Opinion | Canada and the US Shouldn’t Preach India, Both Are Complicit in Targeted Killings
The CIA has a gory record of targeted killings. With the advent of cutting-edge technology, drones have become the favourite US weapon to target individuals and Canada is complicit in such extrajudicial killings
In the film Munich, Steven Spielberg’s gritty historical saga of retribution, Palestinian translator and Black September operative Abdel Wael Zwaiter (Makram Khoury) collapses before his Rome apartment elevator as Mossad agent Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) and Jewish explosives expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) bump him off at point-blank range. Zwaiter was the first targeted killing by Bayonet, the hit squad of Operation Wrath of God, Israel’s covert plan to avenge the murder and kidnapping of 11 Israeli athletes by Fateh’s breakaway militant faction at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Zwaiter’s role in the Munich Massacre is disputed: Israel considered him the head of the Black September’s Rome branch, but the PLO claimed he wasn’t linked to the terrorists. Operation Wrath of God was one of the earliest instances of a series of targeted killings by a nation on foreign soil to avenge terror attacks.
Most countries don’t shelter or protect terrorists or finance terrorism except a few like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Canada. There’s a unanimous, unwritten international agreement that terrorists should be eliminated, not protected. A diplomatic headache occurs when a terrorist commits an act of terrorism at home and scoots abroad or plots/finances an attack or continues to engage in activities against his country of origin from foreign shores.
The victim country’s options are limited when the country of refuge refuses to act against the terrorist-
For acts of terrorism
For financing terrorism
For brazen propaganda and actions against his country of origin
Doesn’t extradite him despite an extradition treaty
Turns a blind eye to him plotting attacks against his country of origin
CANADA VIOLATED UN RESOLUTION, SHELTERED A TERRORIST
Canada is guilty of all the above-mentioned ‘crimes’ even as it has accused “Indian agents” of murdering Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a wanted terrorist in India.
Yes, crimes. Justin Trudeau is guilty of violating UNSC Resolution 1373, passed a few days after 9/11. According to the Resolution, countries shall prevent and suppress terror financing in any form; freeze funds/financial assets of persons/entities intending to commit terrorism; refrain from supporting entities/persons involved in terrorist acts; take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts; and deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts. The Resolution also prohibits a state from allowing people who “finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories against other States or their citizens”.
Anyone who “participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts” must be brought to justice.
The Resolution has four other important clauses violated by Canada
Greatest measure of assistance in “criminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or support of terrorist acts (Canada has always refused to cooperate)”.
Prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on the issuance of identity papers and travel documents by preventing counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents (Nijjar entered Canada using a fake passport and name in 1997).
Take appropriate measures before granting refugee status to ensure that the asylum-seeker has not planned, facilitated or participated in the commission of terrorist acts.
Ensure that the perpetrators do not abuse refugee status, organisers or facilitators of terrorist acts (Nijjar financed and planned attacks against India), and that claims of political motivation are not recognised as grounds for refusing requests for the extradition of alleged terrorists.
Ottawa sheltered Nijjar for years despite an Interpol Red Corner Notice (RNC) against him in November 2014. Trudeau has been crying hoarse over the murder of a “Canadian citizen” by “Indian agents” in Canada. Some media outlets have described Nijjar as a “Sikh activist”. However, evidence shows that Nijjar was a terrorist. First, a picture of him holding a Kalashnikov. Since when did “activists” start posing with terrorists’ weapon of choice? Second, Public Safety Canada had listed BKI and the International Sikh Youth Federation as terrorist entities in 2018.
In November 2021, the NIA filed a chargesheet against Nijjar under the IPC and UAPA for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to execute terror attacks in India after arranging arms and ammunition from Pakistan. As per the chargesheet, Nijjar transferred money to India through the Money Transfer Service Scheme and Hawala to form a network to undertake targeted killings in Punjab and tried to arrange arms and ammunition from his Pakistan-based associates, the official said.
Nijjar was designated a terrorist for trying to “incite Sikhs to vote for secession, agitate against the government and carry out violent activities through various posts, audio messages and videos posted on social media,” an NIA official told PTI.
A detailed dossier shows Nijjar, associated with the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) since the 80s and 90s and then-KTF chief Jagtar Singh Tara since 2012, allegedly planned an attack on Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa, Haryana. He also allegedly travelled to Pakistan for arms and explosive training and ordered several killings and attacks in Punjab. He allegedly arranged funds for terror activities from Canada.
