The case against Musharraf
By Sanaullah Baloch
IN the last six decades a significant number of so-called state leaders have been prosecuted and brought before various domestic and international courts and tribunals for their official and unofficial crimes against humanity and genocide.
Unfortunately, the most unpopular state leaders have enjoyed lifetime immunity in domestic and foreign courts for their sanctioned and unsanctioned crimes. Many of them enjoyed personal immunity that lasts during their tenure for all unofficial acts such as looting state coffers or murdering political rivals.
After creating political and economic disarray and committing atrocities, the majority of detested world leaders moved to different countries that offered them protection and pleasure. But, including Pakistan’s former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, a great number of the world’s reviled state heads have remained in their countries, benefiting from their institutional connections, an incapable judicial system and the state’s lack of will to try former and sitting rulers for unlawful and inhuman acts.
The lack of legal and institutional capacity and willingness to try dictators and corrupt civil-military bureaucrats has resulted in an endless crisis of governance and trust in Pakistan. Deliberate ignorance by the legal and state institutions have benefited human rights violators, corrupt and criminal prime ministers, presidents, and miscreant dictators to escape justice, to live in cosy retirement, often with wealth dishonestly accumulated.
But internationally a positive change of approach has been experienced, to try rogue leaders for their crimes. Consensus also has been developed among the legal community around the world that all those involved in crimes against humanity must be prosecuted domestically and internationally, because some of these crimes are so disgraceful they can never be considered a part of any leader’s official duties. The statutes of the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals specifically declare that an official capacity or rank by itself is no defence against prosecution.
This month in Poland the country’s former communist leader and head of state, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski, who is now 85 and in poor health, has gone on trial accused of committing a crime by imposing martial law in 1981. Reading the charges, the prosecutor said the men had violated their own communist constitution when they created what he called a “criminal military organisation” to implement martial law in Dec 1981. Eight other former officials will also be tried for the clampdown against the opposition Solidarity movement, during which dozens of people were killed.
However, there is little hope among the marginalised people and victims of Musharraf’s rule that the former military dictator will be persecuted for looting, treason and grave human rights violations. No doubt, there is a general perception among the marginalised people of Pakistan that ethnically dominant and superior leaders in Pakistan are above any law and protected for all their crimes. This time round there is a need that an ex-army man must be held accountable for his evident and committed crimes.
There is little disagreement among Pakistani citizens that the Musharraf era is marked with state highhandedness against citizens. Undermining the constitution, bombing Balochistan, killing and persecuting Baloch veteran leaders, kidnapping political activists, sacking judges, killing lawyers, promoting centre-province confrontation and corruption are enough to prosecute Mr Musharraf in domestic and international courts.
In the recent past, a number of the world’s errant leaders have been brought before the domestic and international courts for human rights abuses. Some have been convicted, others are on trial.
Internationally there is a growing trend to make all leaders accountable and prosecute rogue rulers. Radovan Karadzic has been recently arrested and shifted to ICC at Hague to face criminal charges. Sudan’s president Omar Al-Bashir has also been summoned by the International Court of Justice for his human rights crimes and genocide in Darfur.
We have an entire history of cases where war criminals and human rights abusers have been brought before tribunals and convicted for their sins. During 1945-49, the Nuremberg trials, the largest in history, that lasted four years, brought the Nazi regime and the engineers of the Holocaust to justice. Major war criminals were sentenced to death. In the 12 other cases that followed, 65 defendants were convicted and more than 20 executed.
In 1948 under the watch of US Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur, an international military tribunal prosecuted and executed Japan’s former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and 28 high-ranking Japanese leaders for war crimes. In 1989 after almost 25 years of communist reign in Romania, President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were found guilty of crimes against humanity by a secret military tribunal. The two were executed on Christmas Day 1989. Rwanda’s former prime minister, Jean Kambanda, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Argentina’s military dictator Captain Adolfo Scilingo (1976-1983) was convicted in April 2005 by the Spanish court (1995-2005) almost 10 years after his alleged human rights crimes. The late Chilean leader Pinochet was prosecuted by the country’s supreme court in 2004.
The UN-Sierra Leone joint tribunal was set up in 2002 to try Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor and those most responsible for crimes against humanity, for war crimes and attacks against UN peacekeepers. Musharraf including his team must be put on trial before domestic and international courts for official and unofficial crimes. All victims must be provided an opportunity to come forth with evidence before the judicial institutions. This process will not only assist the overall failed state system to improve its stained image, it will also strengthen the people’s trust in institutions.
The Supreme Court Bar Council of Pakistan, the HRCP, vibrant civil society and other concerned organisations need to go for a fresh strategy, to discourage human rights violators and take their cases to world bodies. The legal community must activate its professional capacity to surround the high-profile culprits taking them before domestic and international courts of law for their unforgettable crimes.
The writer is a former member of senate. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org