All terrorists are enemy combatants

Apr 22, 2013, 07:21 IST | Smita Prakash

It's about time we face the fact that terrorists have no nationalities. They must be treated as enemy combatants in every country. Terrorists should not be protected simply because they carry a passport of that particular country

It’s about time we face the fact that terrorists have no nationalities. They must be treated as enemy combatants in every country. Terrorists should not be protected simply because they carry a passport of that particular country.

Those who perpetrate terror acts are not maladjusted criminals. They are not like the child rapist of Delhi or spawn of rich politicians who mow down people on the roads. Those are perverted crazies. Terrorists who plot, plan and execute mass murders think they are omnipotent because they are doing the work of God. These are people who throw bombs at law enforcement officers, who think nothing of placing explosives near women and children, who gloat at massacres they led and believe that they have brought glory to themselves and their religion. From Boston to Bangalore, these are individuals in a state of war with democratic societies.

Terror trail: An injured being taken to the hospital after the Boston bombings on April 16

These are enemies of humanity, not enemies of countries or religions. It is about time that lawmakers of all countries face this fact. It is time to change laws in all countries that don’t discriminate between citizens and foreigners when it comes to terrorism. Don’t give a terrorist special right just because he holds a passport of your country. These are enemy combatants of all countries. Whether it is Dawood Ibrahim, David Headley, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or the Boston brothers, these are people who would kill in any country. These are unlawful combatants who do not belong to ANY state and do not deserve the rights and privileges that ordinary citizens get in any country.

Terrorists who unhesitatingly plan and execute mass murders are fully aware that legal processes in democracies are full of loopholes and there are many liberal rights groups who will take up their cases. In fact, it is in non-democratic countries that terrorists are scared to operate. Which brings us to wonder, whether agonising over their democratic rights is something we should be really worrying about?

There is a lot of debate on methods of interrogation used by democracies. Is torture acceptable? What about the legal rights of the terrorists? There are no easy answers.

In America, rights groups and the media started debating about civil rights of the Boston bomber minutes after he was arrested from the boat in a severely injured condition. It is believed that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not read out his Miranda Rights before being taken to the hospital and he will be interrogated as high value suspect. Though the teen is an American citizen, the US government is invoking a public safety exception. The Miranda warning is given out by the police in the United States to criminal suspects before interrogation under which they have the right to be silent. If the criminal then confesses to the crime then it is admissible during court proceedings.

A lot has changed in the world since these laws were introduced in the sixties. Terrorism isn’t an alien concept now and all terrorists aren’t foreigners. If anything, 9/11 proved that to the US and the western world. India has been facing it in Kashmir for decades, the Mumbai attacks only being a more recent case.

The American administration spared no effort in bringing all resources to catch the Boston bomber. Now it is imperative to get answers to many questions: who radicalised them, where did they get the funds to buy their weapons, are they part of some terror sleeper cells, are there more of them, when did they decide to bomb the marathon, what was their goal and so on. Americans would be better served asking these questions rather than why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not read out his Miranda Rights.

By all accounts, investigating authorities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are closing in on the suspects who engineered the Bangalore blasts. If and when caught, Indians would be better served if they are interrogated in whatever way available to law enforcers to prevent more attacks. Collecting timely and valuable intelligence from terrorists and suspected terrorists offsets the disservice that could be caused by not providing them legal rights that ordinary citizens are entitled to.

Why should India be interested in the interrogation of the Boston bomber? Because terrorism is now a global phenomenon, what happens in Boston matters to Bangalore and vice versa. India is particularly vulnerable to terror by being situated in a dangerous region. A timely tip from interrogations in Boston could help nab the terrorist plotting the next terror attack in your neighbourhood.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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