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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 14:13 GMT
Taleban surrender: What now for Mullah Omar?
Speculation is intensifying over the whereabouts of Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after his fighters gave up control of their last major stronghold - the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
A spokesman for Gul Agha Sherzai, the former governor of Kandahar, said Mullah Omar was being held in the city under the protection of a former mujahideen commander, Mullah Naqibullah, who is sympathetic to the Taleban.
US chief of staff Andrew Card declared that the Bush administration was also "pretty sure" the Taleban leader remained in the city.
But Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai was less confident, admitting that his administration were unsure of Omar's whereabouts. "We are looking for him. He is a fugitive," he said.
The US and Britain have strongly rejected the possibility of granting amnesty to Omar. On Friday the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said Omar could not be allowed to "slip quietly into history". The American government would prefer to see him and his associates face a US military tribunal.
How do you think Mullah Omar should be dealt with? And what sort of justice should other Taleban and al-Qaeda members face?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
You gave me your autograph in 1963, I've still got it. Lots of love.
I grew up in London in the 60's. It was the best decade to be young and this was mostly due to the wonderful music of the Beatles that set our feet dancing. The music will stay with us until it is our turn to go. God bless you George for all the years of pleasure you have given us.
Having grown up with The Beatles and being influenced to become a musician because of them, I feel great sadness over George's passing. But I have great hope and respect for the way in which he lived as well as the dignity and sense of spirituality he showed in facing death. He was a man of greatly underestimated talent, tremendous intelligence and wit and the world is a decidedly poorer place without him. God bless you, George, and my thoughts and prayers are with your family and friends.
Zakir Rashid, Richmond, USA
I do not know about what Mullah Omar knew about the September 11 attacks but I firmly believe that he should be tried for harbouring terrorists and also for the humanitarian crimes committed under his and the Taleban's orders. If all he was guilty of was being a religious fanatic, well, I wouldn't advocate it, but it only becomes a problem when you impose it on others. Especially when you impose it by beating or murdering those who do not agree with you.
There have been revolutionaries in the past who have welcomed the chance to be put on trial so that they could state their case to the world. But Omar and Bin Laden are not revolutionaries, just demented terrorists. They do not have the courage to face a trial anywhere; they have no cause to state. These cowards will try to hide or escape and when capture becomes inevitable will opt for death. The issue of trial will not arise.
David de Vere Webb, England
Everyone should be held accountable for their actions. This includes all wrongdoers on both sides. If there is one law for one and another for another, then this is not justice. International law has its provisions for extraditing people, so to prove without doubt that we are just we should follow our own rules, even if they are inconvenient. This is what sets us apart from the terrorists and crackpots.
Why is there a need for Mullah Omar to be put on trial? As a Muslim I cannot see what he has done wrong. I see him as a sincere leader who has been trying his best to rule Afghanistan according to Islamic law. If the western world cannot stomach Islamic law, which includes cutting off body parts as punishment, then that's their problem. It is none of their business anyway.
Mullah Omar is not only responsible and involved in the death of the 4,000 Americans but is also a dictator and military leader. He is also responsible for the deaths of thousands of Afghans. If Afghan people have suffered from hunger, cold, homelessness, all the accountability lies with him. America can forgive him but Afghans can't.
If the USA puts Mullah Omar on trial, and they certainly should, I suggest that it should be fair and also put other state leaders on trial who harbour and support terrorists. The west cannot selectively separate state leaders and the thugs who work for them by calling Mullah Omar a killer while calling someone like Musharraf a "brave and courageous leader". Mr Kharzai and Dr Abdullah will not only have to fight internal enemies like Mullah Omar but also external threats, like the foreign leaders who supported the Taleban, to bring stability to Afghanistan.
For those who think the Taleban are finished, it would be wise to remember that there are approximately two million Talebs in the Madrassahs (religious schools) in Pakistan. The Taleban evolved in the past from a group of approximately 30 to 40 individuals to take control of 95 percent of Afghanistan in such a short space of time. If lawlessness breaks out in Afghanistan once again as it did previously under the Northern Alliance you can bet your bottom dollar the Taleban will be back.
Mullah Omar should stick to his original plan of not surrendering. He should follow what he has implemented. As far as Bin Laden is concerned, I guess this is the right time for him to come forward and prove that he was not involved in the horrible terrorist attacks of 11 September, because our great prophet never taught us to kill innocent people.
