Taliban Send 8-Year Old Girl To Her Death

While targeting civilians in Kabul, the Taliban allegedly tricked an eight-year old girl into carrying a package containing a remote-control detonated bomb.

Only the girl was killed in the blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the village of Uwshi in the Char Chino District, said Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the police chief of Oruzgan Province.

The scene after a Taliban suicide bombing in Pakistan in May, 2011 © Hasham Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Shirzad said he believed the girl was unaware that the bag she had been given by Taliban insurgents held a bomb. Her body was “taken to a nearby security check post, and the police called her relatives,” he said.

As I write this I think of my two daughters and wonder what kind of people would find that acceptable?


Unanimous Security Council Vote A Crucial Moment for International Justice

Saturday’s Security Council referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court marks a historic moment in accountability for crimes under international law.

The Security Council’s vote came after a plea for action from Libya’s own UN delegation, which had announced that it no longer represented Col al-Gaddafi.

Amnesty’s director of international advocacy Steve Crawshaw said it best:

“This is a welcome and historic precedent. Libyan leaders and all others who may commit crimes under international law must now take heed that they will be called to account.”

For the people of Libya, this decision is a signal that the international community will not avert its eyes from the human rights abuses that they continue to suffer.

Amnesty International urged the UN Human Rights Council, the Arab League and the African Union, all of which have announced investigative missions to Libya, to urgently proceed with their missions and to hand over their findings to the ICC prosecutor as soon as possible.

The organization also called on the Security Council to consider similar action elsewhere.

The Security Council must build on the strong action it took yesterday. It must address situations in other parts of the world that at the moment have less public profile but are no less serious.

The vote follows a strong condemnation of human rights abuses in Libya by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday and the announcement of actions to ensure accountability.

As Situation in Libya Escalates Alarmingly, UN Has to Act

While the human rights situation in Libya continues to escalate at an alarming rate, the UN Security Council is meeting in New York to decide on next steps. We are calling for the United States to take a leadership role in the discussions at the Security Council, including the support of an arms embargo and a referral to the International Criminal Court.

We continue to receive reports that many people are being killed by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddfi and the situation is deteriorating. It seems that at least several hundred people, possibly many more, have been killed across the country and others now are at grave risk. We have received new information that many victims had been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting that the security forces had intended to kill them.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our online petition calling for a UN led investigation to ensure accountability for these crimes and an international arms embargo. Colonel al-Gaddafi and his chain of command have to understand they will answer for their actions. They need to see that investigation and prosecution are a reality they will face.

This should act as a wake-up call to those issuing the orders and those who carry them out: your crimes will not go unpunished. Members of the Security Council must act now to stop the outrageous abuses taking place on the streets of Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya.

Security Council and Arab League Must Act on Libyan Crimes Today

Update, February 23:

  • Call on US government officials to play a leadership role at the United Nations to ensure that it imposes a total arms embargo on Libya and sends a mission there immediately to investigate the violence.
  • Read a coalition letter that urges the UN Human Rights Council to act. The letter is sent to Foreign Ministries around the world (pdf)

The UN Security Council and the Arab League have to launch an immediate mission to Libya to investigate events that have left hundreds of protesters dead, Amnesty International said in a press release today. Over the last few days, hundreds of protesters have reportedly been killed in Libya. According to several accounts, demonstrators were also attacked by helicopter gunships.

The call for the investigation, which could lead to prosecutions at the International Criminal Court (ICC), comes as both the UN Security Council and the Arab League meet today for special sessions to discuss the spiraling violence in the country.

The UN Security Council should also impose a total arms embargo on Libya, amidst reports that security forces are continuing to deploy a range of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to use lethal force against protesters.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, made the following statement:

Colonel al-Gaddafi and his government appear to be prepared to kill as many people as it takes to stay in power. The international community needs to act now to put a stop to this. The international community must immediately make it clear to all those in the Libyan government, military and security apparatus that they and those carrying out their orders will be held to account for crimes under international law, such as those now being reported. The Security Council must also put an immediate end to the export or transfer of all arms and military equipment to Libya. People are being killed in their hundreds with intent. Other states must not be complicit in further killing. All military and police supplies and cooperation with Libya must stop now until the risk of such serious human rights violations is ended.

The UN and Arab League should send representatives to Libya immediately, either jointly or separately, to investigate the situation on the ground and report rapidly to the Security Council.

The recommendations should include a judgement as to whether the scale of the crimes being committed in Libya warrants a Security Council referral to the Prosecutor of the ICC.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay yesterday said that the Libyan authorities’ actions against protesters may amount to crimes against humanity.

A presidential pardon would not preclude accountability

The worth of a law is in its enforcement; if a law is not enforced, then it has no more value than a platitude, aspiration, or preference.  Because of this reason, one of AIUSA’s CTWJ campaign goals 100 days goals for the new administration is “accountability.”  Or in other words, AIUSA will demand that the government account for illegal or wrongful conduct of its employees or agents in the “war on terror.”

At first glace, a general presidential pardon (which seems likely in some form) threatens the accountability process.  But as I explain below, a pardon will likely only have a limited affect upon accountability.

As a general matter, a pardon precludes the US from prosecuting someone for criminal acts covered by the pardon.  However, accountability comes in many forms, not the least of which is a process resembling a truth commission.

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

South Africa


Congress has authority to summon witnesses to testify in hearings and a pardon does not limit this congressional power.  First, witnesses will have few, if any, 5th amendment rights protecting them from self-incrimination if those witnesses previously received a pardon.  If a witness has immunity, then there is no legal justification for that person to invoke the 5th amendment.  Second, a pardon does not protect a person from prosecution for future crimes.  If a person subject to a pardon refuses to testify, then congress can institute contempt proceedings against that individual.

There is also a question whether a pardon really protects US citizens from criminal liability.  Genocide, torture, or other violations of the law of are grave breaches of international law.  Grave breaches of international law trigger a doctrine called “universal jurisdiction,” meaning a person may be prosecuted by any country that obtains control over the person to be tried.  So, a person subject to a pardon for grave breaches of international law may be immune from prosecution in the US but remain subject to prosecution in any other country.  And if a person has received a presidential pardon but is detained overseas, then that county cannot extradite the American citizen back to the US for prosecution because the US will be precluded from trying the individual in American courts due to the broad application of the pardon.

So while a presidential pardon may create procedural or legal challenges to the accountability process, a pardon will not derail the accountability process.