The impact of pardon, traditional grace and forgiveness
By Yordanos M.
There are reports that the two Swedish journalists who sentenced 11 years of prison for entering Ethiopia illegally and supporting the terrorist group, ONLF, have decided to ask pardon to the Ethiopian people and government.
Having entered the country illegally, the journalist were found supporting the terrorist group and ruled according to the anti-terrorist law ratified in 2009 as their association with the terrorist group outside their normal journalistic practice was ascertained constituting support for terrorism.
Despite the transparent and vivid legal procedures of their trial, different irrelevant criticisms were forwarded by different personalities and organizations. Some have attempted to politicize it having connected with the narrowing of political landscape and others even link it with violating freedom of speech and the press. However, these criticisms have no relevance to the reality of the trial of the two journalists.
Recently, VOA Africa Service disclosed that the two journalists Martin Schibby and Johan Persson have no intention of appealing the eleven years sentence passed on them for entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism. Rather they have decided to ask a pardon as soon as the deadline for filing appeal has passed.
Of course, scholars believe that when a person is granted parole the decision of the court is not overturned as a pardon is an executive action that sets aside punishment for a crime in which a commuted sentence replaces the original sentence that was imposed.
A pardon should be evidenced by a written deed which should be duly signed. The offence of the person should also be detailed in the deed. It will be effective only after delivery and acceptance of the deed. The acceptance of the pardon by the convicted person is essential for the validity of the pardon.
Why a pardon? Of course, for the two Swedish journalists, asking a pardon is their right. They could raise any issues they want in connection with their trial and imprisonment. Even before they were trialed guilty of the aforementioned two crucial points, they were handled properly, their legal and human rights fully respected and given all the possible chances to defend themselves.
The trial process was as plain as the nose on our face that every part could witness its legality and transparency. Even after they were found guilty, they had been handled in accordance to international conventions and laws of handling prisoners. In other words, every piece of their rights was respected.
Of course, the government and people of Ethiopia have no any intention of revenge to all illegal act and evils these so called journalists committed. They only want to make punishments lessons for the wrong doers.
Previously, pardons have made to the officials of the Derg regime and some leaders and members of the opposition political parties, particularly Kinijit. The case of the former was obvious to everyone and the latter had been tailed for they had exhaustively attempted to direct Ethiopians in to unceasing quagmire of ethnic conflicts and chaos.
Some of the opposition political parties’ leaders have instigated violence and conflicts among the Ethiopian people. Even they went to the extent of declaring war against one segment of the society violating the constitution of the country. In doing that they have mislead many innocent people and the conflicts that they instigated resulted in lose of lives and destruction of public and private property.
The release of the opposition political party leaders who were convicted for the crime they committed upon the Ethiopia people has brought its own problem as their remorse latter has revealed that it was not from the bottom of their hearts and with some of them the regret seemed almost superficial.
They have continued of attempting to change the democratic system in undemocratic ways and widely participating in organizing and supporting terrorist activities.
After they have being convicted and sentenced to life in prison in July 2007, they were pardoned by the government of Ethiopia following their open request and announcement having expressed remorse for their wrongdoings.
Despite the tradition of grace and forgiveness, it would be appropriate to watch carefully what the pardoned leaders of opposition political parties have been doing. Who planned or in one way or the other tipped some of the failed terrorist attack attempts in Ethiopia? Obviously, the rogue state in Eritrea in collaboration with the pardoned opposition political parties Brehanu Nega, his advocates and others.
Berhanu along with his advocates promised the Ethiopia people and government that they will refrain from involving themselves in any terrorist practices when they were given the pardon.
In contrast to their promise, they have not only been nagging foreign aid donors and development partners to retreat from backing Ethiopia’s development endeavors to alleviate poverty and ensure sustainable economic development but also working day in day out to organize terrorist groups that could commit terrorist activities in Ethiopia aiming to jeopardize the development of Ethiopia and the prosperity of its people. Therefore, this could be a big lesson to the Ethiopian government in entertaining pardon requests here afte.
The pardon seekers, Brehanu Nega and his advocates, betrayed their people and country for the second time, which forced Ethiopians prefer that shouldn’t be given if it never let pardon seekers to learn from their wrong deeds.
When we considered the advantage of those pardons from the side of the Ethiopian people, I dare say, the government should learn from the previous ones, particularly from the leaders of the opposition political parties.
Although the tradition of grace and forgiveness is from the point of humanity and based on their real regret of pardon seekers for their wrong deeds, it is not as such easy to ascertain to what extent they really feel of their guiltiness.
In case of the two Swedish journalists, unless they really internalize the crime that they committed on the Ethiopian people and really regret for it from the bottom of their heart, I think, letting them free has of no or little value. Most Ethiopians believe that the law of the country should be respected and trials against law violators have to be carried out.
If the government is in a position to give pardon to guilty persons whenever they raise pardon query, it may have its own impact on the legal procedures and the interest of the Ethiopian people.
I think, the Ethiopian government should pay attention to the interest of the public and should gather general public opinion and know their true feelings if there is an intention to accept or not pardon request of the two journalists. I personally believe why not for this purpose?
Besides, it is crucial to ascertain whether pardon seekers internalize their wrong doings and ask the clemency to the people and government of Ethiopia from the bottom of their hearts. Unless this is assured, it could be playing tit-for-tat like what Berhanu Nega and his advocates have been doing.
In a nutshell, I think, it is inappropriate to accept pardon requests and set free persons found guilty of committing crimes upon the Ethiopian people.
It is the Ethiopian people who have been harmed of the terrorist attacks of ONLF and others committed previously. Had all the terrorist attempts organized by the Eritrean state and the opposition leaders who got pardon from the Ethiopian people and government, Berhanu Nega and his advocates, hit their targets, a number of innocent Ethiopians could have lost their lives. But thanks to the well organized and alert security organ of Ethiopia in cooperation with the peace loving community, many attempts were made futile or the actors were captured and faced trials according to the rule of the country.
Therefore, the government has to learn from previous pardons that we, Ethiopians don’t have any guarantee whether these journalists continue blackmailing of the country’s endeavors and resume supporting terrorist activities.
It is, therefore, advisable for the government to assess the interest of the Ethiopian public before it accepts pardon requests of the two journalists if this is the case as rumors smoke in the air. Unless the government has given sensible and logical reasons, it won’t be advisable entertaining such requests.
Besides, there should be appropriate legal procedures and the two journalists should ask clemency to the Ethiopian people and government openly and really remorse their wrongdoings that they had committed upon Ethiopia if the government has an intention to accept their pardon request. It is crystal clear that pardon, traditional grace and forgiveness have its own impact upon the legal procedures and the interest of the people.