Lèse majesté

Lèse majesté

or against a state.

This behavior was first classified as a criminal offense against the dignity of the Roman republic in Ancient Rome. In time, as the Emperor became identified with the Roman state (the empire never formally became a monarchy), it was essentially applied to offenses against his person. [ [http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/lese+majesty "Lese majesty"] , TheFreeDictionary.com, Columbia Encyclopedia, retrieved 22 September 2006] Though legally the "princeps civitatis" (his official title, roughly 'first citizen') could never become a sovereign, as the republic was never abolished, emperors were to be deified as divus, first posthumously but ultimately while reigning, and thus enjoyed the legal protection provided for the divinities of the state cult; by the time it was exchanged for Christianity, the monarchical tradition in all but name was well established.

Narrower conceptions of offenses against Majesty as offences against the crown predominated in the European kingdoms that emerged in the early medieval period. In feudal Europe, various real crimes were classified as lèse majesté even though not intentionally directed against the crown, such as counterfeiting because coins bear the monarch's effigy and/or coat of arms.

However, since the disappearance of absolute monarchy, this is viewed as less of a crime, although similar, more malicious acts, could be considered treason. By analogy, as modern times saw republics emerging as great powers, a similar crime may be constituted, though not under this name, by any offence against the highest representatives of any state.

Current lèse majesté laws


Few countries still prosecute "lèse majesté". One exception is Thailand, where social activists like Sulak Sivaraksa were charged with the crime in the 1980s and 1990s because they allegedly criticized the King, [ [http://www.ipsnewsasia.net/en/node/142 "A Critic May Now Look at a King"] , Macan-Markar, Marwaan, The Asian Eye, 18 May 2005] although the King in his 2005 birthday speech said he would not take "lèse majesté" charges seriously. Several high-profile cases were dropped. In September 2006, the leaders of a military coup accused prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of "lèse majesté"; the Thai military is thought to be highly loyal to the king. [ [http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w060918&s=kurlantzick092006 "Thailand's Ousted Prime Minister Is No Longer Democratizer"] , TNR Online, 20 January 2006] Although the King is held in great respect by many Thais, he is also protected by "lèse majesté" laws which allow critics to be jailed for 3 to 15 years. Politician Veera Musikapong was jailed and banned from politics for lèse majesté, despite the palace's opinion that the remarks were harmless.

Frenchman Lech Tomasz Kisielewicz who in 1995 allegedly committed "lèse majesté" by making a derogatory remark about a Thai princess while on board a Thai Airways flight in international airspace was taken into custody upon landing in Bangkok and charged with offending the monarchy. He was detained for two weeks, released on bail, and acquitted after writing a letter of apology to king Bhumibol Adulyadej.fact|date=August 2008

Deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his political opponent Sondhi Limthongkul both filed charges of "lèse majesté" against each other during the 2005–2006 political crisis. Thaksin's alleged "lèse majesté" was one of the stated reasons for the Thai military's 2006 coup. [Asiaweek, [http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/magazine/99/1203/soc.thailand.lesemajeste.html A Protective Law] , 3 December 1999 vol.45 no.28] [Colum Murphy, " [http://www.feer.com/articles1/2006/0609/free/p023.html A Tug of War for Thailand’s Soul] ", Far Eastern Economic Review, September 2006] [AFP, [http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=142951 Thai coup leader says new PM within two weeks] , 19 September 2006] [Time, [http://jcgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,962326,00.html World Notes Thailand: Not Fit for a King] , 15 September 1986] In 2006, former American Peace Corps volunteer Frank G. Anderson living in Thailand had a formal accusation of "lèse majesté" filed against him by Papatchanan Chingin in the northeast city of Nakhonratchasima. Police referred the case to Bangkok but no credible evidence was found. Charges were not pursued.

