Indymedia, Oaxaca photograph: Who are these guys? Who signs their paychecks? Where did they get those bulletproof vests? Where did they get those guns? Why were they shooting at journalists? The report from Mexico’s CNDH makes no effort to discover the answers.
On 25/11/07, a government vehicle (White Mitsubishi Pajero, GK A545H) (See vehicle in Annex 1) assigned to the Assistant Minister for Water, Raphael Wanjala, was impounded in Naivasha carrying assorted crude weapons. The weapons included 100 pangas, whips, bows and arrows and 70 Somali swords. Also found in the car were President Mwai Kibaki s campaign posters and those of Mr Wanjala. No known action has been taken against Hon Wanjala regarding this incident. –“Still Behaving Badly” (Kenyan National Human Rights Commission, December 2007)
HRCP assails vigilantes: the Web log of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan denounces “vigilante squads maintained by the establishment or its favourite political party” there.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for immediate disbandment of vigilante squads maintained by the establishment or its favourite political party as their interference with citizens’ normal affairs is not only unlawful it would lead to chaos.
Political paramilitaries with the active participation or connivance of authorities is something of the story of the year in (1) Colombia, obviously; (2) Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in Brazil; (3) Mexico; and now reportedly also in (4) Kenya. Not to mention (5) Russia and (6) Iraq, where the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigades have reportedly infilitrated state institutions. I am pretty sure examples could be multiplied.
To such an extent that perhaps “Vote Quimby or my friend here (who is a good friend of the chief of police) will blow your fucking head off” deserves top honors as the NMM Konoi Topos of the Year.
- Rio Police: “Batman Ordered Tostes Whacked”
- Rio: “Armed Groups Interfere With Freedom of Association”
- “I Am Death”: 20 Police Probed in São Paulo Death Squad Case
- Espirito Santo, Brazil: “The Zombie Corpse of the Scuderie Le Cocq”
- Rio de Janeiro: The Kurious Kareer of General Kruel
- Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: A History Lesson for O Globo
- “A History of Death Squads in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo”
Such misconfigurations of public and private rights and responsibilities represent the dark side of what you might call “informal public-private partnerships” — operating in a zone of legal ambiguity and impunity by abusing what you might call “public-private accountability arbitrage.”
One of the more striking cases of this I read about this year was a group of Rio off-duty special operations police who were observed acting as strike-breaking goons in a private labor dispute, allegedly beating the snot out of one of the strikers.
When an on-duty police officer arrived on the scene, he “activated” the off-duty officers to arrest the gentleman who says he had the snot beaten out of him — allegedly by the off-duty officers.
When the Mexican national human rights commission set guidelines for an investigation into political paramilitary groups in Oaxaca earlier this year, it included a queer caveat that looks an awful lot like a public accountability loophole:
Likewise, a large percentage of the events in question were caused by private citizens and, as such, are not part of the constitutional and legal mandate of this body.
That is to say, if Oaxaca cops were observed changing into jeans, ski-masks and bulletproof vests (state-issued?) in their squad cars before going out and shooting at people from the back of privately-owned pickup trucks, as part of political death squads — and they were — but were not on duty at the time, that conduct cannot be counted, or investigated, as an instance of official misconduct.
Rio militias, for example, are often very careful to deny that they use state-issued weapons for their extracurricular (extrajudicial) activities. They claim they use weapons collected on the battlefield from fallen foes. (And where do those weapons come from?)
On the other hand, ammunition reserved for police and military use has been dug out of bleeding corpses bearing signs of their handiwork.
In a statement issued here today HRCP said:
A deplorable incident.
On Monday night (Dec. 31) a most deplorable incident took place in Gulberg area. A few young girls, including Muneeza Jahangir, HRCP Chairperson’s daughter and a well-known TV producer / reporter, accompanied by a couple of young men, decided to take photographs of some election posters. Suddenly a bunch of armed toughs pounced upon them, mercilessly beat up a young man, dragged the girls and shut them up in the office of the son of the outgoing Punjab Chief Minister. The armed goons abused the girls and threatened them by pointing their guns at them, and offered the same treatment to Ms. Asma Jahangir when she arrived at the scene to rescue the girls.
These men had no right or authority to resort to violence and imprison their victims in private premises. Worse, the culprits seemed to enjoy local authorities’ patronage and were reportedly backed by a couple of police constables in uniform.
The report needs to be more specific about who reported this, and what specific conduct constituted “backing” by uniformed constables.