Hello. How’s it going there? Hope the weather’s good. Been a bit of a wet summer here, but that happens a lot in Scotland, and is something we pretty much expect.
What has been a bit more surprising though is the sudden revelation that apparently we have to explain/justify the decisions of our criminal system to you. Seriously, we had absolutely no idea that the decision to release a criminal in Scottish jail for a crime tried in a Scottish court had to be run by you first for approval. No idea at all. We’ve looked at statute, at common law, and even in the scattered notes left lying around the various courts here, and there’s nothing about that at all. Not so much as a post-it note on the fridge in the Supreme Court’s kitchen.
And that really does seem to be the claim being made by your politicians there, who first requested the local Justice minister come over and explain his decision, and then said it was “outrageous” when he declined.
Now, as I hold the US in fair esteem, let me assure you that I have picked my words carefully here. Any American who thinks they can just demand Scotland justify a local decision to you can ram it. Take your frankly patheticly impotent tantrum, pick whichever of your orifices you like, and ram it right up. In local parlance: Get it right up ye.
I mean, I could try to explain why lots of people here think it’s a just thing to do. I could point you towards the rather compelling arguments campaigners have made about him being a scapegoat. We could talk about the pointlessness of imprisoning a man with terminal cancer, who will die soon anyway. We could have lots of arguments about whether our (frankly loathsome) first minister did it to curry favour with Libya. There’s all manner of valid room for discussion about this.
But with regards to the idea that somehow US Senators can demand that elected ministers from other countries should turn up whenever they wish, and explain the decisions they made…just piss off.
These senators should be thanking Scotland - for avoiding an appeal and possible retrial - during which i am sure all sorts of grubby facts regarding the USAs involvement in why he was found ‘guilty’ in the first place, would have come out.
Of course this is a matter of international importance, and a Sub National entity like Scotland is going to be allowed to spoil that. If the Senator in the US think that the Scottish government did not have London standing by with a well oiled twase when the made the decision is even more deluded that I thought politicians were.
Eh, I don’t really have a problem with the release of Al Megrahi, but the guy was convicted of killing 179 Americans. Pretending to be all puzzled about why American officials and politicians have strong feelings about his release and feel they should be involved is a pretty weak charade.
The UK lost 67 nationals in the WTC attacks. How would the US have reacted if we’d insisted that George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld submit themselves to questioning in front of a panel of MPs in Westminster to expain the decisions that were made?
I think part of the resistence this side of the pond is the awareness that there’s no way on earth American politicians would agree to the same terms if the situation were reversed.
They can have whatever strong feelings they like on whatever issues they like. I, for instance, have very strong feelings about the death penalty.
But if I was to insist that the Senator for Texas come over here and justify his lack of clemency for the last executed prisoner there, he may well decline. If he is nice, he could even politely decline. And if I was to say I was outraged by his stonewalling on this issue, he might just point out that I had no authority to make such demands or statements.
Comprende? American politicians can jump up and down as much as they like over the decision. Of course they will, there’s many an easy vote to be had from stirring up recreational outage from the locals. Expressing outrage though that the people who made the decision don’t particularly fancy popping across the atlantic to justify their actions to a group of people that they don’t answer to though is frankly either stupid or arrogant. Possibly both.
It was an unsound conviction, and an unsound release. I would far rather he had been released on appeal due to lack of evidence. That, however, does not give any US senators the right to “demand” Scottish or UK ministers to appear before them.
I think you miss the point. Nobody’s disputing the strong feelings nor their right to be held.
What’s being derided is the demand that politicians from an allied sovereign entity become answerable to the senate of a foreign nation, then senators, and in particular Senator Menendez, acting all butthurt that they have rightly refused.
Could you imagine the derision that Yank politicians would express were the situation in reverse?
Was it? I tried to look into this, and all I could find was that a year ago, US embassy officials stated the official position was that they weren’t thrilled about the idea.
Anyway, it looks like the inquiry is closed down, from what I’ve read. I think the major concern isn’t Scotland but BP, though BP insists they were interested in prisoners other than this particular one. For some reason. Not that this, understandably, soothes feelings when politicians in another country are demanding testimony, I do understand that.
There was a story in The Times last week suggesting that US officials had given qualified support to a release on compassionate grounds.
However, reading further it seems that the US 100% opposed any form of release, but said that were Scotland to press ahead regardless the US would offer an opinion on a preferred mechanism (lesser of two evils, sort of thing).
That Congress got huffy when Scottish official(s) did not appear before it to justify Al-Megrahi’s release sounded off-key to me too. And a lot of the politicians’ outrage is, well, political. But it was still a poor decision, and if the shoe was on the other foot people in Scotland would be wondering if oil company influence was involved.
*"American officials were dead-set against the release of the Lockerbie bomber and warned Scottish authorities that scenes of jubilation in Tripoli over his return would upset victims’ families, a newly released document showed Monday.
The Aug. 12, 2009 letter from Richard LeBaron, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in London, to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond sets out the views of the American government as Scotland grappled with whether to release Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the bombing attack on Pan Am Flight 103.
“The United States maintains its view that in light of the scope of Megrahi’s crime, its heinous nature, and its continuing and devastating impact on the victims and their families, it would be most appropriate for Megrahi to remain imprisoned for the entirety of his sentence,” the letter says, declaring the U.S was not willing to support his release on either compassionate grounds or under a prisoner transfer agreement…The (U.S.) senators will also probe whether an exploration deal between Libya and London-based oil company BP had an impact on the decision to release al-Megrahi…And if Scotland did decide to free al-Megrahi on grounds of ill health, the U.S. asked that he be forbidden from traveling outside the country to ensure that he didn’t receive a hero’s welcome in Libya.
Thousands turned out to cheer al-Megrahi as his flight landed in Tripoli, scenes the British government described as “deeply distressing.”* Link.
Annoyance that the U.S. seemed to be trying to interfere with the justice system in another country should be tempered by the knowledge that foreign nationals have put their two cents in on a number of U.S. criminal cases, including that of Mumia Abu-Jamal (convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman), who’s been named an honorary citizen of 25 cities around the world and had a street in Paris named after him.
Since the US Senate is involved in both internal lawmaking and treaty approval, senators certainly have a role in exploring the events that led to the release of a criminal such as Al Megrahi. For example, they could conclude that the laws of other countries are insufficient in the goal of providing justice under such circumstances, and strengthen US law in the area of a US prosecution for these kinds of acts, even if they don’t take place on American soil (or in American air.)
So to the extent that the OP is suggesting that the U.S. has no interest at all in the decision to release Al M, I disagree.
But UK government officials are actors for a sovereign government. And the OP is right that the U.S. has no right or justification to “demand,” that they do anything, or to suggest it’s “outrageous” if they do not. The U.S. can certainly say something like, “We are going to hold hearings on the issue, hearings designed to inform us on the underlying facts and as a predicate to modifying U.S. law with respect to extradition treaties, concurrent jurisdiction, and the like. You are cordially invited to attend, and we hope you do, because it would be unfortunate to make these kinds of decisions without your valuable input.”
I can see no cause for UK offense at that statement. I agree that the idea that US lawmakers can summon, can order UK officials to appear is itself outrageous.
I’m surprised at you Bricker. You’re certainly savvy enough to know that there’s a hell of a lot more to this case than you’ve suggested. You don’t think that perhaps there’s a modicum of disengenuity about the current posturing, given that the last thing the US (and the English/Scottish Govts) wanted was an appeal that was going to expose all kinds of shady dealings in the case, and potentially highlight the fact that the ‘criminal’ in this case might not have been convicted on the most secure of grounds?