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Govt must act to stop mob justice

2nd March 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

A highly regrettable incident occurred in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday morning.

A young man, alleged to have stolen a motorcycle, was beaten and then set on fire by an angry mob, who then watched him, burn to death.

The whole grisly incident recorded by television cameras, happened at a busy suburb of Dar es Salaam City, but within running distance of Oysterbay Police Station.

We are not in a position to say whether the young man was guilty or not of the crime, for which the mob executed him and neither are his executors, indeed murderers in this case.

The young man was thus not afforded a natural right that is enshrined in our justice system. This is the right to be heard and judged accordingly.

Worryingly there are quite a few such incidents in various parts of the country.

We shudder at the thought of how many innocent lives could be lost of this manner of ‘administering justice’ continues to gain ground. For it just needs a vindictive person to point a finger at a person he might have a grudge of some sort against, to end an innocent life.

What shocked us and indeed must worry all those who care about promoting justice and a law abiding society, is the message that such incidents are sending out the public, including children who watched the whole execution scene on Wednesday.

Indeed the journalist who was on the scene, reporting the criminal execution as it happened, lamented of the encroaching lawlessness, pointing out that the police station was nearby, yet the ‘captors’ did not see the need to seek its intervention, and instead proceeded to take the law into their own hands to punish alleged criminal!

There are those who try to justify such acts by citing what they argue are the frustrations of the general public with perceived law enforcement failings of the justice system.

A major frustration that they point out is seeing suspected criminals freed within a short time after being taken into police stations for various alleged offences.

The conclusions are mostly that the system is ridden with corruption and thus cannot deliver justice.

Indeed in some cases when accused persons are released for lack of evidence or some such legal technicalities, the ordinary people, not versed in the fine intricacies of the law, become even more disillusioned with the justice system.

Our argument is that the perceived weaknesses in the justice system cannot and should not justify the angry public taking law into its own hands.

The focus must instead be on struggling to remove the loopholes that allow such failings which eventually could erode the basic foundations of justice.

The government needs to urgently move to nip in the bud this extremely dangerous trend of the least competent members of the public seeking to ‘administer’ justice.

There must be no other parallel justice system to the one we all know we are subject to, which clearly states that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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