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Jornal de Angola, Angola

Drones and Executions Without Trial

By Benjamim Formigo

Translated By Elizabeth Woolley

11 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Angola - Jornal de Angola - Original Article (Portuguese)

The leaking of partial information from a U.S. Department of Justice document last week, three days before the Senate questioned the nominee for director of the CIA, ignited a debate that the administration dismissed, but which the international community should not treat as an American internal matter.

In short, the released part of the Department of Justice memorandum questioned the legal basis for the execution, without trial, of citizens allegedly involved in terrorist activities, including American citizens. Names emerge from the intelligence community — the program has not been stopped — are analyzed and evaluated without judicial supervision; and, independent of their nationalities, in some cases people are "condemned" to death and executed through the use of "drones," in foreign countries, allied or not with the United States.

Without confronting accusers, without defense, without recourse, we are "de facto" and "de jure" looking at the supreme negation of the general principles of human rights and justice. It is clear that if this had occurred in another country, the protests from Washington would be most vehement — the protests, the condemnation and the threats.

Just after his inauguration, Barack Obama, president of the United States, inexplicable Nobel Peace Laureate, made closing the prison at Guantanamo a key policy of his first electoral campaign. Which Guantanamo?

The concentration camp is still open and as secretive as ever. Those principles of human rights so precious to the then-new president were put on ice.

After that came the fight against terrorism, in parallel with the exit of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. There appeared to be a combat strategy minimizing losses ... American ones. The drones controlled thousands of kilometers away, if you believe the American administration, had considerable success in the fight against terrorism or, more concretely, they helped prevent terrorist actions on American soil. Identified as terrorists, sworn enemies of the United States and the "American way of life," their names, pictures and available information are put to a group in the CIA that evaluates, judges, condemns and proposes summary execution, which afterward is approved by the executive branch. Assassination by robotic search has become simpler than capturing the presumed criminal and bringing him to justice.

Israel, whose secret service has captured Nazi criminals, makes sure of a public trial, of the right to confront accusers and of the right to defense before condemnation. Israel has shown an example of justice against those who assassinated under political cover, and even at times with international complicity, millions of Jews.

It is also a fact that it physically eliminated the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. There is a difference: Israel used men in these attacks, and it is known that there was no collateral damage of innocents. In Pakistan, Yemen and other countries where the CIA brought its drone program, it was already admitted, by previous Director of the CIA Leon Panetta, that there was collateral damage of innocent people, confirmation that the putative director last week avoided giving. He is not to be admired; the nominee is a man who has advised President Obama for years on combating terrorism and is a staunch defender of drones.

The Senate, more precisely the Intelligence Committee of the Senate, seems scandalized with what is being revealed, to the point of there being an agreement between Democrats and Republicans about the necessity of control. But what control?

That of a judicial committee made up of judges, who seemed politically receptive and viewed with little confidence by the magistrates who do not see justice in the absence of facing one's accuser and without the right to a defense.

It is certain that there may be thousands of American lives at risk, but the world, whether Washington likes it or not, does not extend from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border. More worrying from the international community's point of view would be another possibility that is on the table: that of the compilation of a list of people to eliminate. Who controls that list? What would be the criteria for drawing it up? What would be the degree of transparency? Could governments accept the principle that any one of their citizens could be physically eliminated by having their name on a list put together by American spies?

That which was unacceptable in the Cold War in the Soviet Union cannot be admissible today on the pretext of the war on terrorism. The Cold War never came to this because democratic principles were present, and the wars were made by proxy and at the cost of other countries and peoples. There were an unknown number of collateral deaths from the East/West confrontation, but there was no nuclear war (if the threat was ever real, and it is possible that it was.)

In the anti-terrorist struggle, liberty and democracy are the first casualties.



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