It was not a great triumph of The People. It was squalid and ugly and depressing. I only saw the two jumbled clips once — Gaddafi alive and Gaddafi dead — and avoided television news after that. Yes, I think the world is a better place without Muammar Gaddafi; and yes, I understand the emotions that the Libyans must feel. But it’s not justice.
It has been established by psychological experiments that a desire for fairness is a very fundamental part of the human psyche. And not just humans, other primates, and even dogs have been shown to comprehend and object to unfairness.[ http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/dogs_frown_on_unfair_rewards.php ]
It’s possible that Gaddafi got his “just deserts”, that is, it fulfils a human sense of fairness that he suffered as his many victims did. But that isn’t the same as justice. Justice is a social construct, designed to keep a society functioning in the best interests of its citizens. As the Austrian jurist Hans Kelsen said “Justice is social happiness. It is happiness guaranteed by a social order.”
A system of justice is something that society constructs to protect the weak. You and me, basically. But justice works best when it’s applied equally to all, even demented, monstrous dictators.