Archive for April, 2009

The threat of Talibans to Pakistan (LinkTV, 12 Feb 2009)

April 26, 2009 Leave a comment

black flag of Al-QaedaInteresting coverage of how various media outlets around the world is covering about how the encroachment of Talibans upon Pakistani territory.

The threat of Talibans to Pakistan (LinkTV, 12 Feb 2009) 
Note: school computers cannot play YouTube, due to network restrictions by the NSW Department of Education. You need to play the media file on home computers.

In the weeks leading up to this, there has been many arguments about the relative merits of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan by the Obama administration.  Many on the left opposed any notion of a troop surge as another exercise in American imperialism, and call for complete withdrawal of all foreign troops.  Some on the right also expresses concerns about the effectiveness and efficacy of the proposed troop surge, questioning whether all is already lost.  

Subsequent events, as illustrated in these media reports from around the world, is beginning to settle the arguments.  The Talibans are an independent actor in this region of their own right, with their own specific agendas.  One of their agendas is the establishment of Islamic state in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This agenda will persist regardless of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.  I.e. Obama’s proposed troops surge is not part of the problems.  In fact, if done correctly, the proposed troop surge is, at least in the short-medium term, an essential part of the solution.  

The Talibans have expanded their power base beyond the tribal areas into Swat Valley.  You can see a map of Swat Valley below.

Swat Valley

The impact of Taliban rule on human rights should be immediately obvious to those of us who are familiar of how Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the US-led invasion kicked the Talibans out of Kabul.  According to media reports from Al-Jazeera, BBC, Iranian TV and Chinese Television (CCTV-9) it has meant destruction of school deemed unacceptable in accordance to their interpretation of Islam, in particular girls schools.  It means dispensation of their code of justice, which means public execution of ‘offenders’ without the due process of law, including people who are deemed as political enemies.  

The apparent impotence of the Pakistani government in the face of the Taliban invasion is breathtaking, but not surprising to many seasoned Central Asian experts.  Central Asian correspondent from Al-Jazeera already pointed to ‘foreign’ elements behind the rise of the Talibans.  (In this case, ‘foreign’ means non-Afghan.)  Tom Ricks, a military expert interviewed on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’, argued that rogue elements within the Pakistani military are facilitating this conflict.  This sentiment has been echoed by Ahmed Rashid, who is probably one of the respected expert on this region.  In an extended interview on University of California (Berkeley) Television, he outlined the reasons behind the apparent impotence of the Pakistani government in the face of the Talibans.  Rashid pointed out that the Talibans have been a tool of the Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, for decades.  The ISI, which is virtually a government unto themselves in Pakistan, has used the Talibans to cause unrests in the Indian-controlled province of Kashmir.  

However, as I argued earlier, the Talibans are not just mindless pawns of the ISI.  They are an independent regional actor in their own right, with their own political agendas of establishing a Central-Asian Islamic state.  What we are now observing, according to Ahmed Rashid, are ‘blowbacks’ on the Pakistani government.  

Aside from the impact on civil and political rights of ordinary citizens, the strategic impact of Taliban expansion into Swat Valley is extremely dire.  As you can see from the first map above, Swat Valley is very close to Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.  A prospective capture of Islamabad by the Talibans will send shockwaves to the whole Central-Asian region.  It will heightened security alerts within India, which has endured countless terrorist attacks from militants originating from Pakistan.  

To put this in the language of the syllabus, the threat of terrorism to regional order within Central Asia cannot be countered by legal means at all.  Only non-legal means involving a mixture of direct military interventions, diplomacy and direct aid can possibly rescue the situation.

Recommended reading:


China shows off its military hardware (Al Jazeera, 23 April 2009)

April 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Chinese national flagThe rise of China and its effect on world order will be a constant theme in Term 3 of the Year 12 Legal Studies class.  Make no mistake, the unipolar world that existed after the end of Cold War is over.  

‘China shows off its military hardware’ (Al Jazeera, 23 April 2009)
Note: school computers cannot play YouTube, due to network restrictions by the NSW Department of Education. You need to play the media file on home computers.

The effect of the rise of Chinese military on global order is already apparent, with the recent participation of the Chinese navy in anti-piracy operations off the coasts of Somalia, as well as the participation of its armed forces in UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan.

Categories: world order Tags: ,

‘In 2002, Military Agency Warned Against ‘Torture” (Washington Post, 25 April 2009)

April 26, 2009 Leave a comment

department-of-defense-sealOne of the argument in favour of the use of torture in the ‘war against terror’ is that it elicits vital information that could saves lives of innocent civilians who otherwise would have been victims of terrorist attacks.  

However, military experts with the US Department of Defense actually disagrees.  

‘In 2002, Military Agency Warned Against ‘Torture” (Washington Post, 25 April 2009)

According to the article,

The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as “torture” in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon’s chief lawyer and warned that it would produce “unreliable information.”  

It appears that experts involved in interrogations are actually quite dubious about the effectiveness of torture.  In fact, it seems the main people pushing the use of torture were people within the Bush administration and their own legal team.  