The US position is clear. Omar, when caught, should be put in front of a tribunal and then executed. The Taleban did not heed the warnings they received for harbouring Bin Laden. Now they will pay the price. If anyone harbours the Taleban leader then they will go down too. People around the world may not like it, but that is the way it is going to be.
Tony Sorace, Grenada
As an Afghan American I am extremely upset about the current situation facing the refugees. Afghans have been tormented for the past 20 years. I believe Omar should be arrested by the Afghan government but I also think that General Dostum and the other warlords who have committed atrocities should face UN charges of genocide. If Omar goes down, Dostum should go down too.
How can we declare somebody a terrorist without any judicial trial? I think a trial should be held to establish the proof of his guilt. The judiciary should be selected from Muslim countries. We should then let them decide his fate.
I don't believe that Omar should be tried in the USA or by military tribunal. This will only further incite the fanatics in their hatred of Americans. If we are to have a chance of winning the war against terrorism then we need to be perceived by the rest of the world, in particular the Middle East, as being fair when dispensing justice, especially to foreigners.
If Mullah Omar is to stand trial, I hope it's going to be a public trial with evidence that isn't "top secret" so that the entire world can see justice done. The last thing we need is a "kangaroo court" trial by the US military.
Omar has caused as much pain to the Afghan people as the Russians. How can it be plausible for us not to capture and punish this man as an example to the leaders of other rogue states?
Erik, London, UK
Isn't it a little early to be talking of trying and/or executing someone who hasn't been captured yet? This discussion is sort of like belling the cat, all good ideas but just talk unless we have the cat in captivity.
Both men should be put to death in the same fashion that they forced upon their own people.
Neither Osama Bin Laden nor Mullah Omar are terrorists. Osama Bin Laden is fighting for justice. He cannot bear the isolation of Muslims. Bin Laden is doing the correct thing. I support him in his every act. He is a true Muslim and he will enter paradise.
In response to Mohammad Anwaar ul haq, Doha, Qatar: What a load of rubbish. Bin Laden is doing the right thing? No sane person could agree with his actions on September 11, it was pure evil. The very fact that you can voice such an opinion is a privilege and freedom that I fully support. But it is a freedom that would not be granted to you under the regime that you support.
Steve, Cheltenham, UK
Put him in the same cell as Jeffrey Archer.
While I do not share many of my countrymen's view that Omar should be "given a fair trial and then executed", I am astounded at the many comments claiming his innocence. Is he not one of the closest confidants of Bin Laden? Isn't he also connected to him by family? And now, so many are willing to grant Omar a pardon from his involvement in supporting a brutal terrorist organisation. Do so many people really believe that Omar did not have close consultations with Bin Laden concerning both of their activities and actions?
Ian Edwards, Liverpool, England
Since when are the victims of a crime allowed to judge the accused? If these people are accused of crimes against America then they should not be tried there, especially not in a kangaroo military tribunal, where the outcome would be a forgone conclusion, the evidence hidden, and the punishment inhumane.
Mullah Omar is a war criminal and a terrorist. This is non-refutable. He is obviously running from justice because he knows it is true as reflected in the minds of the vast majority of people throughout the world. I strongly think he will receive the justice he deserves.
The sooner the better.
The outcome of a US trial of Mullah Omar has to be a foregone conclusion, as does the reaction. He is in America's eyes, guilty, even though they have not actually made any clear charges. Anyone still supporting the Mullah or indeed any Muslims still hostile to the US will see this as an affront and there will be another backlash against the US. If Mullah is left free, there is a danger he will spread his message further, but imprisoning him in the US, or even executing him, will spread his message more effectively than he could hope to. Life-long house arrest is the punishment meted out to deposed leaders the world over. It is the only suitable sanction here.
As the US has said time and again the mission is to get rid of al-Qaeda, so Omar and the rest of the Taleban are a concern for the new Afghan interim government.
