20 Aug 2009

Justice Not Vengence

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was found guilty, under Scottish law and through the evidence available at his trial, for the murder of victims of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. Today under Scottish law he was given a compassionate release and allowed to return home to Libya to die. He has three months to live.

I have been following this closely over the last few weeks, as well as having an obvious interst in the Lockerbie. I welcome that in this age of media reaction and pandering to so-called mobs, that a decision, in face of hostility from the American government and opportunist politicains, has been made to show mercy and compassion.

For me a justice system should be about exactly that. Justice. It allows us to show what separates us from the perpetrators of crime. We hear all the time that we must not allow terrorists to change our values because they hate them. And this is a perfect example of where we draw a line in the sand and say "You murder. You hate. We show justice. We show compassion."

There are obviously a lot of different opinions on this. There does appear a cultural divide between Scotland and America (and seeing the media tonight, a North-South divide jealous at Scotland's time on the world stage) but the point is that this should not be about one side having the louder voice, its about humanity and the what this costs.

The hysteria will pass and what will be left are the many questions that remain over the tragedy. Questions that relatives of those hurt or killed deserve. We have to remember that there was equal anger when prisoners were released on Northern Ireland, when the PLO was allowed into the Middle East peace process, when America and Britain re-opened lucrative trade links with Libya. The list could go on and the involvement of the American government in them and their comments today shows the usual Washington hypocrsy.

So I think this is a positive day for Scotland. Sad memories have resurfaced, emotions have boiled up but essentially there has been shown a real alternative to revenge and a role for compassion at a time when blaming and vilifying are the easy route.

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