Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Humanitarian Act? (Part 1)

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the recent release of the terrorist who had been imprisoned for the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Scottish justice officials claim they released him for “humanitarian reasons” because he is dying of cancer. Ethically and morally, was this a good thing to do. Was it a good deed or an injustice?

There are a lot of unknowns in this case. Was there a deal for oil made with Libya? Was this guy really the perpetrator or a scapegoat? Were there some sinister goings-on that we’re not aware of? Assuming that this was strictly done for humanitarian reasons and this guy really is the perpetrator, was it the right thing to do?

On the surface, it appears to be humanitarian – let the poor guy die at home with his family and friends. However, every action affects other people and usually has unintended consequences. In this case, we have somebody who committed a horrific crime, killing hundreds of innocent people. You have the families and friends of these victims, numbering into the thousands, who are emotionally affected by his release from prison. So it may have been a humanitarian action for the criminal, but it was not humanitarian to these thousands of family and friends. To them, it opened raw emotions anew, and they consider this release a gross injustice. To make matters worse, he received a hero’s welcome in Libya – another unintended consequence.

You might say, “So what? The guy only has three months to live? What’s the big deal?” To that I respond with two points:

(1) The guy committed a horrific crime and deserves no breaks, even if he is dying. He showed no mercy to the hundreds of people he killed, and deserves no mercy himself.

(2) The criminal justice system gave him a life sentence and it should be carried out. Releasing him perverts the system, especially given the nature of his crime.

Had his crime been less serious, such as drug possession, I would say by all means, release him and let him die in peace. That would be truly humanitarian and an appropriate act of mercy. But releasing a person responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent people isn’t humanitarian, it is an injustice and hurtful to the families and friends of the victims, in my opinion.

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