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People and Politics Forum 19. 12. 2008

"Should murderers show remorse before being released from prison?"

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More information:

Germany to free Baader-Meinhof fighter

Christian Klar was a member of the 1970s left-wing German terrorist organization known as the Red Army Faction or the Baader-Meinhof group. In 1985 he was convicted on nine counts of murder and eleven counts of attempted murder. In jail since 1982, Christian Klar will be freed on parole on January 3, after serving the minimum 26 years of his life sentence. Klar had previously been denied a pardon in 2007. Earlier this year a court ruled that Klar no longer posed a threat to society. But Klar has never expressed remorse for his actions and has refused to tell investigators important information concerning his involvement. This has angered many people in Germany including the families of his victims. Michael Buback, son of the assasinated attorney general, Siegfried Buback, has publically expressed his disapointment over the fact that the perpetrators are being set free, while his family continues to suffer.

Our Question is:

"Should murderers show remorse before being released from prison?"

Hans Scherm, in Germany, writes:

"Recently I listened to a radio program about the crimes committed by people like Christian Klar and his accomplices Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Peter-Jürgen Boock. It was clear to me that these people were very calculating. They didn’t kill in self-defence, or because they needed money, or because they were caught up in the heat of the moment. They killed because they wanted to kill. They can’t make amends for that. I can remember the terror they unleashed back then, and it remains to this day. That’s why I am vehemently opposed to the release of this criminal. Klar gave up his right to live in our society when he committed his crimes. Boock and Mohnhaupt shouldn’t have been released either. I can only hope that the people of Germany refuse to let our government get away with this bad decision, and take to the streets in protest. I call for demonstrations against the release of Christian Klar."

Arif Oomer, in India, does not agree:

"Prison sentences serve two purposes: as a deterrent and as legal retribution. If a murderer has been sentenced and spent the amount of time in jail that a court decided, then he has paid his debt to society. It’s irrelevant whether or not he feels remorse for his crime, and that shouldn’t play a role in the debate over his release."

René Junghans, Brazil:

"Murderers shouldn’t be released from jail at all, regardless of whether they show remorse or not. Anyone who kills and doesn’t show any remorse is capable of killing again or committing another serious crime. Letting people like that go free is just a time bomb that can explode anytime, and no-one can know in advance who the next victim might be. We live in a world where terrorists spread fear across the globe, and people commit cowardly killings and destroy property. Germany is affected by it too. That’s one more reason why all possible measures should be taken to protect the state and its people. It’s a shame that the death penalty doesn’t exist in Germany for serious criminals."

Erwin Scholz from Costa Rica rhymes away:

"To show remorse, or not to show

Regardless of the crime

into the courtroom they must go

If not now, then some time."

Diane Bates from Australia doesn’t think Klar’s release is a good idea:

"l do think murders should show remorse before being let out of prison. It is a crying shame when they don’t have any remorse for their crimes, the families of the crime victims live with their hurt and the loss of a loved one. So l think such people should not be allow back into society as they could be threats still."

Charles Stieger from Lithuania is also dubious:

"There’s a right to freedom, of course, as that’s enshrined in law. But with regards to complete social rehabilitation, in this case I have huge doubts."

Martin Burmeister from Venezuela doesn’t agree with the legal decision either:

"It’s not about remorse, it’s about multiple murders and a "life" sentence. In many countries, mass murderers are sentenced to several "life" sentences. Since the murderer never showed any mercy to his victims, it’s incomprehensible why the German government has let a criminal like this one go free after 26 years. It’s assumed he couldn’t be capable of violence anymore. Unbelievable!"

Gerhard Seeger from the Philippines makes an interesting point:

"Remorse can also be feigned. If criminals are let out for "showing remorse", then people who can fake it get let out. Very good actors could end up getting out very early."

Lee Davis from the US thinks second chances are important:

"I think you have to give a person a chance. In cases of political terrorism, the world changes and conditions may not lead a person to commit such a crime again."

Helge Weyland from Argentina sent in a quote from the famous French writer:

"La Rochefoucauld once said: Repentance is not so much remorse for what we have done as the fear of the consequences."

The editorial staff of "people and politics" reserves the right to abridge letters received.