Comment: Indict the Taliban. Now!

Education: Extremism’s greatest fear (Photo by John Isaac, United Nations, 2011) under a Creative Commons licence

School massacre in Peshawar was a cold-blooded, premeditated murder of innocent schoolchildren, which must awaken international community to the tools it already possesses 

Tonight, the families of 145 Pakistani schoolchildren are mourning. They started the day going about their lives, and ended it shedding bitter tears over the untimely death of their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters. Children, embarking on life’s journey, taken away by the scourge of nihilistic, savage terrorism which purports to adhere to a false, overwrought sense of piousness – but in reality is nothing more than pure inhumanity soiling the name of a country and a faith practiced peacefully by hundreds of millions across this planet. Those children were fired upon, while writing their exams, being trained in first aid or quite simply going about their normal school day.

Those families are mourning the children and the futures that they quite possibly had ahead of them: birthdays which will never be celebrated, graduations which will not be taking place, families which will never be established and contributions these children will no longer be able to make. Today’s premeditated murder of dozens of schoolchildren at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban (and frankly, the distinction from the Afghan Taliban is an issue of nomenclature, for both share the same murderous ideology) should be shocking the world’s conscience. Our hearts and prayers should go out to those families – equally, I firmly believe that a special place in hell is reserved for those who would deliberately target the young, defenseless and innocent as they are.

Campaign of Terror

Then again, this is not the first time the Pakistani Taliban have crossed the boundaries into egregious barbarism: there was the attack on Malala Yousafzai for her efforts as a campaigner for girls’ education in the Swat Valley, the active obstruction of polio eradication efforts, the use of children as child soldiers and suicide bombers, the procuring of finances through organized crime (1), their links to al-Qaeda, their involvement in the Syrian War (1) (2), the attempted Times Square bombing (which would have succeeded if not for the fortuitous incompetence of the would-be bomber and the vigilance of the New York City public), their war on education (featuring attacks on more than 1,000 schools), their attacks on religious minorities, their murders of aid workers, the targeting of female students with acid, the introduction of Sharia law in the areas it controls, its attempted sabotage of the recent general elections in Pakistan, the stoning of women and the murder of health workers. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, almost 20,000 civilians paid with their lives for the Pakistani Taliban’s campaign of terror.

Indicting the Pakistani Taliban

All of these acts would certainly qualify as crimes against humanity (under Articles 7(a)(h)) and war crimes (under Articles 8(1), 8(2)(c)(i)(iii), 8(2)(e)(i)(iii)(iv)(vii)) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, specifically applying to armed conflicts of a non-international character. Whilst Pakistan is not a State Party to the ICC, the situation (and therefore, the conduct of the Taliban in its armed conflict with the Pakistani state) can be examined by virtue of a referral by the United Nations Security Council (under Article 13(b) of the Statute).

The instances cited above (and many more) permit for a logical, coherent and well-argued case to be made against Taliban commanders in Pakistan: The ICC Prosecutor would certainly not face any real opposition in the UN Security Council, as none of the five permanent members would want to be seen sympathizing with terrorists who don’t stop at the mass murder of children to achieve their backward vision of a polity in which women are seen, not heard; children are equipped for suicide bombings; and men may only find their fulfillment in twisted, warped and inhuman religious extremism. Indictment at the ICC would give a bona fide legal mandate to hunt down the Pakistani Taleban where they live and plan, to disrupt their campaign of terror and bring them to justice. And it would send the message that religious terrorism will not be tolerated by the international community, and that every means will be exhausted to ensure that we keep it at bay.

After all, all those children wanted was to go to school. That’s something the world should fight for, and that’s exactly why the Pakistani Taliban’s commanders must face trial in The Hague one day.


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