Boston Bomber, ‘Collateral Damage’ and Clarke’s Strategy

When I first heard of the Boston bombing and that 3 people have died, I was not shocked. Not because I was not a sensitive human being but because my sensitivity in terms of being shocked by bomb blasts had by then been greatly numbed by the thirty year Sri Lankan war during which the brutal Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (more commonly known as LTTE) killed civilians in tens and hundreds. However, when I recover my wits, I always get traumatized by the level of brutality that a human being is capable of showing against another. In this case, it was the same. Little did I know back then that I would be living in Boston when the trial of Tsarnaev was ongoing in the United States District Court of Massachusetts. This post is not meant to be a tribute to those who lost their lives or suffered injuries. Nothing can be a tribute to such a horror. The extent of brutality of bombs should shame humanity as a whole. There are no words to make up for the losses that people have suffered. That is all I could say except for watching in awe those who, like Jeff Bauman and Kaitlyn Cates, stand up stronger than before.

If this post is not a tribute to those who lost their lives or who are rising up stronger than before, then what is it about? This is about collateral damage. The con220px-BostonSuspect2cept which has been stretched too far by all warring states. This is about techniques employed by Attorneys – at – Law whose previous successes at various courts feed into their non-inflatable egos. In layman’s terms collateral damage refers to ‘deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary).  But for Tsarnaev, the deaths of the three individuals were collateral injuries. For what? For the killings of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. (An analysis of the legality of the attacks in Iraq and AfghaAP Inistan are saved for a future post). The distorted notion of collateral damage is something that one hears on day – to – day conversations perhaps due to the unfamiliarity of what actually constitutes of collateral damage. Anything that directly targets and attacks civilians is not collateral damage. It never was. It never will be. A reference to the Additional Protocol I (AP I) to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 seems to be relevant in this regard. According to Article 57 AP I (The AP I is applicable to international armed conflicts.) even in an international armed conflict, precautionary measures have to be adopted in order to achieve the relevant military objective. The deliberate attack on civilians for any purpose (including the purpose of demoralizing the enemy forces, or to teach a government a lesson) is against accepted rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law. However, it is alleged that Tsarnaev had written a note stating that the deaths that occurred at the Marathon Bomb amount to ‘collateral damage.’ Well, they do not. While nobody would accept this lame attempt at justifying the horrible act, what some  – the kind which prefer to appear intellectual by clinging to claims of justice – would say is that it is acceptable as a legal defense or worse yet a reasonable act of retaliation for the deaths of the Muslims in other regions.

While one should not be quick to judge or jump into conclusions about someone’s guilt, it is necessary to understand that there is a limit to which legal defenses can be stretched to save a defendant. While lawyer Judy Clarke should be praised for her talent in law and her ability of obtaining life sentences for those who she defends, her strategy in the current case is questionable. The three notable convicts she defended – Jared Lee Loughner, Susan Smith and Ted Kaczynski (who is more commonly known as Unambomber) pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in the present case, Tsarnaev has not pleaded guilty although he has not expressly refused responsibility for the charges against him as well. While Clarke attempted to raise the insanity defense in the trial against Ted Kaczynski who was at a previous stage subject to some psychological experiments which are claimed to have unsettled his mentality, she was unsuccessful in doing so as Kaczynski refused to accept the defense and instead pleaded guilty. In the case at hand, Clarke was reported as having told the court that Tsarnaev is responsible for the acts and also that those acts were the results of being misguided. This new strategy may play an important role in how the Jury perceives the suspect. Earlier today Katherine Q. Seelye explained in New York Times, the impact that such an approach can have on the members of the Jury.

What is interesting in the way that Clarke has characterized the alleged suspect is that he seems innocent not because he is not responsible for the acts but because his Judy Clarkeresponsibility cannot be considered to be purely attributable to him when there are implications that he was misguided. In other words, although he is physically responsible, he remains morally innocent as he was corrupted by some other person who instilled anger in this young man’s mind. The defense gets even more interesting in the sense that the lack of an express guilty plea paves way for Tsarnaev to lodge an appeal if the verdict happens to be unfavorable to him. This was not an option available to all the other famous defendants defended by Clarke. It is widely reported that Clarke is capable of seeing the good side of every human being – even in the one’s that the world generally tend to despise. Would she succeed in protecting Tsarnaev like she protected the other defendants? Would this mark a more glorious victory for justice?  We have to wait for the verdict to know whether justice would prevail.  Is it just to take the life of a man who took another’s life? Is it just to let him serve a life sentence and be supported by public funds? What is justice anyway???

(All images used in the posts unless otherwise mentioned are drawn from and the author does not hold copyright over the photos used.)

