11A076 Blood Money by Jim Davies, 3/18/2011    

In the nearest thing to real justice that I recall seeing recently, Raymond Davis was freed a couple of days ago from a Pakistani prison, after someone - probably you and I, without our consent - had paid his victims' families over $2 million in compensation.

It's a complicated affair. Davis shot and killed two men in Lahore who tried to car-jack him while stuck in traffic, and he says he shot them in self defense. Assuming that to be true, in a civilized society he would not have been long detained. Everyone has that natural right. If witnesses confirmed the facts, he'd have been on his way after a few hours at most.

But he's American, and Americans are so popular these days in the land of "our" favorite ally in those parts that most began howling for his blood - and the government justice system there obliged, charged him with double murder and threw him in jail. At this point the FedGov demanded his release on the grounds that he had "diplomatic immunity," under which employees of foreign governments everywhere can break speed limits, get away with murder, etc. However since he was (it says) actually a CIA contractor, that status was not easy to prove - and embarassing to boot. How come "we" spy on our "allies"? The demand was ignored.

Pakistani law provides however that if a victim or his family forgives an aggressor, the government case is dropped; and that is what caught my attention as a rather enlightened idea. Government ought not to be involved at all, but that practice reflects what was done in mediaeval Iceland; if someone killed a person, he went to the victim's family to apologize and offer compensation in the form of wergeld or, if you will, blood money. A court got involved only if the amount could not be agreed between the parties concerned.

In this case, the victims' families' lawyer strongly opposed such a settlement (I wonder why?) but as it happened he too was in jail at the time (I did say it was complex) and a deal was done without his participation. Loaded with rupees, the families then relocated rapidly lest their neighbors expressed indignation, foamed at the mouth, organized a rupee raid, etc.

Davis isn't quite out of the woods yet; he has to face an inquiry back home by the people who paid his ransom, in case that story about self-defense happens to have been less than perfectly true. But at least he won't be torn limb from limb by a vengeful mob of our grateful friends. So far, though, the story happens to illustrate what real justice is all about: righting wrongs, restoring damaged rights. In the coming zero government society, there will be no other kind.

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