Law and justice
The Vespians have a radically different perception about the acquisition of justice and punishment of lawbreakers. Traditionally, the Vespians have had a zero tolerance policy toward those who willingly break the law, and to this day, Vespia has no prisons or jails for the housing of criminals. All punishments are final, and appeals rare occurrences reserved for only the most serious of trials. The Vespian legal system is represented by a single term, "yuhak". Adequately representing the Vespian concept of justice, the word for "trial", "judgement", and "investigation" are all the same translation for yuhak. In the eyes of the Vespians, as you are being investigated, you are likewise being tried and judged, with the sentence being immediate and final in the end.
The Vespian word for "investigation", "trial", and "judgement" are all one in the same, represented by the term yuhak. In the eyes of the Vespians, a trial and investigation are tied together at the hip, and the judgement dependent upon the conclusion of both. The moment one or the other comes to an end, the judgement is swift and final. "Double jeopardy" does not exist within the Vespian legal framework, and the moment the issue has been concluded, there is no going back for either the defense or the prosecution. All investigations and judgements are rendered by inquisitorial figures known as the ovazhanin, or the "lords of sight", who have wide-ranging authority to execute the law of the Tazen in any way they deem suitable for the situation at hand.
A yonak is a trial by combat traditionally utilized by the Vespians prior to the formation of a proper imperial court system, implemented by the first tazens for the purpose of allowing the various households and okunin to settle their disputes. Serving as a vent for the innate aggression of the Vespians as a people, yonakin helped to alleviate the tensions between Vespia's powerful families, and mitigate the risk of civil war. Unlike the majority of other cultures and civilizations throughout the globe, the Vespians had historically regarded warfare as an integral part of human nature, due to their role in Zhautan's creation to serve as warriors and champions of his cause in the cosmic struggle against Zhanivoyan. Consequently, the use of limited and regulated warfare to resolve major disputes has featured prominently throughout Vespian history as a legitimate avenue for those with irreconcilable differences.
The aggrieved party by publicly declare their intent through the act of vahok, at which point the grievance and trial by combat is made known to the offending party. The challenger makes known their identity, declares their complaint and the size of the forces they wish to use during the duel, selects the grounds where the yonak is to take place. The opposing party may then accept this demand, and provide to the other side the forces their side shall bring to the battle. Both parties will then agree on mutual terms under what circumstances victory shall be acquired, and what the terms of surrender should be ahead of the battle. At this point, both parties will close their agreement with the phrase "Zhautak izh-ova, tesa sho-tazoya", meaning "as God has witnessed, let it be done."
With the blessing of the imperial government and judges, the ritual combat between the two parties is restricted to neutral grounds, often directly managed by the imperial government, where collateral damage can be minimized, and depending on the scale of duel and the type of yonak invoked, and strict regulation upon the combatants is maintained. For the purpose of fairness, the early imperial government of Vespia set up a series of battlegrounds known as TBD, where an enclosed space or location is set aside for the two parties to carry out their battle. Crossing or otherwise between the boundaries is grounds for automatic forfeiture of the yonak by the offending side. These duels are assigned imperial judges who spectate the entire trial in person, and who rule on the victor of the yonak based on the outlines set forth by both parties beforehand.
To date, there are only five yonakin proscribed by the traditions of the Vespians. These are in order of scale:
- Grievance − TBD
- Prominence − TBD
- Domination − TBD
- Yonak'Ohedu − A Yonak'Ohedu, meaning "trial of denial", is a trial of combat permitted in the instances where a Vespian subject to a ruling may demand its reversal by force of arms. Depending upon the scale of issue, the demand may be shifted into a TBD, or may continue as a Yonak'Ohedu. Though the Tazen may simply overrule a Yonak'Ohedu, and push through with the previous decision, traditionally, the request for a Yonak'Ohedu has been honored by most Tazens throughout history. Due to the necessity of preventing abuse, such trials have strict regulations upon them as per previous rulings by earlier Tazens. The ratio of forces permitted into the battle reflects the ratio of votes between the winning and losing sides; should the losing side only win a third of the vote, their permitted forces may only account for a third of the combatants allowed in the field. Both sides negotiate upon the specifics for the trial, which often balances out the two sides forces. A Yonak'Ohedun is not bound to another Yonak'Ohedu, and participation is mandatory for both sides to carry out should the Tazen chose to allow it. Only a single Yonak'Ohedu needs to be successful for a previous decision to be overturned. Only the two parties originally involved in the initial vote are permitted to fight in the Yonak'Ohedu, though allies may be called to arms. However, the allies are subject to the same punishment of the original decision should they join the losing side of the trial.
