Friday, January 28, 2011

US ConGen Lahore: Man in jail and protecting our so called "strategic partnership"?

The original title of this blog post which you might see in your RSS feed has been changed to reflect a less freaked out brain with obviously, more oxygen.

The Daily Times reported that a judicial magistrate on Friday handed over US national, Raymond David, involved in the killing of two alleged robbers in the street of Lahore, to police on six-day physical remand.

The accused, who was presented before the court amid strict security in an armoured personnel carrier, told the court that he killed both persons in self-defence.

Meanwhile, the United States said on Thursday that it would try hard to ensure there was no anti-American backlash from a shooting incident in which a US Consulate worker was charged with the murder of two Pakistani men.

“We want to make sure that a tragedy like this does not affect the strategic partnership that we’re building with Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

“We produced the American in the court of magistrate Zafar Iqbal, who remanded him into police custody for six days,” senior police official, Zulfiqar Hameed, told AFP, adding that David would appear in court again on Thursday.
Read more here.

State Department officials are still mum on the identity of the employee involved. The Skeptical Bureaucrat who has covered this unfolding event from the start has an anonymous/unconfirmed  tip on how this went down.  He also writes that the consulate employee has now been identified as Steve David. A person who was obviously trying to blend in, he even wears his blue badge?

It sounds like the American employee is in local police custody for a least six days (correct us if we're reading this wrong). The report also does not indicate whether the accused was in court with a local lawyer to represent him.  Another employee will reportedly be handed over to the local authorities. Good luck hiring drivers afterwards!   

There are, of course, many things we don't know about this case, including the diplomatic status of this employee.  He is, according to the official statement from the State Department spokesman, is a civilian employee of the US Government. We don't know if he has diplomatic immunity or not, if that has been waived or not.  But this we know on the premise that he is a government employee -- he is in Lahore, Pakistan on official orders of the United States Government.


But wait - what's this?

ABC News is reporting that the employee in the shooting incident is private security officer Raymond Davis.  The report made note that the U.S. State Department and Pakistani officials are still at odds over the identity of the employee but identifies Davis as the person who runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides "loss and risk management professionals."  ABC News also points out since it is not known in what capacity Davis was working for the government, it is not clear whether he is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Well, there you go -- the next time you get PJ Crowley on the podium, would you please ask him what he means exactly by "employee."

It is no secret that America's overall image remains negative in Pakistan.  Last year's Pew Research Survey indicates that only 17% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis also describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner.


Shortly after this incident occurred, Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the man was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon: a Beretta pistol. The American shot both men after they pointed guns at him at an intersection, Tareen said.  "Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder," he said. "We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard."

No pause about completing an investigation first. No question or doubt whether this was self defense as the accused claimed.  No matter what circumstances surrounds this case, it looks like most people have already prejudge this as murder. Make that double murder with a strong dash of prejudice.

The Punjab law minister, Rana Sana Ullah told the media: "We fear that the U.S. national was on some secret mission in that area that is why he was so over active and frightened."

So first a double murderer, and now also a spy. If he is found carrying multiple foreign passports, h
e would be Jason Bourne in person.  

Did not help that a retired Diplomatic Security counterterrorism specialist speculates "that the American involved in a fatal shootout in Lahore, Pakistan, was the victim of a spy meeting gone awry, not the target of a robbery or car-jacking attempt."

The father of one of the deceased victims was now quoted as saying: "We want justice. We will not allow government to sell the blood of our son. The killer should be hanged."


Would this American "employee" now accused of a double murder even get a fair trial in that kind of environment?  That he was transported in an armoured personnel carrier should give us pause. Who is representing the American employee's interest in court? Is somebody from the consulate doing jail visits the next six days? We don't want him meeting an accident while in custody.   

If you work for US Mission Pakistan and your work requires that you make trips around the city or the country, make sure you request a helicopter for your next transport. The last we heard air traffic is not as bad.  Otherwise, it's probably best to stay put right now. 

Because we got this question in our my mailbox:


"If my my spouse and/or I get into a car accident and someone gets hurt, will the State Department just abandon us over to the local authorities?"  

An excellent, excellent question.

The federal government apparently can choose whether or not to defend you.  Of course, we doubt if anyone would answer any hypotheticals, much less put that in writing. But FS personnel assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates should still consult with appropriate officials of the mothership regarding authoritative information on diplomatic and consular immunities.


That said, US Diplomacy has a cautionary tale on diplomatic immunity and accidents overseas:

While the duties of a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) may be clearly defined by the State Department, his or her immunities and privileges should not be taken for granted.  Even when the Foreign Ministry of a country may be fully aware of this dimension of diplomatic practice, successfully claiming such immunities in the case of an accident or other emergency situation may well depend on the willingness of local officials to honor them. 

Moreover, depending on whether official duties or functions are involved, the Department of State may or may not come to the defense of U.S. Government employees faced with lawsuits. For example, Douglas Kent, U.S. consul general in Vladivostok, was involved in a car accident in October 1998 while driving home from his office.  After Kent left the post on reassignment, a Russian citizen injured in the accident sued Kent in his individual capacity in a district court in California.  According to an August 31, 2006, “AFSANET” message from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), “The Department of Justice with State Department concurrence refused to certify that Kent was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred,” thus undermining his claim of immunity.  Ultimately, with AFSA supporting FSO Kent’s legal defense, the case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled in his favor by determining that he was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident took place. 

The Kent case clearly demonstrates that while Foreign Service personnel, especially those in senior positions, may consider themselves on duty 24 hours a day while stationed overseas and thus fully protected, particular circumstances may put those immunities at risk.  The case also points to the necessity for all employees who drive overseas to have fully adequate personal/automobile liability insurance coverage (which Mr. Kent did not have).

See AFSA's report on this case in 2006 here: The CG Is on Duty 24/7: Court Agrees.

This one should be essential reading in A-100 except it might demoralized the new employees: KASHIN v. KENT | US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit | 2006



While you're thinking about this, best check all your insurance coverage, including your professional liability insurance.



2 comments:

A Daring Adventure said...

You are absolutely amazing. You find the most incredible information. I don't know how you do it, but my hat is off to you.

Thank you so much for sharing what you've learned. I, for one (actually, James too), will be stalking your blog and TSB's blog throughout this. I am so incredibly frightened for this man, whomever he is, and for anyone else in the line of fire because of this situation.

The idea that this American is in a Pakistan prison right now absolutely drives me to tears. The entire situation is truly terrifying. I am hanging on every word that comes out about this case, because this entire situation scares me to death. There are also so many unknowns! Did he go in with a dip passport? Why is he still in jail? Isn't there anything that can be done? My heart goes out to this poor man and his family, and I thank you for keeping this topic out there on the front burner.

Shoeone said...

I served as Consul General in Vladivostok a couple of years after Doug Kent did. His case is a cautionary tale for everyone who naively believes that the Department will rush to their defense if they get in trouble overseas. Doug's case was made even more complicated by the fact that an opportunistic and influential Congressman, Curt Weldon, got involved on the other side. Read and be warned.