Justice deferred is better than justice denied: Reflections of an iPad warrior in the aftermath of the latest Shrien Dewani extradition judgment.

2014-02-01 12:08

The symbol of justice is that of a blind lady holding a balanced scale in one hand and a sword in the other hand. So it is that every person suspected or accused of the most heinous of crimes, is entitled to fairness and equality of treatment. The Bill of Rights in our Constitution prescribes no less. It is a surety for justice for all.

Due process and the rule of law are pivotal to the outcomes of justice.

Our constitution enshrines this expectation and thus to detract from this would let loose the very sort of anarchy and vigilantism reminiscent of revolutions where even remotely suspected people found themselves in extreme prejudice. Closer to home, we see how those frustrated by perceived delays resort to "mob" justice ruled by retribution and revenge and in execution thereof take to murdering hapless suspects with the most brutal means producing gruesome outcomes.

So is it with Mr Shrien Dewani whose latest bid ( there could ,in all probability,be others) to avoid extradition to South Africa to face murder charges related to the death, whilst on honeymoon, of his wife Anni. He is no different in treatment and expectations to be treated fairly and justly even though he has resorted to questionable means and stratagems to avoid facing our justice system. He must not be treated any differently.

Frustrated we may be but we must not succumb to silent and subliminal prejudices and fears, coupled with the baying for blood, when we await the outcome that Anni Dewani's family patiently and painfully awaits.

This is not about innocence or guilt. We must leave that to our impartial justice system peopled by highly skilled and trained judges and prosecutorial teams focussed on ensuring that justice is done. If mistakes or lapses happen it is because of human error or human engineered results some of the unintended though collateral outcomes in a imperfect world.

I prefer that it takes all the time to ensure that justice is done for I am wary , given the fluid dynamics in our transient world,how possible it is that even innocent people have been sentenced and put to death or sentenced to life imprisonment due to egregious lapses in observing the highest standards one would expect so as to ensure the fairest and just or an approximate thereof of outcomes.

Yes,let me say this. I prefer that rather a guilty person walks free than an innocent person being convicted and sentenced according to the law of the land. As in the case of someone sentenced and put to death the damage cannot be undone and not even a posthumous discharge or acquittal would restore justice to its plinth.

I recall, and so would you reading this, how the justice and penal system in South Africa was negatively tarnished with racial overtones painfully blended in the accompanying rhetoric and manufactured hyperbole in a desperate effort to avoid the inevitable outcome.

These were subliminally at play in the prelude to the latest bid by Mr Dewani but Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas would have nothing to do with this.

The law is a stubborn ass someone wrote and one had to be persistently cracking the whip to get it moving. That's the price we pay for signing into the social compact as civilised citizens in our constitutional democracy.

In this regard we must publicly acknowledge and applaud the dogged persistence on the part of officials in the South African Justice Department to ensure that justice is done with the highest professional standards expected and being observed by the world.

We have a constitutional dispensation that is securely anchored on the principle of the rule of law and the case of Shrien Dewani offers that world a window into whether the Bill of Rights in the Constitution is just a piece of paper or a living and operational reality. Let us not drop those standards now.

In a sense , as Pip in Charles Dickens' (Great Expectations) said "there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice". Having read that as part of my matric set work, reflecting in retrospect and in the context of this blog piece, I think Pip was right being a victim of the 'capricious and violent coercion' he experienced during his childhood at the hands of his own sister. That strong perception of manifest injustice applies in this current context.

Reflecting in the context of the Shrien Dewani extradition saga, it is not about achieving a perfectly just world but about removing clearly perceived injustices that I pen this blog piece.

Justice deferred through a thorough process of removing all doubt and obstacles is better than justice denied. Lets be patient but vigilant at all times.

Saber Ahmed Jazbhay

1.2.2014

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