Posted in Huffington Post on 17.06.2015
2015 is a year of commemorations and during the last few days I had the privilege to attend three symbolic events with profound historic resonance.
On 13 June, it was Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Parade, with the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards trooping the Queen’s Colour to mark the British National Day and their centenary year. It was the 8th Trooping the Colour that I have attended as Ambassador of Romania to the Court of St James’s. This ceremony is always impressive because is a homage to those who protect the realm and defend the freedom. This year we also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2 and the 70th anniversary of the creation of United Nations Organisation. But probably the most acclaimed celebration is of Magna Carta Libertatum.
Since the beginning of 2015, hundreds of events were organized to mark 800 years since Magna Carta was sealed. Two of them were of a particularly poignant significance to me. One took place on 14 June at the Temple Church, in London, the other on 15 June at Runnymede, near Windsor.
The celebration of Magna Carta at the Temple Church was special because during the crisis of 1215 King John had one of his headquarters in the Temple, where he was safe under the protection of the Knights Templar (the other headquarters was in the Tower of London). The King was in the Temple on 17 May when the barons captured London and on 10 June he left the Temple for Runnymede to seal Magna Carta: “John, by the grace of God, King of England, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants and all his faithful subjects, greetings. Know that we wish and firmly command that the men of our realm shall have and hold all these liberties, rights and concessions well and peacefully, freely and quietly, fully and completely for them and their heirs of us and our heirs in all things and places for ever…”.
But the real hero of Magna Carta was William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. He negotiated on the King’s behalf and insisted that he sealed the Charter on 15 June 1215. After John’s death in 1216, William Marshal became Regent to the young King Henry III and in this capacity he reissued the Charter under his own seal in 1216 and 1217, and so ensured its survival. He is buried in the Temple’s Round Church and I bowed in front of his tomb.
At Runnymede, the ceremony took place in the presence of HM The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, the British Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, with thousands of people attending.
Two of the original Magna Carta clauses continue to be of a tremendous importance: clause 39 – “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will go or send against him except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land”, and clause 40 – “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right to justice.” These are fundamental law principles in any modern democratic society, namely that no one should be deprived of their freedom without just cause, and that people are entitled to fair trial by their peers according to the law of the land.
As Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond remarked: “Magna Carta is a symbol of the UK’s deeply rooted democracy: a story of evolution rather than revolution”. This document has influenced not only the evolution of English history, but also the evolution of world history and continues to be seen as a cornerstone of liberty 800 years after its publication. Maybe its greatest resonance was in the United States of America where Magna Carta was inspirational for the 1791 American Bill of Rights. It is therefore not by chance that at Runnymede an American Memorial dedicated to Magna Carta was erected in 1957 and its rededication ceremony on 15 June 2015 was attended by Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States and William C. Hubbard, the President of the American Bar Association.
Magna Carta was also embodied in the Universal declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Now the UN prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary, but major crisis challenge the international peace and security, making the UN more relevant than ever, as it is the only global international organization.
Romania will celebrate soon the 60th anniversary of its membership to the UN. Although in 1946, at the Paris Peace Conference, the Head of the Romanian delegation, Gheorghe Tatarescu, declared that “Romania is determined to bring about without delay its total adhesion to the principles of the United Nations Charter, principles which it has already put into practice”, our accession was blocked until 1955. But Romania’s contribution to multilateral diplomacy is much older, my country being particularly active in the League of Nations, where Nicolae Titulescu, the greatest Romanian diplomat, was twice elected President, in 1930 and 1931. In this capacity, he fought for the preservation of stable borders through the maintenance of peace, for good relations between neighboring states, for the respect of the sovereignty and equality of all nations in the international community, for collective security and the prevention of aggression. In 1926, Romania asked the League of Nations to consider drafting a convention on the punishment of terrorism. As the expansion of terrorism and its appalling atrocities terrify today the civilized world, Romania strongly advocates to creating a universal legal instrument to fight this global threat.
Sealing the Magna Carta was a major event in the journey of democracy. Justice and freedom are at the foundation of our society and it is our duty to act in their defense when the legal international order is challenged. By doing so, we pay tribute to all those who have developed the rule of law to protect us against injustice and abuse of power.