Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Megrahi Release: Let Mercy Season Justice

The release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Megrahi to Libya has provoked varied responses. What is the human rights approach to this?
Geoffrey Robertson, author of Crimes Against Humanity and former President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, described Megrahi in The Guardian last week as an ‘unrepentant mass murder’ and condemned the release by Scottish authorities.
Another viewpoint comes from Sir Christopher Greenwood, who started a nine-year term as judge at the International Court of Justice in February of this year. I’ve been attending a conference at the National University of Mexico with Judge Greenwood. Yesterday, in response to a question, he pointed out that Scotland was only following its laws, which mandate release on compassionate grounds in a case such as that of Megrahi where the man is about to die of cancer. The Scottish authorities are not authorised by law to consider other factors, such as the gravity of the crime or the victims. Nor is the alleged innocence, or certainty of guilt, a factor in the determination of compassionate release. Judge Greenwood said it all made sense to him, and I agree.
Let me add that when they agreed to the trial of the two Lockerbie defendants, the Americans must have been aware of relevant Scottish law. What they seem to be asking for, in their complaints about the releases, is for Scottish authorities to violate their own laws.
Compassion is part of human rights. Someone who violates human rights does not forfeit their entitlement to our compassion. That’s why we campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, and the prohibition of torture, even for those who ‘deserve it’. Of course, it is too bad that the Libyan authorities tried to put their own spin on this, but their bad behaviour, which is no doubt very painful for the victims, is not a reason to deny Megrahi a touch of compassionate as he is about to die.


Simeon Sungi said...

Prof. Schabas, you need to write an op ed in the New York Times, this is a unique perspective to lay people in Human Rights.

Luís Paulo said...

"Compassion is part of human rights. Someone who violates human rights does not forfeit their entitlement to our compassion."

This is a truth many are not willing to accept, and it is one of the reasons I enjoy reading this blog and its author's points of view. It is also on the basis of many religious and philosophical traditions.

Unknown said...

It apears that 'compassion' does not exist in the legal vocabulary of the United States. The startling proclamations from the US regime clearly shed light on the ethos that has allowed Guantanamo and other overseas prisons in places such as Jordan to continue operating their machines of torture and abuse. Instead of severley criticising the Scottish government's decision the United States would do well to graft compassion into their own statutes. However the huge amounts of governmental propaganda that has spread hate and fear will ensure that this graft will never take place.