The United States kills many innocent civilians for each legitimate terrorist target in its war in Afghanistan and in drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to a British lawyer who represents several detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Referring to the drone strikes, Clive Stafford Smith said the deaths of a hundred Pakistanis did not mean anything to the United States compared to the death of a single American citizen.
He estimated that the US success rate in terms of targeting actual terrorists as opposed to civilian bystanders as “one in a thousand”.
Smith is a prominent lawyer in America and the founder of Reprieve, a British charity that helps prisoners on death row.
Reprieve is to conduct a two-day workshop on how to defend death penalty cases for Pakistani lawyers from today.
In an introductory meeting with lawyers and NGO representatives at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday evening, Smith also spoke of his experience of handling 300 death penalty cases.
Denny LeBoeuf, an American lawyer for several Guantanamo detainees, gave a presentation on how the rights of the detainees are violated by biased military tribunals.
She said the courtrooms at Guantanamo are divided in two, with family members of the defendants, human right activists and federal and civil lawyers sitting behind a glass partition and hearing proceedings with a 42-second delay.
“A man presses a switch connected to a red light every time the defence lawyers mention any details of torture.
This is done to avoid any mention of the torture the prisoners are sometimes subjected to,” she said.
She said while the prosecution had access to intelligence documents, among other resources, the defence usually had neither access to such documents nor sufficient capital.
The prisoners, during meetings with lawyers, are made to wear masks and goggles and are not provided translators, she said.
Also a staff attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union, LeBoeuf said the US administration should try the prisoners at Guantanamo on US soil and not in Cuba, as President Barack Obama had promised at the start of his presidency.
Asked a question about the Raymond Davis case, LeBoeuf said she doubted that he would ever be tried in a court in the United States.
She referred to him as an operative of the private security firm Blackwater, which has since changed its name to XE. LeBoeuf said that after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, her hometown, the US government sent in Blackwater operatives to protect the houses of the rich from looters rather than send in volunteers to help those who needed it most.
“In some ways, New Orleans and Lahore have something in common: the open brutality of Blackwater,” she said.
According to Reprieve, there are over 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, which made it the country giving out the most death sentences.
Six thousand of these prisoners are in Punjab.
Up to 120 lawyers are expected to attend the Reprieve workshop which will be held at the main hall of the Punjab Bar Council today.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2011.