City Press Debate – Is Obama a drone criminal?

2013-06-20 09:54

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Arresting him for drone killings will achieve nothing, writes Kenneth Walker

The so-called war on terror is the one US war I have come closest to supporting. The radical, Islamist antagonists in this war have decided to target my grandchildren on the streets of the US.

I am not particularly special in this regard. Indeed, I support most of their arguments against the US, starting with the tail-wagging dog of their Israeli policy.

But radical Islamists also target many more Muslim grandchildren in their own homelands, and grandchildren of any religious persuasion, everywhere. These are people who have declared war on everyone, everywhere.

It’s a war with no limits, where nothing is out of bounds. And they must be stopped.

The Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) in South Africa is demanding that US President Barack Obama be arrested and tried here for war crimes as a result of his campaign of using armed, unmanned jets to attack terrorists.

Attorney Yousha Tayob, an MLA spokesperson, acknowledged in an interview that his organisation has not filed a similar application against any other head of state, but did so now because US President Barack Obama “has confessed outright in his speech of May of this year. He confessed to drones, renditions and the loss of innocent lives”.

Despite my opposition to trying Obama as a war criminal, I am opposed to his policy on drones. Obama has, in effect, asserted the right to kill anyone, anywhere and at any time, once he, alone, decides a target represents a terrorist threat to the US. A growing number of Americans are opposed to this breathtaking assertion of unchecked power and insisting the courts, and perhaps Congress, be given some role in approving these assassinations.

In recognition of growing civil-liberties objections to the war on terror, Obama has welcomed a dialogue on some of these tactics. Some believe he is trying to rebrand the war from the older, more negative, “war on terror”, to the more modern-sounding “systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organisations”.

Clearly, Obama is trying to head off growing domestic and international opposition to the programme.

The newly elected government of Pakistan has demanded that drone attacks come to an end. And collateral damage (civilian casualties) continues to create more jihadists. Some worry that unfettered use of drones sets too lax a precedent for the growing number of countries developing drones of their own.

Last week, Obama promulgated a new rule: the US will use drones only against suspected terrorists who pose a “continuing and imminent threat to the American people”. That’s a notably tighter standard than one offered just a year ago by John Brennan, then a White House counterterrorism adviser and now CIA director, who said drones could be used against any “significant threat to US interests”.

This search for new rules comes when an arms race for drone development is under way in many countries, including South Africa, which is already selling them in the international arms bazaar.

So attempts by groups like the MLA to restrain the growing deployment of drones may already be lost. Not only is any country with a military coming to own the weapons, but so-called nonweaponised versions are increasingly available online for anyone.

It’s going to become the kind of weapon you don’t want to be the last one in your neighbourhood to have. The international community needs a new set of rules.

Wherever a country cannot control terrorist activity on its soil, the international community must build a legal framework to intervene expeditiously.

»?Walker is the CEO at Lion House Strategic Communications

SA is obliged to arrest him for war crimes that threaten us all, writes Zaakir Mayet

The Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) has lodged a complaint with various South African law enforcement agencies calling for US President Barack Obama to be investigated, charged and arrested for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The Media Review Network (MRN) fully supports this unprecedented stand taken by the MLA. Obama must be charged as soon as he steps on to South African soil during his upcoming tour of three African countries.

As a result of the US’ so-called war on terror, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as state-sponsored terror in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, Obama, in his capacity as commander-in- chief of US forces, must be held accountable for the countless deaths of innocent men, women and children in these countries.

The calculated use of unmanned drones has given Obama licence to decide who lives and who dies. In the name of “homeland security”, Obama has waged his wars on foreign lands, destroying the very fabric of those societies.

The MRN calls upon the South African judiciary, including the SA Police Service, not to abdicate their international responsibilities since we are signatories to the Rome Statute as well as the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In terms of the ICC Act, diplomatic immunity is not a defence and a head of state is not immune from prosecution for the aforementioned crimes.

The large number of well-documented civilian deaths because of the drone programme are said to constitute international crimes and the MLA complaint refers to numerous international reports that have documented evidence of the US’ drone policies. Other crimes cited include extrajudicial renditions

and torture.

The MLA submits that inaction by the authorities would be an open invitation to Obama to extend his nefarious extrajudicial killing spree to include the killing of South Africans within South Africa and to assassinate persons merely suspected of being terrorists by the US who happen to be on South African soil.

Such persons as are identified to be assassinated are not arrested or tried in a court of law. They are assassinated on the basis of mere accusations levelled against them. The alleged evidence is kept secret.

There is no judicial oversight to determine if listed persons are indeed guilty of any alleged crime. They are deprived of a hearing (let alone a fair one) as well as an opportunity to present mitigating factors even if found to be guilty. There are no due process rights and such persons are not treated as human beings.

The process of identifying listed persons is secret. There is no accountability at all – just plain, simple and brazen murder.

At all times, Obama knew or foresaw the possibility that the use of drones to carry out the assassination of listed persons would cause civilian casualties. This notwithstanding, he implemented the policy, indifferent to its consequences on innocent lives, including those of children.

The result is that the world at large is not immune from the acts of the accused. No person who is considered by the US government to be a threat to the US is safe in any country, anywhere in the world.

»? Mayet is chairman of the MRN

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