- Yonak'Rodan − A Yonak'Rodan, meaning "trial of extermination", is a trial of combat issued solely by the Tazen, or the governing bodies of the Ionakin or Vakoranin with the Tazen's approval, for the complete eradication of the offending party and those affiliated with them. It is the most extreme yonakin available to the Vespians, and the only one that cannot be revoked by the Tazen, as it is made before God and his pantheon. Such a declaration may be declared against a defendant who isn't even a Vespian person or Vespian subject, as was the case with the Yonak'Rodan in 5884 Ʋ against Wittland, which ultimately resulted in the outbreak of the Great Sabel War later that year. Traditionally, the Yonak'Rodan was declared by the Tazen through their possession of jedukor. As such, the entire concept of the trial goes beyond the simple ideas of right and wrong, and directly into the realm of the holy and damned. Those who are the target of such declarations are immediately guaranteed to die in the process, with no right of appeal, and is consequently reserved for only the most heinous crimes even by the standards of the Vespians. Once a Yonak'Rodan has been carried out, the names of all those condemned by the Vespians are stricken from all official records, and their lineages rebranded as yujakin, or "heathenry".
An ovazhan is a powerful representatives of the imperial court empowered to try, judge, imprison, or execute any individual they wish in line with their unwavering pursuit of justice. They are typically given a region of the empire by the courts to manage, and roam frequently to punish any who violate the laws of the land. The words and actions of a single ovazhan can shape the lives of countless thousands of commoners, and thus their actions are in turn observed closely by the Tazen and their subordinates. The existence of the ovazhanin hinges upon the understanding that while the Tazen's will is the law of the land in absolute terms, their will is limited due to the vastness of Vespia itself. As such, the ovazhanin have been vested the power to see to it that no matter how far away a subject of Vespia may think themselves to be, the law of the Tazen will be within reach to ensure their obedience to Zhautan's chosen master within the physical plane of creation.
All Vespians regardless of caste or rank may appeal to the ovazhanin for adjudication of their case, though such requests are extremely dangerous, as previously mentioned, the rulings of an ovazhan cannot be appealed. Indeed, many ovazhanin are fickle individuals who may rule against the plaintiff and deal harshly with them for wasting their time over trivial concerns best dealt with by the local ionakin judges. Placed under the oversight of the Makiyon of Discipline, who is responsible for all of the legal affairs of the empire not directly under the purview of the priesthood. The ovazhanin are responsible for rooting out the truth of an issue and bring justice to those who have violated the law. Due to their role as inquisitors of the Tazen and their will, there is quite literately no place within Vespia that is beyond the judgement of the ovazhanin. This power even extends beyond the borders of Vespia, and into Vespian enclaves throughout the globe, where Vespian law is still regarded as supreme by expatriates.
The process of becoming a member of the ovazhanin is generally kept a state secret, in the interest of protecting future members of the order from retribution by those fearful of their eventual power. All future members of the body are secretly assessed by members of the izhokin warrior division, the details of their investigation handed over to the senior members of the ovazhanin to be vetted. Any deemed satisfactory to the organization are recommended for recruitment to the Tazen, to whom all ovazhanin are subject to as their direct head. The head of the Makiyon of Discipline is responsible for passing on the directives of the Tazen to the ovazhanin, and mediates disputes between those of its ranks who run afoul of one another. While members of the body are free to make legal decisions on their own based on whatever they deem to be the best course of action, those who abuse their power will be called to answer for their actions, and the punishment is always carried out swiftly by the Makiyon.
