Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The second worst casualty of a major attack is the presumption of innocence. Too often people are demanding heads to role and assume anybody questioned, arrested, or charged because of an attack should be hanged. This leads to a lot of stupidity such as the xenophobia that began running rampant immediately after the attack in Brussels. Investigations take time and a lot of initial judgements based on preliminary evidence are proven wrong as this story illustrates so perfectly:

BRUSSELS — The Belgian authorities on Monday conceded another enormous blunder in their investigation into the attacks last week on Brussels. They freed a man they had charged with terrorism and murder, acknowledging that a witness had mistakenly identified as a bomber in a dark hat and white coat in an airport surveillance photo.

The man, who was arrested on Thursday and charged on Friday, was released after three days in custody, during which some officials publicly vilified him as a terrorist. On Monday, the police said that the real attacker, one of the men who blew up a departure hall at Brussels Airport, remained at large, and they issued a new plea to the public to help identify him.

The release of the man — who has been identified by the Belgian news media and Belgian officials as Fayçal Cheffou, who has called himself a freelance journalist — is a stunning setback for the Belgian authorities, who have struggled for more than a year to get a handle on the growing threat of Islamic State militants.

A lot of people were demanding gallows be built so Cheffou could be immediately executed. Had they gotten their way an innocent man would have been dead and nobody would have been any closer to determining who else was connected to the attack in Brussels. This is why the presumption of innocence is important, especially in high profile event such as this one.

I know everybody hates to hear it but the only appropriate way to respond to the aftermath of an attack is to have patience. Nothing is gained by rash responses. In fact rash responses often cause the same thing as the initial attacks: innocent people being injured or killed.

2 thoughts on “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

  1. I know everybody hates to hear it but the only appropriate way to respond to the aftermath of an attack is to have patience.

    Very true. Often the attacker is counting on a rash response to further his goals. OBL predicted exactly how the U.S. would bleed itself to death after 9/11, for example. Did anybody pause, and advocate taking another course instead? A few did, but they were drowned out by those who did not care that they were playing exactly the role the terrorists had assigned them.

    1. Unfortunately the only appropriate response is also the unpopular one. Under a system where majority rules such as democracy it is almost ensured sane, rational decisions are not made.

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