[This is the heading over a recent post on the magnificent Lallands Peat Worrier blog. In it the author considers the legality of returning Abdelbaset Megrahi to prison. The whole piece is recommended reading. Here are the first few paragraphs as a taster:]
Here's a shock. You can't just lock folk up without a legal basis. Well, I tell a lie. If you are a sturdy soul with an ambusher's low animal cunning, a ream of duct tape and a spare and empty man-sized cupboard, you could take up antemortem body-snatching in your spare time, but I doubt it'd avail you much at all. As for the state and its agents, quite rightly, their powers of arrest and detention are governed and limited by laws. Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights exemplifies this logic:
"... no one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law".
So, whether or not they might wish it were otherwise, the polis can't just pounce on a fellow and toss them into an oubliette, there to rot away their days. If you commit offences punished by a determinate jail term, and serve out your sentence, you cannot be swooped upon and returned to your cell. If you are a life prisoner released on licence, there are processes of adjudication and deliberation on your condition. For most, these are consoling thoughts. For Robert Halfon, the Tory MP for Harlow in Essex, however, it is otherwise. Says Halfron...
"The release of al-Megrahi marked the low point of Britain's appeasement of Gaddafi. We should make every effort to bring him back so he can spend the rest of his time in prison where he belongs. Or he should spend the rest of his life in a Libyan jail, or be extradited to the US. We should do everything in our power to make sure he is in jail, rather than living a life of luxury."
Our old friends, the American senators - joined by Republican would-be President, the ludicrous Mitt Romney - are hullabalooing for Megrahi's extradition to the United States. Says Mormon Mitt...
"It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done..."
You'd think these American politicians had quite forgotten the Camp Zeist trial, which convicted Megrahi in early 2001 and the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which provides that "no person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb".
[And here is the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary, as quoted in an article on the Huffington Post:]
Foreign secretary William Hague has said he believes the Scottish government should “urgently” review the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi.
“The prime minister and I were both sharply critical of the release of Al-Megrahi when that happened. We have always thought it was the wrong thing to do. It was of course a matter for the Scottish Executive, not for the United Kingdom Government, so it’s not a matter I can control now.
“But if I was a Scottish minister, rather than a UK Government minister, I would be looking urgently to review this situation and see what I could do about it”, he told BBC News on Tuesday afternoon.
[If William Hague were a Scottish minister, I think all sensible Scots would emigrate.]