Human Rights Violation In Peshawar School Shooting

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Introduction

The origin of the word “Terrorism” comes from its Latin roots terror which means the use of extreme fear to intimidate people. The modern definition of terrorism is still a big question mark. No country or international organization has yet come up with any definite definition of the term. The definition that exists in various codes of different countries misses the mark by a margin. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation: 'Terrorism is the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about political change.' The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Madan Singh vs. the State of Bihar, has discussed this ambiguity and commented about the issue stating, “… the main objective is to overawe the Government or disturb the harmony of the society or 'terrorize' people and the society and not only those directly assaulted, to disturb the even tempo, peace, and tranquillity of the society and create a sense of fear and insecurity.” There was an act enforced in the Republic of India which lapsed in the year 1995, namely the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987. Under Section 3(1) of the aforementioned act, the term “terrorist act” was defined to be : “Whoever with intent to overawe the Government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or fire-arms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature in such a manner as to cause, or as is likely to cause, death of, or injuries to, any person or persons or loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property or disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community, or detains any person and threatens to kill or injure such person in order to compel the Government or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act, commits a terrorist act.”

The United Nations, however, has been dormant on the issue. There has been no concrete definition that is laid down by the formerly known “League of Nations”. This has caused a lot of confusion among the member countries as there is an uncalled void about the definition of the term. Those states, which have a definition of terrorism, have designed it vaguely, to suit their interest, and use it arbitrarily. Due to this, many innocent citizens are put behind bars whereas the real issues remain unaddressed.

Nevertheless, the United Nations has time and again put out the “definition” of terrorism in its outputs. It is here to be noted that all of these notions were suggestive in nature rather than being obligatory in nature. One such example of 'terrorism' related terminology, is Resolution 1566 (2004), which aimed to assist States in meeting their obligations under Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) to take domestic legislative action. It refers to 'terrorism' as:

“... criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitutes offenses within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature. (Para. 3).”[footnoteRef:1] [1: E4J University Module Series: Counter-Terrorism, Module 4: Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism, The Doha Declaration, United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime.]

One such act, among many others, was committed in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This incident went down as one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in the history of mankind. 6 terrorists barged their way into a school and open fired killing 149 people out of which, 132 were innocent children. This incident of gross human rights violation attracted large-scale international attention and criticism for the perpetrators.

Background

Although the attack on the innocent school students in Peshawar was the worst of its kind, it was certainly not the first. The North-West administrative Province of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which also includes Peshawar, has been witnessing militant violence against schools and educational institutions. According to the International Crisis Group report, between the years 2009 and 2012, 800 to 900 instances of attacks on schools were registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some other remote tribal areas.

Why this attack in the army school of Peshawar was different and more severe, can be understood by the fact that most of the aforementioned cases of school attacks were done in empty schools or after the dispersal of the children as a symbolic gesture. This diabolical act of the terrorists has set a new low even for them as the very same Quran-e-Sharif, whose verses are cited and misinterpreted for such killings, states that “Allah disapproved the killing of women and children.”[footnoteRef:2] [2: Book 19, Number 4319, KITAB AL-JIHAD WA'L-SIYAR (THE BOOK OF JIHAD AND EXPEDITION), Translation of Book 19. ]

Educational institutions about that of Girls, whether it was primary educational institutions or higher educational institutions, have always been on the target of such militant groups. But this attack did not leave anyone. It was an odious act that murdered 132 innocent school children. Girls, Boys as well as the school staff were targeted. Anyone that came in front of these militants was mercilessly murdered.

But it is here to be seen that this attack on the school was not an isolated incident restrictive to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but many such incidents have taken place in the rest of Pakistan as well. A school Principal was killed by suspected militants in 2013. Moreover, a terrorist attacked a University bus in Quetta in the year 2013 killing many female university students. Thus, this is a general problem that is faced by the very country at large and not just the state.

Even though Pakistan is a signatory to various Human Rights Conventions, and has a well-defined law defining the activities that would fall under the ambit of terrorism, the state has constantly failed in ensuring the rights of its citizens and provide them with a safe and secure environment.

This attack, however, was seen as an aftermath of the military action taken by Pakistan in the state of North Waziristan which has suffered waves of violence.

Scope of the Study

This study aims to study the School Shooting incident that took place in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan on 16th December 2014. The study magnifies the various human rights violations that took place on the day.

Geographical Scope: - the study discusses the incident that occurred in Army Public School, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

Temporal Scope: - the study discusses the incident that took place on 16th December 2019 and the aftermath of the same.

Sources

The study takes secondary data from various credible news sources and the Pakistan government official data.

The laws and regulations have directly been taken from the online sources of the respective origins.

It has been taken care of that the data and facts presented in the paper are as credible as possible but may contain some factual discrepancies due to the Governments increased involvement in the issue.

The Doomsday

On 16 December 2014, six gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) conducted a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar. The militants, all of whom were foreign nationals, included one Chechen, three Arabs, and two Afghans.[footnoteRef:3] [3: 'Three years after 140 died in the Peshawar school massacre, what has changed?'. Independent, UK.]

They entered the school by scaling up the walls of the school. There were approximately 1100 people present in the school on the day of the accident. The perpetrators entered the school and open fired indiscriminately on a group of students who were taking first aid training in the school.

