Lynch Law & Mob Rule


No religion, no culture and no law on the planet allow punishing a human without being subject to a fair trial. That’s why the right to fair trial is an essential right in all countries respecting the rule of law. If this basic human right is violated, then it cannot be compensated in any way. Depriving a human of his life as a punishment without subjecting him to due process of law is the most heinous and the most despicable of crimes.

Lynching, whereby a mob takes the law into its own hands in order to injure and kill a person accused of some wrongdoing, is not a new phenomenon; it has been devouring the lives of humans since long. However, a more clear evidence of its emergence is found in the history of America.

Captain William Lynch, a man from Virginia’s Pittsylvania County, claimed to be the source of the terms “lynch law” and “lynching”.  However, some historians like Professor James Elbert Cutler claim that the term “Lynch’s Law” was used as early as 1782 by a prominent Virginian named Charles Lynch to describe his actions in suppressing a suspected Loyalist uprising in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. The suspects were given a summary trial at an informal court; sentences handed down included whipping, property seizure, coerced pledges of allegiance, and conscription into the military. Charles Lynch’s extralegal actions were retroactively legitimized by the Virginia General Assembly in 1782.

History of the United States is replete with numerous examples of Lynching. In United States, to kill a black person, without putting him to trial, was considered absolutely fair and it was not a crime. This practice was fully supported by the majority group i.e. the Whites. It was the main reason why approximately 3,500 African Americans and 1,300 Whites were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968.

In the 21st century, this mob psyche is emerging again. Unfortunately, this vilest of acts is being increasingly witnessed in our society as well. In recent years, a number of lynching cases have happened. In 2010, two brothers from Sialkot, Mughees Sajjad and Muneeb Sajjad, were lynched in the presence of Sialkot police high-ups. In 2014, Shama and Shahzad Masih — a Christian couple — were lynched in Kot Radha Kishan, a town some 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Lahore. And most recently, the brutality of mob touched new heights when after the suicide attack on Youahanabad Church, Muhammad Nauman and Muhammad Naeem were beaten to death and then their dead bodies were put on fire by a mob. Their charred bodies speak volumes about the depths of inhumanity barbarity our society is touching.

At present, we are in dire need of improving the law and order situation in the country. In order to do this, effective legislation aimed at protecting the fundamental human rights is inevitable. Guidance can be sought from the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill that was introduced, in 1918, by Leonidas C. Dyer, a Republican congressman. Although it was quickly passed by the House of Representatives, yet it could not come to a vote. However, it can still be instrumental to legislate in the best interest of humanity.

Pakistan is already at its lowest ebb when it comes to the protection of basic human rights especially in the areas like interior Sindh, Balochistan, FATA and Southern Punjab. Government should introduce radical measures to enhance public interest in country’s justice system. If people start believing that justice will be served to them, no such incidents would happen again. To punish the criminal is right thing, but to save an innocent being from brutality and cruelty is biggest service to humanity.

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