This article was published in the Summer 1998 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
Bill of Law
by Michael van Notten

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Natural Law
Legal Principles
Rules of Proceedure in Criminal Matters

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We, the founders of the free nation, in order to guard the freedom of those who visit or settle in the free nation, do hereby affirm the following principles, rights, and rules of procedure. We expect every person in the free nation to abide by these fundamental laws.

The procedural rules given here are intended as a starting point for the development of rules for maintaining and enforcing natural rights. These rights do not change, but the procedures for maintaining and enforcing them can be continually improved.

Any person offering judicial or police services in the free nation shall be free to specify more detailed rights, obligations, and procedures than those included here, provided they are consistent with the natural law described hereinafter.

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Natural Law

Natural law describes the natural, voluntary order of human society. This law is timeless, unchangeable, and universal. It takes priority over any other law, including constitutions and contracts. It acknowledges the right of every person to live a life that is governed by his own goals and opinions. Natural law serves to prevent and resolve conflicts between people pursuing contradictory goals. It stipulates that every person shall be free to dispose of his rightfully acquired property and shall refrain from disposing of the property of others without their permission. It permits all activities that do not violate someone else's person or property.

As a matter of principle, a society based on natural law should be maintained by means consistent with that law. These means will then generate—under the disciplines of profit and loss, supply and demand, and peaceful competition in the free market—the information required for discovering the optimal way of protecting natural rights.

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Legal Principles


I (natural rights)

Every person shall be free to:

1. form his own opinions;

2. control the actions and labour of his own body;

3. use any object not belonging to others and make it his property;

4. make voluntary agreements with others; and

5. defend these freedoms.

II (natural obligations)

Every person shall respect the rights of others, and therefore refrain from:

1. using force or threats thereof against peaceful persons or their rightfully obtained possessions; and

2. disposing otherwise of other people's property without their permission.

III (remedies)

Every person who violates someone's natural rights shall:

1. immediately cease violating them;

2. return the goods thereby alienated;

3. compensate the victim for damage inflicted and profits foregone;

4. pay fines to the victim for willful infringement of his rights.

IV (fines)

If the parties concerned fail to agree on the nature or extent of the fine, it shall be determined by an independent and impartial court of law on the basis of the seriousness of the crime and the circumstances under which it was committed.

V (sanction)

Every person who refuses to remedy the rights he violated loses, to the benefit of his victim and to the extent required for remedy, his right to dispose of his freedom and property, as long as he persists in his refusal.

VI (force)

Every person shall be free to defend his natural rights by using force against his attacker and to call upon police to restore them. In the absence of an impartial judiciary and police, every person shall be free, subject to his liability for his own violations, to use force himself to restore his violated rights.

VII (the police)

The police, including the military, shall not use force save when an independent and impartial court of law has verified that it is used:

1. at the request of a person whose rights have been violated;

2. against the person who violated them;

3. for the sole purpose of remedying such violation;

4. with the least violent means available; and

5. after the violator has refused to comply voluntarily.

VIII (the judiciary)

Every person shall be free to exercise the profession of judge. Judges shall judge only on the basis of facts as presented, not on a person's opinions, achievements, or bodily characteristics. Judges shall only authorise the imposition of obligations that are derived from natural rights.

IX (government)

Government shall consist of all the courts of law and police forces, including the military, that operate in a free market. Its function shall be to adjudicate and enforce natural rights, including the right to compete in the business of supplying government services.

X (government rules)

The rules made by government are either: (1) contrary to natural law and therefore null and void, (2) identical to natural law and therefore superfluous, (3) compatible with natural law and binding only upon those people who knowingly and voluntarily accepted them.

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From these legal principles, the following rights are derived. First, a set of rights that apply to adults. Then the rights pertaining to children and one special right pertaining to women. Rights not listed shall be upheld only if they are consistent with the principles set forth above.

Every person shall be free:

1. to live according to his own, peaceful beliefs;

2. to express, in his own language and manner, his thoughts and opinions;

3. to reside in any country, and to move in and out of it along with his possessions, provided he poses no physical danger;

4. to enjoy the privacy of his home, business, papers, and effects, including his mail and telecommunications;

5. to found a family and to raise and educate his children according to his own insights, if he finds a willing mate;

6. to assemble with any others and to join and resign from any voluntary association;

7. to offer his services to people of his choice;

8. to break any employment contract as long as he honours its performance bond;

9. to undertake any economic activity, including the adjudication or enforcement of natural rights, and to keep its profits;

10. to sell, buy, lease, rent, lend, borrow, retain, or give away property by mutual agreement;

11. to exploit his land and waters, and any material in them;

12. to repossess the land, buildings, and other property taken from him in violation of natural rights;

13. to prevent others from spoiling his property by polluting it;

14. to criticise or petition any government institution and avail himself of any services it offers;

15. to keep and bear arms, excluding weapons of mass destruction;

16. to use force himself when his rights are in clear and present danger;

17. to dissolve any government institution which systematically violates natural rights.

