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اتوار، 26 ستمبر، 2010

Aafia today, U.S. citizens tomorrow

obfuscation is an awkward word but it essentially sums up the behior of all of the Pakistani government ministers, diplomats, and politicians who have had a hand in the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
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 By Yvonne Ridley


Now they’re scrambling over each others backs like a bucket of frogs clawing their way to the top in a bid to speak to the media to feign shock at the silly sentence dished out by New York judge Richard Berman a few days ago.

And on top of all of this over-acting, that other major obfuscator, the United States, has said Pakistan will have to sign two international treaties dealing with the exchange of prisoners to enable the repatriation of Aafia.

Poppycock!

Why don’t these spineless chumps in Islamabad grow a backbone and tell their gin-soaked counterparts in the U.S. State Department to get stuffed.

Exactly what difference would it make if Pakistan were a signatory to the Council of Europe Treaty and the OAS Treaty? Please don’t tell me the U.S. administration would abide by these? Of course they wouldn’t. The USA has continually violated and ignored the Geneva Conventions and is still a serial offender since it hasn’t closed down Guantanamo Bay and other secret detention centers.

And in Aafia’s case it has also thrown the Vienna Conventions out of the window.

The shameless, outgoing U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, lied to the world from her barbed wire bunker in Islamabad when she claimed Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was given full consular access at all times. I can prove Aafia wasn’t.

According to some new documentation I’ve seen, which includes log sheets collated by the FBI, I can prove that at no time from July 18, 2008, the day Aafia was shot by U.S. soldiers in Ghazni, Afghanistan, to August 5, 2008, when she was taken to court in New York, was she ever offered consular services. Nor was she told of her rights to have access to these services.

In between all of this, let’s remember she was on a life support machine in Bagram, under heavy sedation. OK, she might not have been alert enough to have her rights read to her, but that still did not prevent her from being interrogated by the FBI. And according to the recordings the agents made, never once did any of those agents inform Aafia of her rights.

And when she arrived in the United States, not only did Hossein Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, fail to do his job or demand that the U.S. allow him to do his job by providing consular services to Aafia, but U.S. officials again deliberately did not inform Aafia of her rights.

Flouting the Vienna Conventions is a serious matter and the U.S. is guilty. So when the U.S. starts to tell Pakistan it needs to sign two international treaties, I say “pot, kettle and black”!

The United States threw out the Vienna Conventions when dealing with Aafia -- and this single, reckless arrogant action alone has now opened the door for every country in the world to do the same to every U.S. citizen who falls into difficulty overseas.

Now is the time for the United States to start leading by example and to show some humanity by releasing Dr. Aafia Siddiqui immediately. Only by righting the initial wrongs in the first place can the U.S. move forward from this disgraceful episode.

The U.S. stands guilty of violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to afford a Pakistani citizen -- in this case Aafia -- the right to consular access.

Another reason to declare her trial a mistrial.

Judge Richard Berman is the one who should be charged. Ignorance of the law is no excuse Your Honor, and at the moment you stand guilty as a lawbreaker not a lawmaker for dragging Aafia through an illegal trial, the process of which was flawed from beginning to end. It all happened on Judge Berman’s watch.

The Pakistani government now needs to demand the repatriation of Aafia with immediate effect. The U.S. needs to shut up, back down, and show some humility by returning the Daughter of Pakistan.

And with a bit of luck, innocent U.S. citizens travelling abroad will not get caught up in the fallout of this violation of international law and human rights.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners, a human rights NGO which first brought up the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in 2004. 



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