Guantanamo lawyer condemns drone strikes

Published: April 13, 2011
Clive Stafford 
Smith in town for workshop on death penalty cases.

Clive Stafford Smith in town for workshop on death penalty cases.


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.


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Reader Comments (5)

  • Apr 13, 2011 - 12:16PM

    So a British lawyer thinks the accuracy rate of the strikes is one in THOUSAND. And still some Pakistanis support drone strikes. I wonder if their opinion will remain the same if one of their own loved ones are killed or maimed in one of such strikes? Recommend

  • Apr 14, 2011 - 6:34PM

    The presentations are sound and documented both in the books George W. Bush, War Criminal? (Praeger 2009) and America’s War Crimes Quagmire (Publishinghouse for Scholars 2010)Recommend

  • Tamoor
    Apr 14, 2011 - 11:01PM

    U S kills millions of innocent peoples (including childs & women)
    after 9/11 attack although 67 american was dead in this attack.
    The price of 67 American is equal to millions of muslims is not justified in any international court.Secondly lawyer said that accuracy rate of drone strike is only 1 in thousand as a result
    extremism is rising day by day. A documentary movie (Road to Guantanamo) is also exposed
    who is the real terrorist in Guantanamo .Recommend

  • Tamoor
    Apr 14, 2011 - 11:36PM

    Drone strike is against the soverignity of Pakistan as a result extremism is rising day by day.There is no success rate of strikes accordingly to british lawyer .Why media is not cover properly that type of wrong drone strikes who kills innocent childs & women also…? I think media should try one more step to take exact reporting of facts and figure on the tribal area of Pakistan .Recommend

  • the afraid one
    Apr 15, 2011 - 1:04AM

    It is just a hoax program. The only objective was to train lawyers and to tell them how to defend a case. What a pity. I attended and it was like carrying coals to Newcastle. Apparently they are funded group and trying to display that they do something while actually they themselves need to be trained from scratch. Recommend

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