the friend online
28 August 2009

Lockerbie grief and justice
Immediately after I knew of my brother’s death on PanAm flight 103 I could have pressed a switch to bomb the whole of the Middle East. When Margaret Thatcher walked past me up the aisle at the Church of Scotland memorial service soon after, my instinct again was to be violent. Of course I was not, and in fact the ministry given by the moderator of the Church of Scotland was extremely sensitive, with great potential for healing.

There is little potential for healing when people act out of revenge. That is one of the reasons for justice systems in which decisions as to guilt and punishment are taken away from those immediately affected by another’s wrongdoing. The status of any such system depends on the integrity of those running it and serving it. While I do not doubt that the court that convicted Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was set up in good faith and after detailed consideration of practical, jurisdictional and justice issues, I have never been comfortable with the verdict, and the wording of the judgement taken together with the remarks of Hans Köchler (the UN-nominated observer at the trial) leaves many questions unanswered. Nevertheless, Megrahi was convicted and has spent the last eight years in jail in Scotland. He is now dying, and the least any of us could expect for him was proper medical treatment and the chance to die at home. I am delighted that at this stage the UK justice system has done the right thing. Even were I fully convinced that he was the bomber, sole or otherwise, release would still be the right outcome. Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary, has acted with integrity.

What of the reported reactions from some US families, politicians including president Obama and others? Each of us is only responsible for our own actions. MacAskill is not responsible for joy expressed by Libyans, nor for the murky nature of geopolitics in 1988 or since. He is responsible for having carried out his duties properly and for showing compassion. To condemn the exercise of compassion as politically naive is cynical at best, a deeply destructive instance of corruption at worst. To deny compassion apparently for reasons of revenge is to perpetuate a cycle of pain and harm, and implicitly to deny that there can be any chance of deeper social healing.

I cannot share such a pessimistic view of the human spirit, notwithstanding the pointless, wasteful murder of my brother. It is those still arguing for revenge who now need our prayers, together with the perpetrators and any others who may be tempted by terrorism.

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Julia Cadman


Jennifer Barraclough, 27 August
I am so very grateful to Julia for expressing this view so clearly and with such commitment. We desperately need to hear from those people who have been greatly injured themselves and who will still choose compassion for the perpetrators as a matter of both personal need and spiritual principle.
Thank you.


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