Children shall enjoy the same freedom as adults except for restrictions imposed by their parents in the interest of their safety, health, and development. Children become adults when they behave as adults. Children are entitled to receive from their parents: food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. Parents shall not be liable for the activities of their children unless they could have prevented them. Contracts concluded by a child may be dissolved by a court of justice at the request of the child or any of its parents. When parents are unable or unwilling to care for their child, the child or others acting on its behalf may appeal to a court to appoint a legal guardian who will assume the parental rights and responsibilities.

Women shall be free to abort their pregnancies, at their own discretion and expense.

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Rules of Procedure in criminal matters

The following rules shall guide the actions of those who provide judicial or police services.

1. Every person accused of having violated a natural right shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty by an impartial court of justice. Until then, he shall be entitled:

1.1 to agree with the plaintiff on initiating, interrupting, and terminating any litigation before a judge of their choice;

1.2 to refuse to submit to a judge who is forced upon him as long as the judge's impartiality is not assured and his request, if any, for a jury has not been granted;

1.3 to be informed, in writing and in a language which he understands, of the nature and cause of the charges against him;

1.4 to try to refute those charges (but no plea of ignorance of natural law shall be accepted);

1.5 to be assisted and represented by counsel of his choice and to keep his communications with that counsel confidential;

1.6 to be allowed adequate time for the presentation of his defence;

1.7 to resist interrogation, to decline to supply evidence against himself or his organisation, and to refuse confession;

1.8 to inspect the evidence brought against him and to cross-examine his accusers and their witnesses;

1.9 to bring in his own witnesses to testify under the same conditions as the witnesses against him;

1.10 to be given a prompt trial, without undue delays, and to receive a copy of its proceedings;

1.11 to reject procedural and evidentiary rules which infringe upon the principle of presumed innocence;

1.12 to decide whether to permit friends, family, the press, and others to attend his trial.

1.13 to present his defense in writing and to elucidate his defense orally at his trial.

2. Every person arrested shall: 2.1 be informed immediately of the reasons for his arrest, his right to remain silent, and the consequences of making statements;

2.2 be given proper food, clothing, shelter, and accommodation as well as instant communication with legal advisors and those who could assist with posting bail;

2.3 be spared torture, assault, mutilation, sterilisation, and other cruel or inhumane treatment;

2.4 be brought without undue delay before a grand jury or impartial court of justice, failing which he shall be entitled to instant release;

2.5 be instructed, in writing and in a language which he understands, of the reason and nature of the charges against him;

2.6 be released from detention when the court finds the charges lacking in credibility or when sufficient guaranty has been given to insure that he will appear at the trial and obey the judgement, and his release would not frustrate the investigation;

2.7 be permitted to receive mail and visitors.

3. Every person convicted of having violated a natural right shall be entitled: 3.1 to be informed, in writing, and in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his conviction;

3.2 to appeal once against his verdict and to have its interpretation of rights reviewed by a separate court;

3.3 to avoid forcible execution of his verdict by complying voluntarily.

4. No person finally convicted or acquitted shall be put in jeopardy again, by the same or by another court, for the same activity.

5. Every person falsely arrested, unduly detained, or mistakenly convicted shall be compensated by the responsible parties.

6. Every person in clear and present danger shall be entitled to use force himself in order to:

6.1 defend his rights against immediate attack;

6.2 stop an attack in progress;

6.3 arrest his attacker caught red-handed;

6.4 seize his attacker's assets for remedying the rights he infringed whenever these assets risk disappearing before a police or judicial agency can secure them;

6.5 conserve proof or evidence; provided that an impartial court of justice certifies, either before or immediately afterwards that: (1) the proof or evidence is or was at risk of being lost and (2) the least violent means available will be, or were, used.

7. Every person whose natural rights have been violated shall be entitled: 7.1 to initiate proceedings against the violator;

7.2 to halt such proceedings and to suspend or stop the execution of any verdict in his favour;

7.3 to ignore any verdict of acquittal which does not state the reasons for the defendant's acquittal;

7.4 to appeal from the verdict in appeal when it overturns the original verdict;

7.5 to have a court's interpretation of rights reviewed by a separate court;

7.6 to have these rights exercised by his heirs if he died or by his agent if he is unable otherwise to exercise them himself.

8. Every parent whose child's natural rights have been violated shall be entitled to seek justice on the child's behalf. If the violator is one of its parents or legal guardians, the child's nearest relatives are entitled to bring suit.

9. Unless other arrangements are agreed to beforehand by the parties involved, the costs incurred by the courts for dispensing justice, as well as any legal costs of the litigants, shall be borne by the defendant if he is convicted, and by the plaintiff if the defendant is acquitted. D


Michael van Notten has practiced law in Holland and New York, and has served as chief advisor to the President of the Economic and Social Committee of the European Community. He now works and resides in Somalia.

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