All regular law enforcement throughout the Vespian world is conducted through the efforts of warriors known as jadoyonin, or the "fist(s) of justice". The ranks of the jadoyonin consist of vakoranin operating with the domestic hakivakin units of the great households of Vespia. These vakoranin are employed as law enforcement personnel, as they alone hold the authority to execute fellow Vespians and foreigners in the name of their respective zharuks. As a warrior by profession, the average jadoyon is quick to utilize force as a means of resolving disputes or criminal behavior, and consequently, death at the hands of the Vespian police forces is a frequent occurrence throughout the country. Jadoyonin are invested with the power to take lives without retribution, and investigations into their activities are rarely productive in attributing blame for unwarranted deaths of civilians. Regardless, the Vespian people tread carefully around the jadoyonin, fully aware that any criminal activity discovered by them will almost always end with the death of those individuals involved in antisocial behavior.
Jadoyonin often find themselves discouraging crime as their primary activity, doing so in an extremely authoritarian manner, patrolling the streets and handing out brutal physical beatings upon any juveniles and gang members they cross paths with. Many of these officers usually do so to vent their own frustrations with the system and those who frequently abuse it to benefit themselves, and often too many go too far and kill those Vespians unfortunate enough to have been deemed a suitable "example" of what will happen to others is they break the law. Naturally, the standard for prosecution within Vespia is well below the standards one may expect in the modern world. An ovazhan will be assigned to the case being investigated by the jadoyonin, and work to uncover the circumstances of the matter. Once the Vespian standard for evidence has been met to qualify for a court trial, the inquisitor will instruct law enforcement personnel to arrest the troublemaker and bring them before the courts to answer for their crimes.
The jadoyonin not tasked with patrolling the streets aid the ovazhanin in investigating crimes and tracking down criminals on the run. Kill-teams are formed to deal with particularly notorious criminals and gang leaders, tracking them down anywhere they may be discovered, and terminating them and everyone in the area with lethal proficiency. When not executing criminals, jadoyonin serve as civil security forces, protecting events, cities, high-ranking individuals, and other mundane legal work necessary for ensuring a stable society. Generally, service as a jadoyon is the first role a vakoran serving at home in Vespia will be assigned. Consequently, the police forces of Vespia are very well acquainted with the jurisdictions under their oversight, and typically have a better time at dealing with areas of interest known to be criminal hotspots. Warriors who grew up in the area know intimately who the criminals area, what their callsigns are, and how they get around, effectively allowing them to counter and greatly limit the degree to which gangs are able to roam the streets freely.
The Vespian legal system is influenced by Zheaniic jurisprudence, known as ruzovak; which itself is principally concerned with the Vespian understanding of tayohun, or Zheaniic law, as outlined with the Zhautana. Ruzovak is responsible for the continuous expansion of tayohun through priestly interpretation, as time passes and Vespian civilization adapts to new concepts are found and developments encountered. This interpretation is largely the sphere of interest to individuals known as onazhanin, the highest division of priests within Zheaniism. Within the ranks of the onazhanin are the jurists, who are fully-versed in the law of the religion, and are experts in its discussion and understanding. The edicts of the onazhanin, though highly-respected and utilized as the basis for legal code, are not considered infallible. As the works of men, the Vespians view the rulings of the onazhanin, known as a navad, which are as the name suggests, legal opinions by qualified individuals approved by the priesthood. While the Zhantana is infallible as the word of Zhautan, a navad is and be withdrawn or altered.
Due to the constant advancements of mankind technologically, economically, industrially, culturally, and socially, the Vespians need to remain vigilant in shaping themselves to match the shifting environments of their surroundings. As such, ruzovak exists to help the religious authorities of Zheaniism guide their flock in such a way that the Vespians remain in good standing with Zhautan, and that their practices remain unadulterated by the ever-shifting moral standards of humanity. As such, trained jurists are responsible for remaining educated in the various schools of understanding which require their legal expertise to help ensure the Zheaniic teachings do not fall to corruption at the hands of the world. A jurist must thus have a deep understanding of the subject, and not leave the matter to simplistic surface knowledge or knowing just enough to make a general ruling on the topic.