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Justice, legality and the case of Justice Onnoghen

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There is no denying the fact that Justice and Legality are not the same in the present-day human affairs.

This implies that one can be legal but unjust. Depending on the specific issues under consideration, the pursuit of legality may lead to injustice and fight for injustice may lead to illegality.

With natural laws, of course, the matter is different: natural laws are always aligned with justice and what is just never conflicts with natural laws. By natural laws, I mean the laws ordained by the Creator.

Human-made laws do not always promote justice. Indeed, quite often, laws are exploited by lawyers to set free people who have actually committed crimes.

In contrast, natural laws ensure that, at all times, Justice and Love are simultaneously upheld. With human-made laws, legality and morality are separate matters. There are cases of human made laws that are obviously unjust and hateful and yet are considered “legal.”

Let me illustrate: The Supreme Court of the United States of America in 1856 ruled in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford that slaves were property of their owners and were not entitled to any constitutional protection.

This is the Supreme Court of a country whose Declaration of Independence states in the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

In a dissenting voice, however, Justice Jo McLean wrote that a “slave is not mere chattel. He bears the impress of his Maker, and is amenable to the laws of God and man.”

That obnoxious Supreme Court decision is an example of the nature of human-made laws, their sometimes unjust and irrational character, as well as the possibility of their inconsistent interpretations.

Another illustration: The atrocities that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi carried out were duly backed by so-called laws.

For example, part of Nuremberg anti-Semitic legislation of 1935 declared that German citizens of Jewish origin who were then outside the country or thereafter left would lose their German citizenship and their property would be confiscated by the German state.

During the period, such unjust and obnoxious ordinances had the full force of law.

According to the doctrine of legal positivism, any ordinance made by a recognized authority of the state (such as the Nazi regime) is considered valid law.

Following the collapse of the Nazi regime, the courts of the Federal Republic of Germany repudiated legal positivism; instead they recognized the imperative to take into account principles of natural justice or the doctrine of Natural Law.

Some German physicians accused of murdering prisoners in medical experiments argued that their actions were authorized during the Nazi rule.

Their defence was rejected on the grounds that the law that backed their action was against natural justice.

In a case cited by Charles E. Rice in his book “50 Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It”, one court concluded that “law must be defined as an ordinance or precept devised in the service of justice.

Whenever the conflict between an enacted law and true justice reaches unendurable proportions, the enacted law must yield to justice, and be considered as ‘lawless law.’

The accused may not justify his conduct by appealing to an existing law if this law offended against certain evident principles of the natural law.”

The difference between justice and legality must be appreciated explicitly if one is to arrive at a morally responsible position on the current case of the suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.

It seems to me that a situation had arisen where justice and legality could not be aligned.

What is in the best interest of the country –justice or legality? Are we more interested in justice or in legality? This question is highly significant in attempts to cure the cancer of corruption in our land.

• Dr. Lampe is the author of The Primordial Laws of Creation: Key to Joyous Fulfillment of Life’s Purposes.


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