Defending the “Guilty”

An interesting situation is developing in India as certain members of  the Bombay Bar have unofficially declared that no lawyer is going to defend the lone terrorist caught in the Mumbai attacks of 26/11. At the same time, the Country’s top criminal lawyer sitting in New Delhi has stated that the terrorist must be given a good defence and even he may step in to do so. While a large part of the country is in shock for his comments, a greater question that has always remained is the idea of a lawyer defending the “guilty” .

This brings me to another parallel situation; that of Radovon Karadzic. Karadzic is accused of genocide in Bosnia and Kevin Jon Heller is defending him. In this post , Kevin explains to friends and peers as to why he’s defending Karadzic. His views may be an answer to the situation above. He brings forth the idea of a fair trial and a good defense for everyone as a matter of right and uses it to suport his argument. His 3 reasons in brief that he elucidates later are;

– The first is the one that defense attorneys always use, which is no less true for that fact: every defendant, even one accused of committing horrific international crimes, needs a good defense.

-The second answer is that every defendant, even one accused of committing horrific international crimes, deserves a good defense.  The right to a fair trial is a basic human right, one enshrined in every important human-rights document of the modern era, from the Magna Carta to the ICCPR.

-The third answer is pragmatic: the ICTY needs Dr. Karadzic to receive a fair trial and that this is important for its legacy to sustain to future generations.

At the end of articulating his reasons he states;

“These, in any case, are the reasons why I will devote much of my professional life in the coming years to helping defend a man most people believe is responsible for some of the worst crimes since World War II.  I am honored to be involved in such an important case.  Indeed, given the stakes, I think “how could you defend Radovan Karadzic?” is the wrong question.  The better question, I believe, is how could I not?”

2 Comments on "Defending the “Guilty”"

  1. I understand that they need to have a trial and a defense… I just don’t understand WHY someone would WANT to defend them and step in…

    For personal gain and notoriety? Just don’t get it.

  2. What is important, is to avoid the abuses in the system. I dion’t believe we can achieve it, but here we are today.

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