Without even a hint that they realize the deep irony in their story, the New York Times yields front page space on Thursday to a report that the Obama administration now suddenly is concerned about prisoners who are being held without being charged, possibly subjected to torture or even killed without a judicial pronouncement of guilt. The irony, of course, is that although there is strong documentation that the US engages regularly in these same acts, the US now condemns Pakistan for these injustices.
Here is how the Times describes the concern:
The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.
The concern is over a steady stream of accounts from human rights groups that Pakistan’s security services have rounded up thousands of people over the past decade, mainly in Baluchistan, a vast and restive province far from the fight with the Taliban, and are holding them incommunicado without charges.
Separately, the report also described concerns that the Pakistani military had killed unarmed members of the Taliban, rather than put them on trial.
In breathlessly repeating the US concern over prisoners being held without charges, the Times seems to have forgotten the status of prisoners the US holds at Guantanamo and elsewhere without charging them and the ridiculous attempts by the Obama administration to provide a substitute for due process, which the Times even praised earlier this week in an editorial.
Torture plays a huge role in the reason true legal proceedings can’t be held for the prisoners the US keeps in legal limbo, and yet the Times sees no reason to point this out while relaying the “concern” from the US over the potential torture of Pakistan’s prisoners.
And as for the extrajudicial killings? The Times sees no reason to mention that the UN Specal Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings finds the US use of drones in Pakistan may also violate international standards against extrajudicial killings.
And in the final bit of extreme irony, the Times paints Pakistan’s judicial system as rudimentary and in need of US help. After providing us with this gem of a statement: “American officials are expanding programs to build up the judicial system in Pakistan”, the Times then quotes anonymous US “officials” on how “We’re trying to help Pakistan build democratic institutions so they can be a more effective partner.” It would seem to me that in holding prisoners without charging them, overlooking torture of prisoners and sanctioning extrajudicial killings, the Pakistani judicial system has emulated US judicial processes completely.
The Times paints its image of Pakistan as lacking in judicial process despite having noted earlier in the article that a report to Pakistan’s Supreme Court from a judicial commission assigned to investigate the missing prisoners is due to provide a report on Friday. Also missing from this description of Pakistan’s legal system as backwards is any reference to the massive outcry by Pakistan’s lawyers and other judicial officials resulting in “Black Flag Week”, when massive demonstrations forced then-President Pervez Musharraf to reinstate the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, whom he had illegally sacked. See the video above for coverage of that development back in 2007. The reality is that there may well be a better route to true justice in Pakistan than there is under the Obama Department of Justice.