La qualité de la clémence

PRINCETON – La récente libération de Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, la seule personne condamnée pour son implication dans l'explosion du vol 103 de la Pan Am au-dessus du village écossais de Lockerbie en 1988, a suscité des réactions de colère dans le monde. Il y a peu de temps, les Philadelphia Eagles, une équipe de football américain, a donné une seconde chance à l’ancien joueur vedette Michael Vick, condamné pour avoir organisé des combats de chiens au cours desquels les animaux perdants étaient torturés et tués. Et William Calley, le lieutenant à la tête de la compagnie responsable du massacre de plusieurs centaines de civils vietnamiens du village de My Lai en 1968, a rompu le silence qu’il gardait jusque là et a exprimé des remords pour ce qui c’était passé.

Pourquoi devrions-nous pardonner ou faire preuve de clémence envers les criminels ? Les mauvais traitements envers les animaux sont souvent traités avec légèreté, mais la peine de Vick – 23 mois de prison – était substantielle. Outre son emprisonnement, il a manqué deux ans de sa carrière professionnelle et perdu des millions de dollars de gains. S’il n’avait jamais pu rejouer, il aurait souffert d’une punition bien plus sévère que celle imposée par le tribunal.

Vick a aussi fait part de remords. Mieux, il a concrétisé ses excuses en travaillant comme volontaire dans un refuge pour animaux et en collaborant avec la Humane Society des Etats-Unis pour lutter contre les combats de chiens. On voit mal quel avantage aurait découlé de l’empêcher d’aller au bout de sa réhabilitation ou de faire ce qu’il fait le mieux.

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