This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Islamist Imprisonment Redux

"Like many people, I did not become a Talib by choice. In early 1998 I was working as an accountant here in Quetta when I heard that my grandfather - who was 85 - had been arrested by the Taliban in Kandahar and was being badly beaten. They would only release him if he provided a member of his family as a conscript, so I had to go."
"Basically any form of pleasure was outlawed, and if we found people doing any of these things we would beat them with staves soaked in water - like a knife cutting through meat - until the room ran with their blood or their spines snapped. Then we would leave them with no food or water in rooms filled with insects until they died."
"We always tried to do different things: we would put some of them standing on their heads to sleep, hang others upside down with their legs tied together. We would stretch the arms out of others and nail them to posts like crucifixions."
"Sometimes we would throw bread to them to make them crawl. Then I would write the report to our commanding officer so he could see how innovative we had been."
"Maybe the worst thing I saw, was a man beaten so much, such a pulp of skin and blood, that it was impossible to tell whether he had clothes on or not. Every time he fell unconscious, we rubbed salt into his wounds to make him scream."
"Nowhere else in the world has such barbarity and cruelty as in Afghanistan. At that time I swore an oath that I will devote myself to the Afghan people and telling the world what is happening."
Hafiz Sadiqulla Hassani, Taliban recruit, The Telegraph, 2001
Wing of Kandahar's Sarpoza Prison where Taliban prisoners and others deemed to be a threat to Afghanistan's national security are held seen in this 2007 photo.
Graham Thomson / Edmonton Journal   Wing of Kandahar's Sarpoza Prison where Taliban prisoners and others deemed to be a threat to Afghanistan's national security are held seen in this 2007 photo.

In 2009, at the height of Canada's involvement in Kandahar province in Afghanistan as an integrated military unit with the U.S. and NATO-led coalition fighting the Taliban and helping to train the Afghan police and military, building schools and health clinics for Afghan civilians, the nation became embroiled in a controversy over handing over Taliban prisoners to agents of the Afghanistan government. Accusations of maltreatment and torture of Taliban prisoners implicated Canadian soldiers.

Finally, in 2012 the Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission, reached their conclusion in a report, that no grounds existed to see officers open an investigation into the suspected treatment of Taliban prisoners taken into custody by the Canadian military, then handed over to local authorities in Kandahar.  It was, however, found there was a "great deal of reliable information" attesting to the risk of mistreatment once prisoners were handed over to Afghan authorities.

That was then, that was Afghanistan. And now, in Iraq's conflict and in Syria, the United States is grappling with the very same humanitarian issue, only this time the concern is what will happen with Islamic State jihadis taken into custody and handed over to the custody of agencies of the Government of Iraq. Treatment of non-state militia members who have committed atrocities is of little obvious concern to the citizens at the mercy of the jihadists, let alone the government.

Talha Asmal, 17, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who became Britain's youngest suicide bomber

But to the Western nations that have intervened it remains of paramount concern. Initially in close future combat situations, Washington doesn't anticipate that too many ISIL fighters will fall into their hands since the Islamic State prides itself on its foot soldiers fighting to their deaths, as martyrs for their cause of the caliphate. Perhaps it's the fact that many of the international jihadis joining ISIL have been born in Europe that troubles the Western conscience.

"If they're not killed but detained, we are concerned about the standards of care, who would do it and how it would be done", said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Possibly Islamic State jihadis might "try to  hide, throw away their weapons and melt into the local population"; in which case, problem solved, one might conclude. "It's clearly a dilemma", director of national security advocacy at Human Rights First, Raha Wala, ventured.

"On the one hand, detention operations post-9/11 have been incredibly problematic from a treatment and legal position. But on the other hand, the answer can't be simply to wash our hands of it and turn over operations to local partners who may not follow the same principles that Western governments would follow in terms of adherence to human rights norms. So you're sort of in between a rock and a hard place", she said.

The head of the security committee in Anbar province clarified that when Ramadi was reclaimed recently by Iraqi security forces, 1,870 people were detained. About 300 of that number confessed to belonging to Islamic State. "Most of the foreign militants are either suicide bombers with suicide vests or car bombs. Many of them were killed in the coalition airstrikes or Iraqi Air Force strikes or killed in the battles, and some of them have withdrawn to other areas."
ISIS fighters photographed in Syria. The turmoil of Syria has allowed terrorism to flourish in the regionĀ 
The turmoil of Syria has allowed terrorism to flourish in the region 
Philosophical humanitarian principles aside, is this much ado about not a hell of a lot? These are people who themselves forswore human rights, taking pleasure in committing gross atrocities against other human beings. At the same time considering themselves dedicated to the image they so value of offering themselves as martyrs, prepared to die in service to Islam as jihadists. Perhaps it is right and just for the society that spawned them to try them in a manner traditional to the culture.

By imposing Western standards of respect for human life on governments like that of Syria and Iraq which are motivated and spurred forward by tribal and sectarian vengeance, the West is once again swerving awfully close to causing violent resentment to flow from that culture and religion to those valued and respected in the West. Even while the United States was shamed by its European partners for the prisoners it took and placed in Bagram Prison, and in Guantanamo.

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