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Re: <nettime> Negri with Ballestrini to Battisti and on amnesty
Benjamin Geer on Sat, 22 May 2004 13:32:24 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Negri with Ballestrini to Battisti and on amnesty

Martin Hardie wrote:
> Benjamin has been big on trusting the law and its processes in this one ...

I simply think that the same rules should apply to everyone.  If we accept
that, say, the policemen who allegedly beat up activists in Genoa at the
G8 should be tried (as indeed they are being tried), then the same
principle should also apply to Battisti.

Or are you in favour of abandoning the whole notion of trials?  If so, I
would like to hear what you propose to introduce in its place.

> but Ben are they not alleged "crimes" or has Battisti been convicted en 
> absentia?

I need only repeat what I've already posted here:

"Only two years ago, [Battisti] declared that he accepted 'the political
and military responsibilities of what the 1970s were in Italy', adding, to
be entirely clear: 'I declare myself guilty and I am proud of it.'"

(From _La Repubblica_, reprinted in _Courrier International_, no. 697,
11-17 March 2004.)

That sounds like an unequivocal, unrepentant confession of guilt if I've
ever heard one.  But just hypothetically, even if Battisti proclaimed his
innocence, would we be required to take his word for it?  Is that how you
think the truth should be determined when someone is accused of murder?  
Perhaps, like me, you think there should be some sort of fair process for
distinguishing truth from falsehood in these cases.  That is in fact what
courtrooms are for.

> And what have the rights of victims got to do with a prosecution by the 
> State - crimes  are committed against the State, the Crown or the People 
> are they not? Victims don't come into it except to give evidence ...

Crimes are committed against individuals, and I think it's fair for
victims to seek reparation.  If you steal from me something that my
livelihood depends on, it's fair for you to have to give it back.  If you
take my life, clearly you can't give it back, but you will have made my
family suffer, and it seems to me that you owe them something.

If Battisti is indeed guilty as charged, his crimes have wrecked people's
lives, and he has profited from those crimes by using them as material for
his novels.  That, to me, seems outrageously unfair.

I don't wish to live in a society where one can kill and plunder to one's
heart's content, and make a profit by doing so, without any inconvenient
consequences for oneself.  Do you?

> Why all this faith in law and process?

Faith has nothing to do with it.  It seems to me that some concept of
fairness is inherent in all ethical systems practiced by human beings.  
The pratice of fairness is inconceivable without socially agreed-upon
processes that are recognised as fair, and some means of enforcing those
processes.  On any definition of fairness I can think of, if those
processes apply to anyone, they must apply to everyone.

The rule of law, as decided on by parliamentary democracy and implemented
by the courts, is certainly far from being perfectly fair.  But it is the
closest thing we have to such processes today.  I am all for replacing it
with something better.  But we currently have nothing to replace it with,
so the current alternative is 'anything goes', which strikes me as far
more terrifying than any legal system in use today.

> It doesn't seem to really reflect much except power does it?

Power is inherent in human society.  There are only different forms of
power, some more consensual, others less so.

> And why not an amnesty - what can a prosecution achieve - what does jail 
> achieve (save some good books by Negri ;-) ) what can a conviction 
> achieve - will the "victims" feel better for retribution? Surely here  
> we have moved beyond believing in such stuff?

What Negri fails to point out is that (to quote again from the same
article in _La Repubblica_) "[part of the French left] pretends to be
unaware that nearly all the former members of the Red Brigades, including
those who assassinated [Italian prime minister] Aldo Moro, have been
released from prison or are in semi-liberty, at least those who expressed

If I were Battisti, I would apologise publicly to my victims, agree to
assist the Italian legal system, and offer reparations to my victims and
their families.  I think that would be the right thing for him to do,
regardless of what the French courts decide.  And it wouldn't hurt his
chances of being granted amnesty by the Italian government, either.

I'm not in favour of retribution, but I think reparations are fair.  
However, if Battisti remains unrepentant and if, as it appears, he
couldn't care less about his victims, then I think a prison sentence for
him is, on balance, more ethical than allowing him to enjoy complete


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