In March 2007 Swiss national Oliver Jufer was convicted of "lèse majesté" and sentenced to 10 years for spray-painting on several portraits of the king while drunk in Chiang Mai, Thailand. [BBC News, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6498297.stm Sensitive heads of state] , 29 March 2007] Jufer was pardoned by the king on 12 April 2007. [BBC News, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6547413.stm Thailand's king pardons Swiss man] , 12 April 2007]

In April 2008 BBC south-east Asia correspondent Jonathan Head was accused of "lèse majesté" by Watanasak Mungkijakandee, a lieutenant-colonel in the Thai police. The charge concerns comments made six months previously while Head was moderating a discussion on "Coup, Capital and Crown" at Bangkok's Foreign Correspondents' Club. The BBC has dismissed the claims as 'unfounded'. [guardian.co.uk In April as well, two other lese majeste cases - for not standing in cinema during royal anthem - were filed with police. They are pending, as are most cases [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jun/02/bbc.television1?gusrc=rss&feed=uknews Thailand: BBC rejects claims reporter insulted country's king] , 2 June 2008] .

In September 2008, Harry Nicolaides [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/03/2354659.htm Aust man refused bail for insulting Thai King] , ABC Online, 3 September 2008] from Melbourne, Australia, was arrested at Bangkok's international airport [ [http://www.reuters.com/article/artsNews/idUSBKK9474820080903 Australian arrested in Thailand for lese-majeste] ] amidst the 2008 Thai political crisis and charged for insulting the King. He was known to Thai authorities: Since 2003, he has written a book mentioning the Royal family, been a regular blogger on Thai matters, and has taught at the Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai, Thailand. He has had work published in "The Age" [The Age, [http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/enforcing-the-anglo-view/2007/08/13/1186857423036.html Enforcing the Anglo world view] ] , "The Australian" [The Australian, [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,22609260-5002031,00.html?from=public_rss Hearts and minds] ] , "New Statesman" [New Statesman, [http://www.newstatesman.com/europe/2007/09/cyprus-nicosia-divided-turkish Bridge to the future] ] amongst others, and was a staff writer and contributor to "Neos Kosmos". [ Nos Kosmos, [http://www.neoskosmos.com.au/071029/nkew/community/community_index.shtml Ex-Prime Minister calls on Australians to defend multiculturalism] ]


In October 2007 a 47-year-old man was fined €400 for, amongst other things, "lèse majesté" in The Netherlands when he called Queen Beatrix a "whore" and described several sexual acts he would like to perform on her to a police officer. [ [http://www.nrc.nl/binnenland/article746276.ece/Boete_voor_majesteitsschennis nrc.nl - Binnenland - Boete voor majesteitsschennis ] ]

The Spanish satirical magazine "El Jueves" was fined for violation of Spain's "lèse majesté" laws after publishing an issue with a caricature of the Prince of Asturias and his wife engaging in sexual intercourse on the cover in 2007. [cite web
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In Germany, Switzerland [cite swiss law|sr=311.0|link=311_0|art=296|en=Swiss Penal Code] and Poland it is illegal to publicly insult foreign heads of state. On 5 January 2005, Jerzy Urban was sentenced by Poland to a fine of 20,000 złoty (about 5000 EUR or 6,200 USD) for having insulted Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state. [ [http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/64210/ "Criminal Defamation Laws Hamper Free Expression"] , IFEX.org, retrieved 22 September 2006] Also, on January 26January 27 2005, 28 human rights activists were temporarily detained by the Polish authorities for allegedly insulting Vladimir Putin, a visiting head of state. The activists were released after about 30 hours and only one was actually charged with insulting a foreign head of state. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/6498297.stm "Sensitive heads of state"] , retrieved 30 January 2008] In October 2006, a Polish man was arrested in Warsaw after expressing his dissatisfaction with the leadership of Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński by farting loudly. [ [http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_2019571.html "Police hunt farting dissident"] , ananova.com, retrieved 31 August 2008]

In Denmark the Monarch is protected by common law, although § 115 of straffeloven [https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=113401] (Penal code) allows for doubling of the usual punishment in certain circumstances (Crimes that do not threaten state or constitution).

Crimes against other specified members of the royal family, such as the crown prince,can lead to an increase of punishment by 50 % under the same law.


Brunei is another country which will still prosecute "lèse majesté".


ee also


External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6505237.stm BBC News article] , Swiss man jailed for Thai insult

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