November 29, 2007
The ultimate crime
by Reuben Bromstein and Salim Mansur
The aftermath of a suicide bombing in Hub, Pakistan, in July, 2007.
Asif Hassan, AFP, Getty Images
Bill S-210 would again demonstrate Canada’s leadership in the fight against terrorism
On May 21, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi, leader of India's Congress Party and the country's former prime minister, was campaigning outside of Chennai (Madras) when a female suicide bomber dispatched by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers terrorist group approached him and detonated her explosive belt. Gandhi and a number of people around him were killed.
Some 16 years later, on Oct. 18, 2007, Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto was also the target of a suicide bomber in Karachi. Bhutto escaped unhurt, but the attack left a tally of dead and wounded numbering close to 600.
In the years bookended by these two episodes, the world bore witness to a plague of similarly horrific suicide attacks -- including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the destruction of the UN mission in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, the Bali nightclub bombing of Oct. 12, 2002, the Madrid train attacks of March 11, 2004, and the London transit bombings of July 7, 2005. The victims were mostly civilians caught in their mundane routines by humans programmed and dispatched by terrorist organizations to kill and sow fear.
Intelligence-gathering and police work constitute the first line of defence against suicide bombings. Preventive military targeting of known terrorist organizations can also be effective. But there is more that can be done to combat this plague.
One step that could be taken is to provide legal grounds for prosecuting those who engage in the provision of organizational, ideological and logistic support to individuals sent forth as suicide bombers. Such a law has been proposed in a bill introduced by Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein in the Upper Chamber of Canada's Parliament.
Senate Bill S-210 proposes to amend Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code by explicitly including suicide bombing in the definition of terrorist activity. As Senator Graftstein has explained, it will provide greater clarity by establishing this singularly horrific act as a criminal offence in and of itself. Obviously, suicide bombers are immune from legal prosecution thanks to the self-annihilating nature of their crime. But the same is not true for those who facilitate the deed.
Senator Grafstein has spoken eloquently in introducing his proposed amendment to the Criminal Code. As he reminds us, "reverence for life is a lynchpin of all religions and the keystone of the rule of law. All our laws are wrapped around this central idea."
There is no disagreement among the world's religions, nor can there be, on the injunction provided in the sixth of the Ten Commandments of Moses rendered from Hebrew into English in the King James Version of the Bible as, "Thou shalt not murder." Islam's sacred text, the Koran, confirms Moses' laws and then echoes the teaching of the Talmud with these words: "Whoever kills a human being … then it is as though he has killed all mankind."
By amending the Criminal Code, as proposed in Bill S-210, Canadians would be sending forth a message both domestically and internationally about how a democracy arms itself against those who deliberately engage in mass murder. It would also stand as a model for other democracies to adopt, and would once again demonstrate Canada's leadership in the fight against terrorism.
We urge the senators, irrespective of their party affiliation, to support Bill S-210 and dispatch it through the committee hearings to the House of Commons for approval and passage into law. This bill has been twice proposed in the Senate but died on the order papers as the parliament was once dissolved and then later prorogued. It would be a matter of much regret if again Bill S-210 dies on the order paper.
Reuben Bromstein is president, and Salim Mansur is a vice-president ofCanadians Against Suicide Bombing (www.canasb.ca)