Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trials for Tyrants

While few tears have been shed over the death of Muammar Qaddafi, some commentators feel (or at least feel an obligation to say they feel) uncomfortable with the lawless execution of the tyrant. A trial, they suppose, would have been more proper, although beatings and death at the hands of a mob of his "children" was quite fitting.

But why? What would a trial accomplish? The purpose of a trial is to establish guilt. More precisely, it is to establish whether the individual in question committed the crimes in question. But Qaddafi himself made the laws of Libya, so those can hardly be trusted, and any other definitions of crime must then be imposed from without or post hoc, not an attractive basis for legal action.

Indeed, the crimes for which Qaddafi was (rightfully) executed are those most general ones, defined by humanity everywhere and nowhere. They can be codified, as has been under various forms in the Hague, but need not be.

Again, to what purpose is a trial? To establish whether the individual in question committed the crimes in question. If the crimes can only be imperfectly defined, the principal job of a court would be to establish the facts as they relate to the involvement of the accused.

What did Qaddafi know and when did he know it? He knew everything, and he knew it when he commanded it to be done. The only question for a court, thus, would be to establish Qaddafi's identity! It seems that was done correctly by the kangaroo court in the street.

What more could we want from an official court? An appearance of fairness? Please. No court could appear fair to both sides, since the question of guilt is philosophical rather than factual. An adherence to rule of law? Ad-hoc courts set up to try specific individuals under a unique, indeterminate statute are often needed, but do not represent law. The executioner, a young Mr. Bibi, did right by Libya and the world, and spared his country a travesty of justice.


Anonymous said...

I'm fine with his execution. The fact that he was sodomized with a stick beforehand I don't think was just.

Carol L. Douglas said...

I didn't know he had been, and that's regrettable. I'm more than fine with his execution. Saddam Hussein's trial became a rallying point for anti-American forces; who needed that a second time?