Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Giving the Devil his Due?

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

-An excerpt of a dialogue between Sir Thomas More and his daughter's suitor, William Roper, as set forth in Robert Bolt's two-act play, A Man For All Seasons.
The Nation is reporting that most wanted criminal Simon Matheri Ikeere was gunned down at 2 a.m. this morning in Athi River. Though the details are sketchy, it seems that he was shot after he obeyed police orders to exit the house they cornered him in or it would be burnt down. Apparently there was also a woman and six kids in the house at the time.

Now, as much as one may want to congratulate the cops on the elimination of what they told us was a threat to society, I have several problems with the way they went about it. First, the threat to burn down the house shows a callous disregard for the lives of the innocents the police are sworn to protect. Secondly, to gun down a man after he has given up (the Nation story makes no mention of resistance by Ikeere), is an abuse of police firearm procedure and amounts to an extra-judicial execution. Where is the respect for due process?

Far from making me feel any safer, both these actions highlight the need to tame a rogue police force which arrogates to itself the office of judge and executioner. I sincerely hope that the Nation got it wrong on both counts. If not, an independent inquest into this and other police killings should be held post haste. We cannot hope to protect our right to life if we allow the agents of that protection to deal in such an off-hand manner with that right.

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