True Justice and the Rule of Law

by Colleen Kelly
June 26th, 2009

True justice is all about the rule of law. The United States has not, nor should we become, a nation that makes up the rules as we go along. We have a well developed legal system, rooted in English culture, enlightened by the philosophers of the 18th century, pronounced within our Constitution, and tested by more than 230 years of human behavior. We have laws to protect both citizens, and security, and we should put faith in both the law and a jury of our peers. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s one of the best on the globe, and one that other nations have emulated for years.

Although I appreciate the request for input from 9-11 family members, I am wary of the impetus for such a request. Justice requires a system that is fair and factual; not based at all on emotion. 9-11 family members have every right to be emotional – angry, enraged, and grief stricken. I’m certain that staff who met with family members two weeks ago got a taste of that emotion. We lost people we loved dearly. But justice requires that our legal system turn a blind eye to that emotion, and try an accused individual based on evidence and factual account. Revenge is never democratic, moral or necessary.

So I believe in the system, as imperfect as it may be. Our federal criminal courts worked to convict Moussaoui, Richard Reid, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Timothy McVeigh and company, Theodore Kaczynski, and scores of others who have violently threatened Americans. And although problems prosecuting the ‘bad guys’ at Guantanamo are legion, the United States is home to scores of brilliant and talented legal minds. We should also learn from our allies, countries like Tunisia, Spain, Russia, Great Britain, Indonesia, India – ALL of whom have experienced Al Qaeda attacks since 2002 and have successfully prosecuted and CONVICTED the perpetrators. It is commendable that the U.S. wants to get the process right, but seven years outlies the definition of swift. It should also be noted here that the U.S. tried over 1600 people (albeit by military commission) in Germany after WWII, and nearly 1000 Japanese soldiers.

Close Guantanamo. Transfer those charged to the U.S. criminal courts. Try them and work like hell to get a conviction. And remember what Judge William Young said to “shoe bomber” Richard Reid at his sentencing, “You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of the government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view; you are a terrorist …You’re no big deal.”

We have nothing to fear but the fear that ‘they’ will go free.

Colleen Kelly
Sister of William Kelly Jr.

Filed in: Colleen Kelly, Guantanamo & Military Commissions, Rule of Law: Guantanamo and Civil Liberties, Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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