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It was also reported that the students were forced to watch their Principal and teachers get killed in front of them. The students were first said to say the prayer to Allah and then were shot. There was constant firing at the scene which could only stop after 15 minutes when the SSG squads surged their way into the school and quickly engaged in countering the open fire.

All the terrorists were terminated by the immediate military action in which a total of 7 officers and commandos got injured. There were reported 141 deaths on the scene out of which 132 were school children.

This monstrous attack was a grave incident of human rights violations. 141 people were killed. Feeble minds of the children were exposed to such traumatic deeds as evidencing such grotesque killings. Their freedom to move was restricted. They were confined within those four walls and were fired upon. Such barbaric act was never before seen in history after the holocaust.

The Legal Approach

Pakistan is a signatory to the United Nations Human Rights Convention. On 17 April 2008, Pakistan moved to uphold this pledge, ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and signing both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).[footnoteRef:4] [4: “Pakistan ratifies key UN human rights treaty”, Amnesty International News, 18th April 2000]

Pakistan even has codified the definition of terrorism. The Pakistan Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance, 1999 states:

A person is said to commit a terrorist act if he,

(a) to, or if the effect of his actions will be to, strike terror or create a sense of fear and insecurity in the people, or any section of the people, does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite, or other explosive or inflammable substances, or such fire-arms or other lethal weapons as may be notified, or poisons or noxious gases or chemicals, in such a manner as to cause, or be likely to cause, the death of, or injury to, any person or persons, or damage to, or destruction of, property on a large scale, or widespread disruption of supplies of services essential to the life of the community, or threatens with the use of force public servants to prevent them from discharging their lawful duties; or

(b) commits a scheduled offense, the effect of which will be, or be likely to be, to strike terror, or create a sense of fear and insecurity in the people, or any section of the people, or to adversely affect harmony among different sections of the people; or

(c) commits an act of gang rape, child molestation, or robbery coupled with rape as specified in the Schedule to this Act; or

(d) commits an act of civil commotion as specified in section &A.'[footnoteRef:5] [5: Pakistan Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance, 1999]

Despite having a codified definition of terrorism and being a signatory to the UNHRC, the Islamic Republic has failed miserably in curbing such incidents.

The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Pakistan is a signatory, in its Article 6 states the Fundamental Human Right of Right to Life. Moreover, The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), also inculcates mental agony which was suffered not only by the thousand people that were present in the school that day but also their kith and kins.

The loss of life of the 141 people, the mental and physical torture suffered by the deceased, the people involved as well their relatives adds another level of hideousness to the situation. The loss suffered was beyond comprehension.

Therefore, despite being bound by such legislations of human rights from the United Nations, as well as even after having well-described law on the issue, Pakistan has failed to deliver to its citizens safety, security, and mental peace. Instead, it has rather become a breeding ground for such social miscreants and militants.

The Fallout

There was a wide-scale reaction from the public, religious institutions, as well as political entities. There was international pressure mounted on the country to take some serious action. The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced PKR 2,000,000 (US$20,000 approx.) as compensation to the kin of each of the deceased in the terror attack and PKR 200,000 (US$2,000 approx.) to the seriously injured.[footnoteRef:6] [6: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/21-Jan-2015/aps-carnage-khatak-announces-increase-in-compensation]

There were a few Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) strikes on the camps of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). On 6 January 2015, both houses of the Parliament of Pakistan unanimously passed the 'Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Act 2015', which was signed into law by the President on 7 January 2015. The Amendment provided a constitutional cover to the military courts that were established in the country for speedy trials of the terrorists. The Amendment contained a 'sunset' clause and ceased to be part of the Constitution after two years on 7 January 2017.

The mastermind of the attack, Khalid Khurasani was still at large but got killed by a US drone strike in Afghanistan in the year 2016. Moreover, this incompetence on the part of the then Government of Pakistan cleared the path for more such incidents. As a result, even today such attacks are going on in the country. The country is so saturated with terrorism, that now it has started posing a threat to the integrity and security of the neighboring countries.

The Army Public School Peshawar was reopened on 12 January 2015 under the guard of Pakistan's security forces. To uplift the morale and spirit of the students and victims of school the chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif himself attended the morning assembly of the school and confirmed them that no such incident will ever occur in Pakistan again they will break the backbone of the Taliban.[footnoteRef:7] [7: 'After deadly Taliban attack, Army Public School reopens today'. Dawn. 12 January 2015.]

The Lessons Learnt

This quote itself sums up the lesson to be learned here. Firstly, it is of paramount importance, that international organizations, such as the United Nations, come up with an adequate and adept definition of the term “Terrorism”. This is to be done so that there is one universal definition according to which, the actions of an individual or an organization can be categorized and further actions can be taken to secure peace.

Secondly, statutes should be made and effectively executed so that society remains in order. There is a necessity of the law of fear in such cases rather than the fear of law.

Thirdly, but most importantly, the neighboring countries must come together setting aside their differences and work together to fight this evil and secure to its citizens the basic Human Rights one can have.

Conclusion

This incident of grave human rights violations should set an example as to what the worst could be, and what can be done to avoid such incidents from happening. The governments of different countries should work to secure to their citizens the basic Human Rights, which in today's time are constantly being violated by such repulsive incidents.

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