Justice vs Mercy vs Revenge

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

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.


The price of justice

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

I recently asked myself “What is the price of justice?”. The first answer that surged through my mind, with strong feelings associated to it, was something along the lines of “It’s priceless, of course!”.
But what does that mean? If it means that it can’t (or shouldn’t) be bought or sold, then I think most of us would agree.
However it doesn’t mean that justice is administered for free: otherwise lawyers and judges would be a very poor lot (and by all accounts they are not), and of course police, court staff, facilities, equipment etc, they all cost money.
As part of society we all benefit from the justice system (except when it goes wrong), so one might say it is right that we pay for it through our taxes.

Some time ago in the news, however, the case of a robbery (loot value about £1.75M) collapsed for the third time (or was it the fourth?), and so far the bill to the taxpayer has been about £22M, over 12 times the value of what was stolen.

Now we all agree that justice needs to be done, but as you wouldn’t expect a shoplifting case to up to the high court (as the gravity of the crime is not worth it), is it worth spending all this money in prosecuting a case where the crime consists of less than a 12th of the money stolen?

As for the victim(s), he/she/they could have been repayed at much less a cost to the taxpayer, so the compensation part of justice could have been done.

In case of compensation only to the victim however, that part of justice which demands that the perpetrator of the crime pays for it, and gets the appropriate punishment, would still be unresolved.

So how valuable is this aspect of justice? Can a price tag be put on it?

Is it priceless? Does that mean we should be ready to pay any price to see justice done?


Free Blogger

Friday, 14 November 2008

This post is in support of the Free Blogger campaign against the law proposed in the Italian parliament, to severely limit the freedom of speech through blogs on the internet.
I’m not going to put all the info here, as you can find it at Beppe Grillo’s blog

Questo post è in sostegno della campagna contro il disegno di legge proposto in parlamento (DdL Levi-Prodi) che, se approvato, limiterebbe gravemente la libertà di espressione sui blog in internet.
Vi rimando al blog di Beppe Grillo per i dettagli.

FrEe bLoGgEr

FrEe bLoGgEr


Meltdown

Saturday, 1 November 2008

First was the threat of the ice melting down, polar caps and glaciers. Now we have the threat of the financial system melting down as well.
Both meltdowns seem to have globally disastrous consequences, which we are incessantly told about by the media.

However, I find myself wondering whether these should really be the concerns at the top of my list.

The first reason I find to doubt whether I should really be worried about the meltdowns, is that dramatic predictions about dire scenarios have been made plenty of times before, and seldom they have come to pass (e.g. a new ice age, the y2k bug, etc.). Of course this time the predictions might be right, but there are still so many things we don’t really understand (both in how the climate works and the economy, scientific, technological and maths advances notwithstanding), which makes these predictions quite vague on a quantitative level, if not on a qualitive level as well. You might argue we should prepare for the worst case scenario, but then how often do you do that in your personal life, or with your personal finances?

The other reason is that I think there are more pressing issues to worry about: for example the injustice of wealth distribution in the world (a small percentage of the world population consumes a much higher percentage of the world resources), causing lots of poverty, misery and wars around the world. Of course global disasters will affect everybody, but is it really worth preserving a world where so much injustice takes place? If we put lots of effort into “saving” the world, should we not put at least as much effort in making it worth saving? Or as worth as possible?