Nijjar and Tara raised a gang in Canada that was trained in arms in British Columbia in December 2015 to launch attacks in Punjab. In 2020, Nijjar teamed up with Punjab-based gangster Arshdeep Singh Gill, alias Arsh Dalla, for a double murder in Bhatinda. In 2021, he asked Dalla to murder the priest of Bhar Singh Pura village.
WHAT IF INDIA DID ELIMINATE NIJJAR?
Trudeau hasn’t provided substantial evidence of India’s involvement in Nijjar’s murder except that Five Eyes—a spy network of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—supplied intel about India’s ‘role’. India has rubbished the accusation.
A New York Times reportquoting unnamed Western allied officials claimed that intercepted communications of Indian diplomats indicated New Delhi’s ‘involvement in the plot’.
As per the RCN, Canada should have immediately arrested and deported Nijjar to India. Instead, Canada approved his citizenship application within months despite India’s objections. The second RCN against Nijjar was issued in 2016.
On September 19, Canada’s immigration minister Marc Miller unknowingly exposed his country’s blatant disregard for the 2014 RNC. “I can confirm that Nijjar became a Canadian citizen on March 3, 2015. I hope this dispels the baseless rumours that he was not a Canadian,” he posted on ‘X’. Realising his mistake, Miller posted a day later: “Nijjar became a Canadian citizen on May 25, 2007, earlier than I stated. The error in dates is my responsibility to assume.”
Besides Nijjar, Canada continues to shelter other wanted terrorists and gangsters. Several dossiershanded over by New Delhi requesting the deportation of wanted terrorists and gangsters have been ignored by Ottawa. Nine pro-Khalistan organisations, including KTF, Sikhs For Justice and Babbar Khalsa International, eight individuals and as many gangsters are based in Canada. The names include Goldy Brar, who took responsibility for murdering Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala, and Dalla, who claimed to have got Congress leader Baljinder Singh Balli murdered in Punjab’s Ajitwal village on the day Trudeau accused India.
WHAT IS TARGETED KILLING AND IS IT LAWFUL?
“International law does not offer any recognised definition of what constitutes a ‘targeted killing’,” Philip Altson, the former UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, writes in the chapter ‘Using International Law to Combat Unlawful Targeted Killings’ in the book From Bilateralism to Community Interest: Essays in Honour of Bruno Simma. As per Alston, targeted killing “is defined as the intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force by States or their agents acting under colour of law or by an organised armed group in armed conflict against a specific individual who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator”.
Alston clarifies that such killings “have been justified both as a legitimate response to ‘terrorist’ threats [as in Nijjar’s case] and as a necessary response to the challenges of ‘asymmetric warfare’”.
In his book Targeted Killings and International Law, international humanitarian law author Ronald Otto terms targeted killings arbitrary and illegal under human rights law. However, Otto mentions exceptions which allow targeted killings: “If the realisation of a threat can immediately be triggered by the alleged offender without any further steps in between. This use of force is subject to proportionality. It must be necessary, i.e. it must be the mildest means capable of addressing the threat”.
“The European Court has shown that this requirement is strongly related to the question of immediacy [Nijjar was a wanted terrorist],” he writes.
University of Oxford philosophy professor Seumas Miller describes targeted killing as “the premeditated, freely performed, intentional killing of a uniquely identified individual person”. In the research paper Targeted Killing: An Introduction, Miller gives the example of a “jurisdictional setting [Canada] in which there is not effective enforcement of the law in relation to terrorists perpetrating ongoing, serious terrorist attacks against the liberal democratic state [India] in question”.
What happens when a country which has sheltered a terrorist is either “unable or unwilling to successfully enforce the law against” him/her? For example, 9/11 mastermind and al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was staying in an Abbottabad compound, only around eight km from the Pakistan Military Academy. The US SEAL Team Six took him out in a classified operation without Pakistan’s knowledge. Miller concludes that “the targeted killing of terrorists is, in principle, morally permissible”.
According to the research titled The Lawful Use of Targeted Killing in Contemporary International Humanitarian Law, published in the Journal of Terrorism Research, “The inability to arrest suspected terrorists reflects the transnational aspect to these conflicts as the victim state is unable to exert enforcement jurisdiction beyond its borders.”
Author Scott D MacDonald, a counsel at Canada’s Department of Justice, writes: “Under contemporary IHL [International Humanitarian Law], targeted killing is lawful although highly circumscribed.”