The outside world sometimes fails to fully comprehend the exact nature and modus operandi of internal struggles within a foreign nation. That is especially true of countries such as Afghanistan where much that happens occurs in a very similar manner to the way it did 1400 years ago. If the new leadership feels it has a different concept of justice than outsiders and can use and re-educate or rehabilitate individuals such as Mullah Omar differently then they must have the final say. We must not undermine the authority and power of the new Afghan government. Neither must we impose our concepts of the law on them. However we must be convinced that persons such as Mullah Omar will no longer prove a future threat to Afghan peace and internal freedom.
The damage that the Taleban have done to their own country is vast. Surely Mullah Omar should first be tried by his own people and then stand before a UN criminal court for his part in what al-Qaeda have done to the world. Alternatively, he could do the decent thing in such circumstances and save us all the bother.
Mullah Omar is not the terrorist. He was a bad leader, but not a terrorist. There are many other bad leaders out there. What will be done about them?
Mullah Omar should be tried by a UN war tribunal. Giving him amnesty after all the destruction in Afghanistan and other countries for which he is directly responsible will not be justice at all. But I'm intrigued by many comments that he should be tried and executed. Let the trial court decide if should be executed or given another form of punishment.
I will fully support any action the US wishes to take against him. He has surrendered to the US so his fate is in its hands and no one can defend his actions. The fact is that he has harboured terrorists and let his followers die while surrendering himself to avoid death.
Mullah Omar has made his bed and should lie in it. He knew what he was letting himself in for.
What about the Northern Alliance, are they not guilty of murder, rape and theft as well? Did they not kill and steal from men who tried to make their way out of Afghanistan? I'd like to know who's going to bring them to justice?
Andrew Bartlett, UK
I think Andrew Bartlett makes an excellent point. The Americans have let Noraid fund the IRA from Boston for over 20 years - does this make all Americans terrorists?
I don't see why Mullah Omar should be tried by anyone other than the Afghans themselves. The Taleban themselves were not involved in September 11th, merely hosted Al Qaeda. The Taleban are guilty only of crimes against their own people and Omar should be tried in the Hague like Milosevic; the USA has no right to be involved.
Andy D, London, UK
I know someone who helped al Qaeda get to where they are today and helped with their training and armed them with the best weapons money could buy. It was the C.I.A and R.E.A.G.A.N. Should they be given a fair trial and executed as well?
Mr Harzai's interim government restores the rule of law to Afghanistan, we're told. Well, here's a chance to show the world that. The US should present evidence and apply to extradite Mullah Omar, if they wish him to face charges for crimes against the US. As for any crimes he committed against Afghanistan - surely any amnesty granted for those is completely up to Mr Harzai, and has nothing to do with the US?
Geoffrey Shaw, Winnipeg, Canada
The military tribunal would be a very bad move, turning him into a full-blooded martyr, arbitrarily executed.
Despite what many revenge-minded people (mostly in America) are saying, it is impossible to overemphasize how necessary it is to give Omar, other Taleban and al-Qaeda members (especially Osama bin Laden) fair trials. Not the US military trials, where they would be denied the opportunity to defend themselves, but in Afghanistan. If their own people are not allowed to judge them, America and the West will simply be imposing its version of justice on them, and the view of America as oppressive is part of what led to this mess in the first place.
Sharon Lucas, Brooklyn, New York, USA
I think he should be tried firstly for harbouring terrorists and providing a base for them and secondly for the humanitarian crisis he let unfold in his country. I do not think a person like Mullah Omar should be granted amnesty so that he gets away scot-free. That only sends the wrong message to other evildoers. The issue is how and where he is going to be tried. I think he should tried by a UN criminal tribunal, just like Milosevic because his policies and actions have affected the entire world.
As distasteful as it may be, offering amnesty to the old regime to smooth the transition to democracy is an effective strategy. It has worked for Argentina, South Africa and East Timor. The US always has the option of extradition if they want to try him for crimes or conspiracies against their citizens.
Mullah Omar should be brought to justice. Better yet, he should be declared a war casualty along with his key associates. Their crime is not just against Afghans or misinterpreting Islamic religion, rather it is against all of humanity. Let's not forget that
How can the US shake hands with one war criminal, General Dostum, and threaten to execute another, Mullah Omar? Nation building requires forgiveness and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela set a glorious example for his nation ten years ago by forgiving all the misdeeds of the apartheid era. George Bush and Tony Blair should do the same by supporting Hamid Karzai in providing amnesty to all Taleban who renounce terrorism.