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Rape of Law

The controversy pertaiimagesning to the ban of  BBC’s recent documentary on the Delhi Gang Rape, titled ‘India’s Daughter’ led me to rethink my position of decency and justice. The reasons given to justify the ban were that it: 1.   violated Four Indian Statutes (despite my attempts, I have not been able to recover the said statutes except a very general idea of the same) 2. has the potential of inciting public outrage 3. gives overarching importance to freedom of expression 4. gives a  platform to Mukesh Singh (convicted of rape and murder and currently on death row) 5. reveals the identity of the victim and violates privacy.

I was subject to the torture of sitting through the intellectual academic circles arguing in a very divided manner on the issue which was indeed a surprise. My surprise was primarily caused due to many reasons. The assumption that underlies the argument that the documentary can cause public outrage is that such an outrage did not occur when the incident took place in 2012. However, this is an erroneous notion as the rape and murder of the young lady did cause an outrage in India in 2012. (For instance, see The contention that the documentary gives overarching importance to freedom of expression is unacceptable on many different levels. Primarily, there was already many different articles, blog posts, community talks and the like on the issue where the details of the rape had been revealed. Secondarily, the documentary (at least in my personal point of view) does not seem to impede the judicial process. Thirdly, freedom of expression should only be restricted if it affects other rights. Unless it can validly be shown in this situation that the documentary does in fact impede the judicial process or that it violates other rights of the community, there does not appear to be a valid reason for the ban.

Some further argued that the documentary gives a platform to Mukesh Singh. This perhaps is caused due to sentimental reasons and emotions that are evoked in those who watch the documentary. Nonetheless, I am incapable of conceiving how it could be perceived as a platform for Mukesh Singh unless it can be considered as providing him an opportunity to portray himself as an innocent person which I don’t think is the case in this documentary. Although he attempts to argue that he was merely driving the vehicle, his remorseless attitude and misogyny makes a reasonable person doubt his innocencimagese beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps, those who argue that the documentary gives Mukesh Singh a platform base their views on what the Defense (so-called)Attorney states. An accused, irrespective of how gruesome his conduct has been, has a legal right to be defended and has the right to fair trial. However, that does not mean that the Defense Attorney’s arguments should be based on morality and general advise to the women-kind on how not to get raped, what to wear and what time to come home. There is a reason why the lawyer’s job is referred to as an Attorney – at – Law and not an Attorney – at – Morality. Mr. M.L. Sharma, does not bring up any LEGAL justification for the acts that have been committed and fails to prove his capacity as an Attorney – at – Law.


Mukesh Singh does try to provide his (rather pathetic) justifications by making (quite outrageous) statements such as ‘You can’t clap with one hand, it takes two hands to clap’, ‘a decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night’ (judging by that standard, I admit I am not decent. I am proudly indecent. On certain days, after having remained in the Faculty of Law until seven o’clock in the evening judging student presentations, I reach home past nine. Hence, I am indecent. I travel alone some nights when my husband is incapable of picking me up. Hence I suppose I am extending a hand to clap with.), ‘a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy’, and in relation to another rapist he says that ‘he was capable of anything’ (so the girls on the street should have telepathy to ascertain what the passersby are capable of), ‘out of shame they would learn a lesson’ (from the rapist school of discipline, I suppose), ‘the death penalty will make things even more worse for girls’ (pray, explain how!), ‘now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her’ (fact: they DID kill her. Her intestines were pulled out. An iron rod was inserted into her vagina). I beg those who consider this a platform for Mukesh Singh to explain how in fact, it becomes one.

The next issue is the identity of the victim which was revealed in the BBC Documentary. However, this is not the first instance in which it was revealed. (See (Note its date of publication. There may have been even prior revelations of the victim’s name which I will not be digging into in this post) . The link provided herein gives more detail than just stating the name of the victim and it states that her father wished to reveal the victim’s name. Moreover, prior to the documentary begins, it states that the film was made with the cooperation of Asha and Badhri Singh, the rape victim’s parents. In light of these, it amazes me that some argue on lines of privacy. Are we talking of the privacy of the girl? I am sorry to say that it was violated the moment that the bus that she was traveling in, deviated from the usual route. Her privacy was violated by those who favor the idea that women should not be out on the streets after a particular time of the night. Her privacy was violated by those who demand that women should dress one way or the other. I do not wish to venture into the issue of the parents’ privacy as it is not a concern that arises as they have voluntarily consented to the facts of the matter being released to media – which I personally believe is a good decision although I cannot imagine the trauma the parents might be going through…

In short, I am shocked. You should be too… What has the world come to?

(All images used in the posts unless otherwise mentioned are drawn from and the author does not hold copyright over the photos used.)