Thursday, 20 August 2009

Difficult decisions, justice and compassion

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has decided to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi (the Libyan who was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing) on compassionate grounds. I don’t envy MacAskill – this was surely a difficult decision for him to make. He has been condemned for releasing Megrahi; I am sure that he would have been criticised if he had decided not to release him.

What are we to make of this situation?

Firstly, we must remember that Megrahi remains guilty of the crime. He has had two unsuccessful appeal cases heard, and he withdrew his latest appeal.

Some objectors have stated that this decision means that the victims’ families can’t have closure. While I understand that this decision must be difficult, since it brings painful memories back to the surface, I don’t see how it affects individual closure. Megrahi is still guilty, he is dying. Would keeping him in prison really help?

I find the statements from Hillary Clinton (“absolutely wrong”) and Barack Obama (“ a mistake”) unhelpful. In my view, there are no absolutes here.

It’s difficult, but I tend to agree with MacAskill when he said:

"Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available.”

I’m glad that our justice system has the scope to be compassionate, and on balance I’d rather that we made ‘mistakes’ through being compassionate, than through being vengeful.


His Girl Friday said...

I'm not sure I agree, ER...the news showed him going home to a hero's welcome...which is a slap in the face to all those families who lost their loved ones.

I've read about the controversy whether his conviction was beyond the shadow of a doubt, so I say this carefully....where do we draw the line at holding people accountable for their actions? If he is dying, then let his family and friends visit him in the jail to say their goodbyes. To me, that would be compassionate for him and the families of the victims.

How many more 'convicted' criminals are going to now be let out for this reason...yet, how many of their victims(and families) are left to suffer?

Sorry, I'm tired, and it was a very difficult few work days, with very entitlement oriented ungrateful people.

On a good note, I hope things are well with you and yours, and that you're enjoying your summer.

Again, sorry if I'm a bit snippy, and feel free to 'snip' back. :)

Endlessly restless said...


I didn't think that your comments were snippy - friends are allowed to disagree freely! I know that it's a contentious issue.

Yesterday I flicked through a newspaper (one that I wouldn't normally read), and from the letters page and editorial it would seem that I'm in a minority of one! However, some other papers and coverage are more aligned to my point of view.

One thing that we all agree on is that the display when Megrahi returned to Libya was odious - he is still a convicted criminal.

I hope you're feeling refreshed after the past few days.


His Girl Friday said...

Hi ER,

thanks :)

and, yes, feeling better rested. :)

KJ said...

"judgement be imposed, but compassion available."

That's strong. And wise. Something for me to think on today; thanks.