Though MacDonald argues that “necessity should prevent killing an isolated target who could be captured or arrested without threat to state authorities or protected civilians”, it didn’t apply to Canada if India eliminated Nijjar. Canada was neither willing to capture nor arrest him.
Targeted killings, which “can be lawful under contemporary IHL”, “must be used judiciously and as an exceptional measure of last resort,” he argues.
Obviously, the Five Eyes was well aware of pro-Khalistan activities, terrorists, financing/planning of attacks and anti-India sentiment and action in Canada. But Canada looked the other way in the name of “freedom of expression” and didn’t cooperate when these issues were raised by India multiple times. In fact, Trudeau has a history of ignoring brazen anti-India propaganda and action in his country—whether pro-Khalistan outfits organising a tableau recreating Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards in Brampton or distributing pamphlets threatening Indian diplomats.
US, CANADIAN HYPOCRISY, COLLUSION IN TARGETED KILLINGS
Since Trudeau unleashed his vendetta against India in the garb of the accusation, the US has been trying to play the torchbearer of justice. A “deeply concerned” Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking “accountability” has asked India to cooperate with Canada. America’s Canada envoy David Cohen told CTV News, “If they prove to be true, it is a potentially very serious breach of the rules-based international order.”
“We are deeply concerned by the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau … we have publicly and privately urged the Indian government to cooperate in the Canadian investigation,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told the media.
Ironically, the CIA has a gory record of targeted killings, especially in Islamic countries, and assassinations/attempted assassinations of other leaders, including seven bizarre ones on the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Since 1947, the CIA has ordered hundreds of assassinations and helped stage coups and rebellions in several countries, especially in South America.
With the advent of cutting-edge technology and increasing air superiority, drones have become the favourite US weapon in the last two decades to target individuals even thousands of miles away—and Canada is complicit in such extrajudicial killings. The killing of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Popular Mobilisation Forces deputy head Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by an MQ-9 Reaper drone in January 2020 was the prime example of American targeted assassination.
According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), the number of drone strikes during 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama’s two terms (563) was 10 times more than under his predecessor George W. Bush (57). US drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen killed 384-807 civilians. On ‘Drones under International Law’, US State Department official Rachel Alberstadt writes in the Open Journal of Political Science: “Drones are thought to be inherently unlawful as they are directly associated with targeted killing policies advocated by States such as the US, Russia and Israel generally as responses against terrorist attacks.” IHL “prohibits targeting civilians and non-combatants”, indiscriminate attacks and attacks “which directly target civilians or civilian objects”, Alberstadt writes.
MacDonald argues that the principle of military necessity “requires that military action be both necessary for the achievement of a legitimate military purpose and not otherwise prohibited by IHL”—the aim is to avoid senseless slaughter. Though States must protect their citizens, they must “safeguard the lives of innocent civilians affected by the conflict between state and terrorist”, he adds.
Alberstadt makes the same point. “Lawful action of drones rests upon customary principles such as military necessity and proportionality—with due regard for the protection of civilians and civilian objects.”
Yet, the US killed 10,000-17,000 people, including 800-1,750 civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen from 2002 to 2020, according to the BIJ. Miller writes that droning several individuals merely because they exhibit suspicious behaviour is “not targeted killing”. “Thus, the use of drones by the United States to inflict relatively heavy casualties on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and FATA is not targeted killing…”
The Canadian complicity in the American drone programme hasn’t been highlighted enough. In an August 2020 report titled ‘Private U.S. Contractors Part of the ‘Kill Chain’ in East Africa Anti-Terrorist Operations’, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a global network of investigative journalists, said that US Army and Air Force top contractor L3Harris Technologies provided intelligence for American drone strikes in Somalia. Here comes the Canadian connection.
L3Harris’s wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary L3Harris Wescam is Canada’s largest manufacturer of advanced mobile surveillance cameras and high-tech sensors used in Reaper and Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones. The technology helps in long-range reconnaissance, targeting, survivability and avoiding enemy jets or missiles. In March 20020, General Atomics announced the integration of the WESCAM MX-20 Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) system onto its Reaper (Predator) drone, allowing it to locate and track targets at long stand-off ranges. Wescam has sold more than 5,000 MX-Series surveillance and targeting systems worldwide.
If the US can drone ‘designated terrorists’ like Soleimani and al-Muhandis—who were not even an immediate threat—in Iraq or American radical Islamic preacher Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen using Canadian tech, India also has the right to eliminate terrorists harming its interests.
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