach, Rasputin, poisoning, shooting, beating and drowning were all apparently necessary before he finally gave up the ghost.
The ones that got away
Which brings me to the subject of assassinations that failed. Cuba’s Fidel Castro must hold the record for the political leader who has survived the most attempts to get rid of him. He has employed a food taster for decades as did Roman emperors of old. In England, one plot that failed to kill the King James I and the entire parliament in 1605 is still commemorated to this day every November with fireworks and bonfires to symbolise the explosives the conspirators tried to use.
Inexplicable And what about those public figures who were targeted out of the blue? I have always thought it rather bizarre that anyone would want to murder John Lennon or Andy Warhol, not to mention Olof Palme, the Prime Minister, and recently Anna Lindh, the Foreign Minister, of Sweden, one of the world’s most peaceful societies. It just goes to show you don’t have to be a tyrant or involved in a power struggle to be the victim of a madman.
One persistent feature of assassinations are the conspiracy theories that go with them - did the marksman really act alone? Conspiracies are not difficult to construct. Ask yourself who would have wanted the victim dead and then collect a few facts about the crime that don’t quite tally. Add in the obvious point that high-ranking figures are often involved with the secret services and have access to sensitive information that ordinary citizens are not allowed to see, and you have yourself a very fertile mixture which can keep those with an active imagination busy for years .
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