The decision by the Scottish executive to release the man generally known as the “Lockerbie bomber” has been causing a lot of controversy, and is taking up a lot of time in the media, and in politics.
Maybe because I was not personally affected by it, but I am getting the impression it is a storm in a teacup. Do we really believe that the UK government has done a deal with Libya based on his release? It seems to me that’s just what the opposition parties insinuate, to further discredit the current government (as if it needed it!).
Sacrificing justice to commercial deals probably is something most people find immoral, and rightly so. But then why focus so much on the release of this one prisoner, and not on his whole trial? Doesn’t the fact that he was the only person convicted, for what seems very unlikely to have been a single man operation, smack already of injustice, and of backroom deals? There are still so many unanswered questions about the whole attack, that frankly being outraged about the convicted bomber being released, as opposed to not having all the actual bombers, planners, masterminders, etc. brought to court, sounds a bit like focusing on the radio not working in a car that is being written off after an accident.
One could say that however having a convicted person, at least gives some sense of justice and closure to the victims, or their relatives. While I might well be accused of not being qualified to speak, as I did not suffer beacause of the incident, I still feel that, rather than a sense of justice, the fact of having somebody in jail for this crime, tends to satisfy the thirst for revenge, rather than the necessity of justice.
Let’s say however that all of the above is irrelevant. Let’s say that the convicted bomber and the actual bomber are the same person, and that no one else was responsible for it. It’s all on him. And his conviction actually means that justice is served. Can we not as a country, or as a group of countries (given that the US have very strong feelings about this whole affair, given that most of the affected people belonged to that country), find the mercy and compassion towards this one man, to let him spend the last few months of his life at home (and let’s remember how hard we feel that our own fellow countrymen should be allowed back home, when they are convicted abroad)? Have we become a nation of people who cannot forgive, and have mercy, even towards those who have deeply hurt us? Are we able to differentiate between revenge and justice? And speaking at a country level, even if it was true that Libya was involved in the Lockerbie bombing, have we ever acknowledged the hurt that we have caused to other countries (quite possibly including Libya) by economic exploitation, war, etc.? What makes us so sure that we have the moral high ground?
So if we are quite so lenient with ourselves, can we not find it to be compassionate towards somebody else? After all, somebody once did say that the same measure we apply to others, will also be applied to ourselves.
Maybe that is what really Mr MacAskill was thinking about when he decided to release Mr Megrahi.