Muslim graveyards in Mumbai have evidently refused to allow the burial of the nine Pakistani terrorists killed during the Mumbai massacres. This causes a problem of international law to arise. (Had the graveyards allowed the burial, the dead would have been disposed of presumably under domestic law applicable to unclaimed bodies of dead criminals.) Now by the Hague Conventions on the Laws of War:
“1 The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps, fulfilling the following conditions: To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance; To carry arms openly; and To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination “army.”…”
On the basis of the facts presently known about the origins of the Mumbai terrorists, it appears an argument may be made that, in law, they were an unauthorized or rogue squad of Pakistani volunteers who, directly or indirectly, had received some amount of assistance by way of material or financial resources arising from Pakistan’s public exchequer. Certainly they were “unlawful combatants”, did not carry any “fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance” , hid their weapons when they embarked on their unlawful activity and entered India in the manner of spies and not soldiers. Even so, all things considered, the Pakistan Government’s first act of cooperation with the Government of India should be to accept at the Wagah border the bodies of the nine dead terrorists for burial in their home-towns.
During the Kargil war of 1999, Pakistan had been greatly reluctant to accept bodies of its dead soldiers.
Let us hope that will change in this case. Misguided as they were and evil as their deeds have been, the nine dead terrorists should have their remains suitably disposed of. Doing so speaks to civilised behaviour on the part of the living.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata