While US soldiers are being charged with killing and covering up the deaths of Afghan civilians, Pakistan Army’s inquiry into a video showing soldiers executing six blindfolded men has not been completed yet.
The inquiry into the video, which was reportedly shot in Swat, was announced on October 8, 2010 by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Major-General Athar Abbas, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, told The Express Tribune, “The inquiry has not been finalised, and no final recommendations have been made yet.”
Abbas refused to comment on whether the military would apologise to the families of the men who were killed if soldiers were found guilty, saying this was ‘speculative’. He also refused to comment on what punishments would be meted out to anyone if found guilty. “They will be dealt with according to military law and what it warrants.”
According to the Pakistan Army Act 1952, officers can be charged with ‘certain forms of disgraceful conduct’, ‘irregular confinement’, ‘unbecoming behaviour’ and ‘violation of good order and discipline’.
The video, showing the alleged extra-judicial killings by men clad in army uniforms, was released online. It prompted calls by the US to investigate the video, otherwise it would withhold aid. However, US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks stated that the US was aware of alleged human rights abuses but had decided to avoid comment.
The leaks of such images and videos have been detrimental to the perception of armies worldwide, seen in the cases of photographs from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and a new release of images from Afghanistan, which were published by Der Spiegel magazine.
On Monday, the US army formally apologised “for the distress” caused by the images, which show two US soldiers posing with dead Afghans. A soldier, who was part of what is being described as a ‘kill team’, is shown holding up the head of a dead Afghan. Another shows the bodies of two dead Afghans propped together.
Twelve soldiers, including the ones featured in the images, have been charged in the ongoing case. According to Al Jazeera English, one has pleaded guilty to three charges of murder and will be sentenced at a court martial. Four other soldiers have been charged with murder. Seven soldiers are charged with trying to block the investigation, using a controlled drug and “wrongfully photographing and possessing visual images of human casualties.”
Abbas said this “was a matter for Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force to handle”, and had nothing to do with Pakistan. He refused to comment on whether the Pakistan Army considered that this would create problems in the border areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.
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