It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that technical advisers on the harsh interrogation methods voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.

See also ‘Rice approves torture method‘ (Al-Jazeera, 24 April 2009).

Categories: human rights, world order

‘YouTube footage shows Sydney four-year-olds fighting’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment

youtubeThis is a piece of very disturbing news, and it has implications for several topics within the Legal Studies syllabus.

YouTube footage shows Sydney four-year-olds fighting (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)

Below are some extracts, followed by some commentary.

By Kara Lawrence, Senior Crime Reporter

April 24, 2009 12:00am

CRIMINAL charges could be laid against teenagers and adults involved in organising a boxing bout in Sydney’s southwest involving boys as young as four, and for footage which was posted on YouTube.

Police and DOCS will investigate the source of the footage after they were alerted to it yesterday.

The video is undated but it had been posted under the headline “rmacentre lil’ kids boxing” – and with a link to the Revesby Muslim Association’s website.

The association last night distanced itself from the footage, denying it was an organised “fight club”.

Spokesman Wisam Haddad said the footage had been shot without the association’s knowledge following one of its organised boxercise classes.

The footage shows two boys who appear to be aged about four, wearing boxing gloves but no protective headgear, punching each other in the head as adults cheered them on.

One of the boys appears unsteady on his feet and tries to walk away. As he reaches a door to leave, he is forced back in and urged to box on.

Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad said last night he was appalled by the footage.

This article can be analysed from several angles.

  1. Criminal law and civil law
    • Both teenagers and adults who are involved in organising this fight can potentially incur criminal liabilities.  As this happened in a ‘community function centre’ (in this case, a mosque), there will be issues such as ‘duty of care’ and ‘negligence’.  Despite the claim from the Revesby Muslim Association that they did not organise this fight, the fact that it happened after a session organised by them can still potentially opened them to criminal charges and lawsuits.
  2. Family law
    • The kids who are involved in the fight, did they receive parental permission to be involved in this boxercise class?  Either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can elicits problems for the parents.
  3. Young people and the law
    • Both the victims and some of the perpetrators are underaged.  In this case, they would be dealt with under legislation specific to young people.
  4. Community relations with the media
    • It is interesting in the Channel 7 news broadcast that the spokesperson for the Revesby Muslim Assocation claimed they have been victim of racism.  This seems a somewhat unjustifiable defensive response.  However it does highlight a history of tension that exists between the media and the Lebanese community in Sydney.  It is interesting that this news received nearly no coverage in Sydney Morning Herald.  Only Daily Telegraph has given this coverage.  Considering the past coverage by the Daily Telegraph of the Cronulla riot, one can understand the continuing tension between the Lebanese community in Sydney and the media.

‘Defamation trial to decide on war crimes charges’ (SMH, 21 April 2009)

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

JusticeThis is an unusual case for two reasons.  Firstly, it is one where the boundary between civil law and criminal law gets blurred.  Secondly, it is not often that we get cases involving alleged war criminals.

Defamation trial to decide on war crimes charges (SMH, 21 April 2009)

THE Supreme Court will decide at a defamation trial whether a Serbian paramilitary commander who is fighting extradition to Croatia was a war criminal before he defends the charges in court.

The man in question is a 54 years old Sydney resident named ‘Daniel Snedden’.  He is also known by his Serbian name as ‘Dragan Vasilykovic’.  Back in the Yugoslav civil war, he was a Serbian paramilitary commander.  After the war, Dragan migrated to Australia and changed his name to Daniel.  Recently The Australian published an investigative article which alleged that during the Yugoslav civil war,

he was a death squad commander, committed a massacre and condoned the rape of women and girls.

Daniel Snedden decided to sue News Ltd. for what he argued was unjustifiable public and written attack on his personal character and reputation.  This is also known in civil law as ‘libel”.  Snedden’s lawyer also argued that as a result of this article, the Croatian government has began procedures to apply for his extradition to Croatia for war crimes trial.  In response,

The news organisation is defending the publication of the article in The Australian in September 2005, on the basis that it is true, leaving a Supreme Court judge to determine the story’s factual basis.

Thus legal history is made, where a judge in a defamation case must determine if there are enough evidence to suggest that the plaintiff is a war criminal.

One wonders what standard of proof would be applied to determine if Snedden/Vasilykovic was a war criminal?

Incidentally, this is reminiscent of a British libel case, Irving v Penguin Books Limited and Lipstadt (2000), in which David Irving, who published several books alleging that the Holocaust was a hoax, sued an American historian Deborah Lipstadt for arguing in her book, Denying Holocaust, that David Irving was one of the most dangerous liars who manipulated historical evidence to suit his own political ends.  In order to defend themselves, Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Publishing Ltd have to prove in a court of law that Irving has in fact been deliberately lying and manipulating evidence to deny the Holocaust in his works.  Justice Gray subsequently found in Lipstadt’s favour and order David Irving to pay substantial damages.

