Imagine the following account:
A Pakistani man shoots dead two Americans on a busy strip using an unlicensed weapon, and then another Pakistani colleague radioed by the shooter runs over a third American. Then all three try to feel the scene but are overpowered by the police and turned in.
The Pakistani man is found to have entered America on a business visa, claims to police that he was a “consultant” to the Pakistani Consulate, but the Pakistani government swiftly changes documentation at the Embassy to include him as an employee, to provide him legal immunity.
The Pakistani government then brings great pressure on America to “follow the Vienna Conventions” and to release the man, including statements from the Prime Minister & President.
Scene from la-la land? Precisely. It’s hard to imagine that any citizen from any part of the world, let alone from Pakistan, could wreak havoc on a shopping strip in America and get away without consequence.
Such is the hypocrisy of American pressure on Pakistan (threats about aid, by Obama & to Ambassador) to release the now notorious, Raymond Allen Davis, the businessman-turned-consultant-turned-consular staffer-turned-embassy staffer. The American government wants Pakistan to comply with its own convenient interpretations of the Vienna Conventions for diplomatic immunity.
For those unaware of the situation, it is exactly as described at the top, except with roles reversed. On Jan 27, 2011, Raymond Davis shot dead two Pakistanis on a motorcycle in broad daylight on a busy shopping strip. The egregious incident led to three direct deaths and one indirect one when the widow of one of the shooting victims committed suicide due to her sense of hopelessness in a just trial.
Instead of letting Pakistani courts evaluate the legal ramifications of the situation and the extension of Vienna Conventions to Raymond, the entire US government apparatus including President Obama is bearing great pressure on their feeble stooges in the Pakistani government to release Davis without any consequence for his killing spree. By prejudicing a legal case with political expediency, Mr. Obama is further damaging his reputation in the Muslim world, and pretty much hammering the final nail in the coffin of the great optimism in his Egypt address to the Muslim world.
Window into the Vienna Conventions
As for the Vienna Conventions, the emphasis on the distinction between consular and embassy staff is not trivial. There is also little doubt that Davis was only placed in the Embassy rolls AFTER the incident.
Davis was not one of the embassy employees listed on January 25, 2010, two days before the incident However, a revised list submitted a day after the incident on Jan 28 carried his name.
So, there are two Conventions in play here. One is the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations (1961, adopted 1964) and the other being Vienna Conventions on Consular Relations (1963, adopted 1967).
Article 29 of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations states that
the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.
The United States would like to see him being treated as a diplomat (linked to the Embassy), with extremely expansive and broad immunity, and not liable to any form of arrest.
On the other hand, consular staffers have much more limited immunity, as under Article 41 (1) of the Vienna Conventions on Consular Relations which states:
Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority
There is little doubt that the case is extremely grave and Davis would face a competent judicial authority as applied under this scenario, which makes it understandable that records are being modified (sloppily) to apply Article 29 rather than Article 41.
Which Convention is appropriate?
Let’s see what a couple of experts have been saying. In order to be treated as a diplomat, it is more than just being a staffer at the Embassy. Najmuddin Shaikh, a former Pakistan diplomat and Ambassador, concludes that Davis would have immunity under Article 29 “only if it was established that his presence in Mozang Chowrangi on that day was in ‘execution of his duties’ and that was something that had to be determined by a court of law.”
Similarly, former British Ambassador and Human Rights Activist Craig Murray concludes that the circumstances surrounding Davis do not allow for diplomatic immunity.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Agent Twist
Which Vienna Conventions might apply is likely to be only an academic exercise. More than two weeks ago, the Guardian reported that Raymond is in fact a CIA agent. Once that fact is realized, all the pieces of the puzzle fall nicely into place. There was a reason for the sudden rush to classify Raymond as a Consulate staffer, and then realizing the Vienna issue, there was another mad rush to classify Davis as an Embassy staffer. All done to protect Davis’ real identity as a CIA agent, which of course makes the entire issue of diplomatic protection a moot point, as the Guardian hints:
Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official.
Also, from the same article, we find that unsurprisingly, the US stooges in the Pakistani government were fully aware of Davis’ CIA status but were complying with “immense pressure” of American directives to circumvent the entire justice system of Pakistan via the Vienna Conventions.
“Immense pressure” is probably being kind to Pakistani government. What is even more unfortunate is the acquiescence of the US media (including the New York Times) to yield to government requests and hide the information from the American public. By continuing to flout it as a case of Pakistan not complying with international conventions, Pakistan again became the whipping boy in the US media, with continuing negative implications for its public image.
A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration. A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, made a connection… [but] removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government. [Guardian]
Writing for CounterPunch, the journalist Dave Lindorff has written
“in other words, the prosecutorial, police and judicial authorities in Lahore and the state of Punjab are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in holding Davis on murder charges, pending a judicial determination concerning whether or not he can properly claim diplomatic immunity. The US claim that Pakistan is violating the convention is simply nonsense.”
In a strange twist, the US government has also been actively seeking an Islamic shariah-based approach of offering blood-money (diya) to seek Davis’ release! This is especially ironic in light of the laughable and Islamophobic attempts by several states to ban “shariah law”. Under the principles of Qisas, blood money would be an option, only if the relatives of those murdered accept to forgive the murderer, but cannot be FORCED to forgive. The ruling emanates from the Qur’anic verse [2.178] that is a clear evidence of Islam’s emphasis of mercy and life over punishment and death.
In conclusion, Davis needs to be tried by the Pakistani courts. If he escapes prosecution, then there would be no bigger travesty of justice, comparable only to the travesty of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s prosecution (persecution) and conviction. I dare say Davis has a better chance of getting a fair trial in Pakistan than did Siddiqui in a New York court. While Aafia was sentenced to 86 years in prison for the ATTEMPTED murder of US interrogators in Afghanistan (in the complete absence of any forensic evidence), we have here a killer identified by witnesses that America wants freed under the pretext of conventions it itself routinely flouts as Glenn Greenwald cites. From the same linked article, I’ll leave you with more food for thought from Greenwald, one of the few defenders of truth in the American media:
Those crazy, primitive Pakistanis and their inscrutable Muslim customs. Scandals over diplomatic immunity are usually one-time, aberrational occurrences… But what happened in Lahore is part of an ongoing, continuous assault by American forces in that region. They [Pakistanis] (but not we) hear routinely about the killing of their innocent civilians by Americans in their country. Why don’t we hear much about such things? The Guardian article provides some insight: A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration.
That’s our intrepid, independent Watchdog press. The cost of this conduct is so predictable — intense anti-American sentiment and the threats of Terrorism it produces — that a rational person would have to inquire whether that outcome is not a bug but a feature of our policy in that region.
In other words, American hypocrisy in its foreign affairs only leads to anti-Americanism, which ultimately feeds radicalism that will continue to haunt our nation.