Contentious compassion

Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill made a brave decision – to allow Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to fly home to Lybia to die, instead of leaving him to rot in Greenock Prison.  There are those who are angry at the decision, not least of all the Americans, who were affected greatly by the Lockerbie bombing – most of the 270 who died were from the US.

The legal system we have (as I understand it) tries to hold in balance punishment, rehabilitation and deterrent.  Often the legal system gets this wrong, or so it seems to the opinionated outsiders (of which I am occasionally one!)  but sometimes the tough decision is the correct one to make.  His punishment was to have his freedom removed.  There was no chance of rehabilitation – the man is dying, he’s not going to be rehabilitated and released back into sciety as a (hopefully) productive member of that society.  MacAskill stated, “Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available.”

Although I appreciate the sentiments of those still dealing with the pain of the event, that Al-Megrahi showed no compassion for the victims in the crime for which he was convicted,  the law is bigger than an idea of simple retribution and to reduce it to such makes a fallacy of the things we fight for.  The law has to be stronger and bigger than our emotional responses, or we turn into the very thing we hate.

There is no denying that what happened on that day in 1988 was evil, that the actions that he was convicted of were evil.  But what deterrent is there to terrorism in keeping him to die in Greenock?  There is more hope for our world when compassion is shown, than when blood is shed or rights are deprived.  We can choose to care about the system and the appearance of doing right by those who would have executed him for his crimes, or we can choose to be compassionate, find a way to act in which healing may come to the causes of those acts of terror which damage our lives,

“We love because he [God] loved us first” Love your enemies, pray for those who hate or hurt you.  Such things are never easy, but are just.  love for us, compassion for us is not dependant on our actions – we cannot earn redemption, it is given in trust and grace.  When we act in such a way towards others,we pray and trust a little of that grace will spread.  The world is changed, hearts, minds and attitudes are changed, not by force of power but by compassion despite power.

3 thoughts on “Contentious compassion

  1. Kenny says:

    I hear the bleats of those who say the man showed no remorse. How can you show remorse for something you have not done? He still insists he is innocent, and many families of the victims believe this to be so! If he had shone remorse, it would have simply indicated guilt!

    Proud to be Scottish today!

  2. Fr Dougal says:

    Very interestingly, the Times (which disagrees with the decision) applauds the sentiments of the speech, whereas the Scotsman supports the decision and the speech. My only hesitation is that it would have been ideal if the appeal had gone ahead to test the actual appropriateness of the conviction. But Al Megrahi would proably have died before judgement was issued, so a brave decison had to be taken.

  3. Ali says:

    hmmn – applauding the sentiment but disagreeing with the act based on those sentiments sounds a little like The Times is either trying to be all things to all people, or is merely lacking some joined up thinking!

    Apparently (according to one legal blogger at least) it is a policy of Scots law that those with 3 months or less to live are released on compassionate grounds – regardless of who they are or what they have done.

    Whether it is policy, or this is a one-off, I am proud to be an (adopted) Scot today. Stuff ike this gives me hope for our future.

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