Mullah Omar must have been knowledgeable in the generalities, not the specifics. The US's main objective is to capture members of al-Qaeda, not necessarily the Taleban. After all the US knew Bin Laden had been in Afghanistan long before September 11, but did not indict the Taleban specifically for terrorism. It may even be that Omar lost all control over Bin Laden once the terrorist had brought in sufficient foreigners to neutralise any potential instability from the Taleban. Omar was then himself hijacked by Bin Laden and could do nothing to al-Qaeda without risking self destruction. Tying Omar to Bin Laden may complicate the capture of the world's most wanted man. Bin Laden is the terrorist, not Omar.
Interesting comment from John, USA: "Omar should be given a fair trial and then executed." What is the point of a fair trial if you plan to execute someone no matter what the verdict? If that is American justice then I hope that I never have to come before a court in the US. I agree that Omar should be tried, but first and foremost for the crimes he has committed in Afghanistan. He should, then, be tried by an Afghan court. If he is acquitted of those crimes then he should be sent to a neutral country like the Netherlands where he could stand trial before the UN. To prevent similar acts of terror in the future the west must be seen to be fair and just, or else we will just spawn a new generation of hijackers.
Gerry, New Jersey, USA
I enjoy reading the comments of my fellow countrymen who suggest Omar should be given a fair trial before being executed. It's not fair if he's already been convicted and sentenced to death. Contrary to some posts here, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Omar was not only involved in the 11 September attacks, but previous attacks on US interests, India, western China and Chechnya. Firstly, he should be tried for his crimes against his own people. Then, if necessary, he should be tried for sponsoring international terrorism. If all else fails, a little extra judicial activity might be in order.
Will Douglas-Mann, UK
What kind of coward urges his followers to fight to the death, then surrenders himself? To deter others who may be tempted to harbour terrorists or support their cause, Omar should be given a fair trial and then executed.
The problem lies in that Karzai has promised him amnesty. If Karzai is to be given any credibility we must allow him to exercise his own judgment. On the other hand, Mullah Omar stands accused of many terror related crimes and abuses of human rights. To let him run free would be an injustice. But to meddle in what is now an internal Afghan affair and severely undermine the standing of Karzai's government would probably lead to further bloodshed. That would be an even greater injustice.
Mullah Omar should be put on trial. Then so should many other people involved in criminal acts of war which have been ignored for being on the "right" side. It is improbable that this is the end of al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. He might be caught but this will be highly difficult. In any event, he has inspired the minds and spirits of many Muslim extremists, and even if al-Qaeda is dismantled it is interconnected with so many other groups that it is hard to see the end of this kind of movement or organisation.
Prashant Mishra, USA
Hopefully this is a non-issue as we have every intention of helping him achieve martyrdom.
He should be tried by a military tribunal and executed. Where now are all those who predicted a month or so ago that America was going to meet its end in Afghanistan and suffer another Vietnam. They told us that the Taleban would fight to the death for its perverted cause. Paradise is still waiting for the Taleban but it sounds like they're not quite so willing to live up to their words.
He is not only guilty of supporting and abetting terror but also guilty of leading one of the most despotic regimes in modern times. It must be understood that instead of cooperating with the modern world, this individual chose to lead his country into confrontation. He should get a short trial and a long rope.
Omar should at least be imprisoned. All the leaders of this terrorist-protecting regime should be caught or eliminated. He didn't have mercy against his opponents, so why should he have mercy?
Mullah Omar should be held accountable for his actions and tried for his crimes. His hand has not been forced by anyone and no sympathy should be given to him. As for capturing Bin Laden, who knows? The way the USA is bombing away at the cave complexes, we could easily have killed him and buried proof of our actions. If he is to be or has been killed and we can't verify it, we will no doubt suffer from Bin Laden sightings to such an extent as to give Elvis a run for his money. As gruesome as it may seem the world needs a corpse to be sure that we are rid of this foul person.
David Szondy, USA/UK
Mullah Omar is war criminal and a terrorist. Therefore, he must be brought to justice. He must not be granted amnesty and should be punished to the full extent of the law, preferably by a military tribunal in the United States. There are no other acceptable alternatives to this issue.
Dain Bentley, Washington DC, USA
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