New Principles, New Rules

Nine new "principles" that can destroy world peace.

By Mufti Taqi Usmani
Posted: 18 Sha'ban 1422, 4 November 2001

(Translation by M. Anis Motiwala)

As the US murder of unarmed and distressed Afghans continues and intensifies each day, the simultaneous murder of values and universally accepted fundamental human principles is taking place on such a wide scale that if the world leaders still choose not to remove the blindfold of American influence from their eyes the whole world will turn into a perpetual inferno of violence and chaos.

The fact is US has created such monstrous precedents in her war hysteria that if the present state of affairs were to prolong, there could only be rule of arms and violence on the surface of the earth and the notion of peace and stability will vanish from this world.

As a sequel to the tragic incident of September 11th the brand new set of principles in human, moral and international values that the rulers of the United States have given to the world need to be looked into. Let us take a look at some of them.

1. Guilt has to be proven before a punishment can be meted out to an accused i.e. innocent until proven guilty is such an established principle since antiquity that not one civilization in the world has ever differed with it. But in the case of Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan the decision to take direct action against them was taken the very first day of the incident. The new principle now states that one with might and power can accuse any one it deems fit and can dispense punishment at will. The mighty neither needs to prove the guilt nor has to wait for the decision from any court of law for the one it has accused.

2.  Until this day it was an accepted principle that the benefit of doubt always went to the accused. If the evidence that exists against the accused contains an element of ambiguity the accused could never be punished under such circumstances. Now the freshly introduced principle states that the benefit of doubt goes to the one who unilaterally decides to accuse another, implying that the accused can be declared a convict simply on the basis of doubt.

3. To this day the international law and norms dictated that if an accused happens to be in another country, he or she can be tried in a court in that country only, unless there is an explicit treaty for extradition between these countries in which case the accused may be handed over to the complaining country to be tried in a court of law. There exists no Extradition treaty or agreement between US and Afghanistan. The only civilized set of solutions presented under the circumstances was that either the accused be tried in a court in Afghanistan or the US enters into an extradition agreement and by virtue of that demand for the accused. Dismissing both of these options and demanding that "Our accused be handed over to us" resembles the practice of the mediaeval times of ignorance when warring tribes resorted to such demands.

Although Afghanistan was under no obligation to hand over Osama under the un-immutable law of human society, it still demonstrated a conciliatory offer to consider if Afghanistan was shown the proofs and evidence. But the US insisted that whatever evidence it has it will show it to its "friends" but will not produce before Afghanistan. In other words, the very country that is a party (in the demanded extradition) will not be shown the evidence. Later on the Taliban government even offered for dialogue to consider trial in a neutral third country but the US continued to insist that there could be no dialogue and Osama must be handed over to them.

The demand "Hand him over to us" is providing an analogy and an excuse to every bully on the earth. As a direct consequence Israel demanded from the Palestinian authorities that the suspects of their murdered person be handed over to them. Back home here even India is inching toward raising a similar demand to handover their "terrorists" over to them. If the trend progresses, then every country that has offered political asylum or political sanctuary to people will be subjected to the same principle by the more mighty that either "give us our accused or get ready for aerial bombardment".

4. Another established principle of civilized society has been that the punishment can only be given to the one who has committed the crime not to another person instead. The innovative new principle now allows that along with the criminal punish the whole country and its innocent civilians. In fact in the present American move the very person who is accused to have committed the crime and is sought to be punished is tucked in safety and instead thousands of those people are being maimed, made homeless and destitute who had probably never even heard the name of World Trade Center.

5. International norms dictate and US itself has on numerous occasions advised conflicting parties to settle issues through talks and negotiations but in the case of Afghanistan it simply announced that doors are completely closed to negotiations.  Another new fundamental that emerges is that if you have the might and power you need not negotiate or talk, simply run over the less powerful.

6. A recognized principle has been that a sovereign state cannot be forced to participate in a war. Now a new principle has been brazenly made acceptable that if a mighty and powerful country wishes, it can coerce a smaller country to act against its conscience and join the "coalition" or else be prepared to be consigned to the Stone Age. In this way, a powerful bully can put together a large coalition of its choice to thrust upon a pauperized and weak nation if it so desires. The small and less powerful countries have been deprived not only of the right to act according to their conscience but even the right to remain neutral has been made non-existent; the only option for the weaker country is to side with the bully.

7. In whatever laws are passed in the international forums and bodies, so much so that even in the case of individual resolutions every word used in the drafts is thoroughly reviewed and only after long debates the selection of a word is made for the draft resolutions (very rightly so). The purpose behind such prolonged deliberations has been to keep the resolutions clear of ambiguity lest a member state draw advantage from the loose ends creating conflicts and disagreements as a result. However, the recent anti-terrorism resolution passed by the Security Council of the United Nations in a matter of hours contains no definition of the concept of "terrorism" opening up the doors wide open for the mighty on the earth to accuse anybody of terrorism and for that instantly flash the Security Council's resolution to give legitimacy to its action.

8. Taking a human life is that extreme step which attracts immense precautions in framing of laws. And even when the law necessitates that a life be taken, a capital punishment be meted out, the methods devised for the execution are ensured to live up to the standards of equity and justice. Now the new edict. The US has passed a new law empowering its intelligence agencies to employ whatever means they deem fit to execute or kill "terrorists". So therefore, these American intelligence agencies will now sit on judgment to declare somebody a terrorist, decide about the fate of his or her life and even devise their own ways of bringing about the execution.

9. International laws governing the conduct of wars view as criminal acts the senseless bombing of civilian targets, hospitals, Red Cross centers etc. But, in the past three weeks the impunity with which the civilians are being bombed and hospitals targeted, and the brazenness shown over and above all this - that not a word of remorse or apology is forthcoming is further consolidating the principle that for the mighty every (criminal) act is legitimate.

The question is, will the new set of principles that is being given to the world and new precedents that are being drawn along these lines, will these eliminate terrorism or lend perpetuity to it? Will the world become a more peaceful place as a result or will be inflamed in a vicious cycle of violence? Will these new principles breed love or promote intense hatred?

[This Article was published in Urdu by Daily Jang in Pakistan. Renowned Scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani is a Judge at the Shariah Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is not responsible for any errors in the translation which is provided here as service to the non-Urdu Speaking readers.]