Collective punishment is banned by Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions which says that someone should not be punished for a crime he did not personally commit. A new report about human rights abuses in Swat is causing some controversy and rumour that aid will be withheld. If there is some evidence of crimes, they should be presented and properly investigated by the military. If there are soldiers that have committed a crime, they should be punished. But the entire nation of Pakistan should not suffer from withholding of aid. This would be a collective punishment far worse than is realized.
An article in the Washington Post newspaper says that a new human rights report threatens aid to Pakistan.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had documented the extrajudicial execution of as many as 300 alleged Taliban supporters and sympathizers in the area around Mingora, the Swat capital, in interviews with more than 100 Swat families in February and March. A report on the alleged abuses, including torture, home demolitions, illegal detentions and disappearances, is scheduled for release this month.
Most U.S. aid to Pakistan falls under congressional restrictions requiring the administration to certify the country’s adherence to human rights laws and norms. Since 2002, the United States has provided $11.6 billion in military aid and $6 billion in development assistance, according to Congressional Research Service figures. The administration has requested an additional $3 billion in combined aid for 2011.
War is a terrible thing. Unfortunately, there are some things that can happen in a war zone that should not. The Americans should be aware of this as even their own soldiers have committed some acts of extrajudicial killings. This is no conspiracy theory, but simply an unfortunate fact.
But the Americans know that the proper solution is to punish the guilty party, not the entire nation. Last month an American judge declared that a US Marine must face trial for killing civilians in Haditha. If he is guilty, he should be punished accordingly. But it does not mean the entire country of America should be punished.
Likewise, if there have been some extrajudicial killings in NWFP, please let the human right watch present the evidence to the military so that they can investigate and, if there is some proofs, bring the guilty party to justice. But do not punish the entire nation of Pakistan for the (alleged) crimes of one person.
There is no official policy of collective punishment by the military, and there should be not official policy of collective punishment against the people of Pakistan by withholding aid. Actually, treating Pakistan as if it were the terrorist would work against the goal of defeating the militants.
Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied allegations of abuse, saying that the military had invited human rights groups to investigate earlier charges during the June-to-September offensive in the former Taliban stronghold. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, he said, issued written directives ordering troops operating in Swat and other regions to respect the rule of law.
“If we are seen as becoming terrorists against the terrorists,” Abbas said, “all we have gained will go up in the air.” He suggested that reported killings or other abuses were the result of “scores being settled between the people and the Taliban,” many of whom remain in the mountains surrounding settled areas in Swat.
The problem here is actually one of how to handle the militant miscreants that are captured.
The army is holding about 2,500 detainees from counterinsurgency operations in Swat and elsewhere in the north and west, about 1,000 of them in Swat. The military has no judicial arm to prosecute them and has complained that Pakistan’s slow-moving civilian judiciary was unable to handle them.
Again, this is a similar problem to one that is faced by the Americans with their own ‘detainees.’ Besides, even according the Washington Post reporter, the residents of Swat support the military. Would they do this if there were grave acts of human rights violations? Also, according to this same article, the group that wrote the human rights report has been unable to verify military involvement in the alleged abuse.
If there is evidence of a soldier in the military committing some abuses, please let that evidence be delivered to the proper military authorities so that the person can be investigated. But do not punish the innocent people of Pakistan collectively. The aid promised by the US will help rebuild the economy and infrastructure while we fight the militant terrorists. And that will help end all of the violence. Surely that is the greater good.