In the case of Snedden/Vasilykovic, the newspaper

will call nine witnesses to give evidence as to the truth of its article, including some who claim to have been victims of Mr Snedden’s alleged war crimes.

The hearing continues.

‘China’s ‘chequebook diplomacy’ in Fiji under fire’ (SMH, 21 April 2009)

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Chinese national flagSure enough, the Rudd government is perfectly aware of how China is undermining Australia’s attempt to isolate the military government in Fiji.  As a result, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has been using diplomacy to press its case to the Chinese government.

To read the article in full, click on ‘China’s ‘chequebook diplomacy’ in Fiji under fire (SMH, 21 April 2009)’.  Otherwise, here are some extracts.

AUSTRALIA has been pressing China to curb its support for Fiji over concerns that Beijing is propping up the military regime by supplying hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

Diplomats in Canberra and Beijing are understood to have raised the situation in Fiji with Chinese officials. Officials are concerned that China’s support for Fiji is undermining efforts to put diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime.

Some statistics help to paint a clearer picture.

A Lowy Institute analyst, Fergus Hanson, said China’s “chequebook diplomacy” had resulted in a sevenfold increase in pledged aid to Fiji since the coup, from $US23 million in 2006 to $US160 million in 2007.

One of the reasons, Hanson argues, is strategic competition with Taiwan.  There has been an ongoing sovereignty dispute between the island ‘nation’ of Taiwan, which calls itself the ‘Republic of China’, and China.  China sees Taiwan as a renegade province, which it is determined to diplomatically isolate.  Taiwan however sees itself as an independent country.

The Taiwanese government is in fact the non-Communist Chinese government which fled China after its defeat to the Chinese communists in 1949.  This non-communist ‘Chinese’ government-in-exile has since 1949 turned the island effectively into a separate nation-state.  The Taiwanese government has for many years used ‘chequebook diplomacy’ to expand its diplomatic ties, by granting large aid packages to small countries who are willing to maintain diplomatic ties with the island nation instead of China.  However as China asserts itself as an economic powerhouse on world stage, the Chinese goverment has in turned use ‘chequebook diplomacy’ to its own ends.

This article helps to underline the fact that non-legal methods are an essential part of enforcing world order.  In this case, Australia has been using constructive diplomacy to help ensure an effective enforcement of multilateral sanctions againt the military government in Fiji.

“Australia continues to encourage China to play a constructive role in the Pacific islands region, and is keeping China fully advised of our concerns about the very negative recent developments in Fiji,” a spokeswoman said. “Australia engages in regular dialogue with China, and other donors, in support of effective development co-ordination in the Pacific islands region.”

Categories: world order Tags: , , ,

‘Courts throw Facebook at digital navel gazers’ (SMH, 21 April 2009)

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

facebookThis seems to a continuing trend in the criminal justice system – the increasing use of digital evidence (like facebook and mobile phone messages) in criminal investigation and conviction.

‘Courts throw Facebook at digital navel gazers’ (SMH, 21 April 2009)

The article outlines two cases.  In both cases, facebook information and digital photos from mobile phones were used as evidence in criminal trials.

In the first case, an off-duty military commando, Coroporal Koutsoubos, was accused of biting the face of a police constable, Robert Hogan, during a late night dance party.  Robert Hogan suffered from a loss of blood, as well as a five-centimetre gash on his face.  During the trial, Kousoubos claimed self-defence, argued that the biting was in retaliation to Hogan poking Kousoubos in the eye.  Kousoubos pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of ‘reckless wounding’, but his sentence was reduced to a suspended one-year sentence, due in part to the efforts of the defence legal team in successfully portraying Hogan as a heavy drinker who is prone to drunken violence.

Constable Hogan’s cyber life saved the defence lawyers a lot of work. They tendered as evidence Facebook pictures and groups he had joined online.

Despite objections, the judge allowed the jury to read captions like “getting trashed” and “getting drunk”. They also learned that Constable Hogan was a member of two groups: “I secretly want to punch slow-walking people in the back of the head” and “God created police so firefighters could have heroes”.

In another case, a man called Saftwat Abdel-Hady was accused of using sleeping pills to drug and rape his vicitm in a Mosman apartment.  Despite his continuing denail, evidence from the victim’s mobile phone helped to construct the circumstantial evidence that led to the incident.

But key evidence was on her mobile phone. Happy snaps and text messages pieced together the last hours of all-night partying that started in a Kings Cross Bar and ended with Abdel-Hady spiking a couple’s drink and indecently assaulting the woman.  The evidence helped to jail him for nearly six years despite his continual denial.

Digital documentary evidence are becoming more prevalent in criminal trials.  We live in an internet era, and our lives will leave behind countless digital footprints.  It is inevitable that these ‘digital footprints’ can serve as potential evidence.  As Professor Mark Findlay from the faculty of law at Sydney University stated, “You are going to see a trend in trials away from oral evidence to documentary trials”.

Categories: Criminal Justice Tags: ,