The Dreyfus affair reminds us that the rule of law and basic human rights are not self-executing. In a democracy, individual rights and the rule of law are designed to check popular power and protect the individual from the majority. Yet paradoxically, they cannot do so without substantial popular support. Alfred Dreyfus received two trials—or at least the trappings thereof—and was twice wrongly convicted. The rule of law was initially unable to stand between an innocent man and the powerful men who sought to frame him. But the issue of Dreyfus's guilt or innocence was not concluded with his verdicts. Thanks to the work of many supporters inside and outside of France, including, most famously, Émile Zola, Dreyfus was ultimately exonerated and his accusers were revealed for the criminals that they were. Justice ultimately triumphed—but only because of the substantial political pressure brought to bear on his behalf.
29 Touro L. Rev. 43-57 (2013)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Cole, David, "Legal Affairs: Dreyfus, Guantánamo, and the Foundation of the Rule of Law" (2013). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1240.