Lockerbie bomber release – WHO should have made decision?
Much of the discussion around the release of the Lockerbie bomber has focused on the questions of “Should he have been released?” and “Why was he released?” – Was there a case for compassionate release? Should we ever release prisoners on compassionate grounds? Did Gordon Brown put pressure on the Scottish Government? Was there some kind of deal with Libya?
I’d like to talk about something else: who made the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?
The decision to release al-Megrahi was made by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice and an elected Member of the Scottish Parliament. A politician. And there’s the rub: as long as a politician is the final decision maker over the liberty or detention of an individual, that decision is politicised. The decision maker is subject to political pressure, and even if they act with absolute integrity, they are subject to political backlash and accusations of political bias.
It is just plain wrong that a politician can decide to release or further detain a prisoner. Such decisions should be made by the judiciary (or in the case of parole, by the parole board).
The decision about whether to release al-Megrahi should have been made by a judge, or a panel of judges.