Saturday, September 30, 2006

AI slams Pakistan's HR record

Amnesty International has slammed Pakistan's terrible human rights record in a recently published report. Excerpts from the executive summary:

The Pakistani government has committed numerous human rights violations as a result of its cooperation in the US-led "war on terror". Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained. Many have been subjected to enforced disappearance - held secretly, incommunicado and in undisclosed locations, with the government refusing to provide information about their fate and whereabouts. Many have been tortured or ill-treated. Their families, distressed about lack of information about fate or whereabouts of their loved ones, have been harassed and threatened when seeking information. The right to habeas corpus has been systematically undermined: state agents have refused to comply with court directions to provide information about the whereabouts of detainees or have denied any knowledge in court. Many detainees have been unlawfully transferred to the custody of other countries, notably the USA.

In May 2006, Pakistan was elected to the newly established UN Human Rights Council which, in June, unanimously adopted the draft International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The draft Convention bans enforced disappearances and declares widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearances a crime against humanity. Amnesty International calls on the Pakistani government to uphold the standard that it has contributed to developing.

On the capture and incarceration of children:

Several children of varying ages have been detained in the "war on terror" and denied necessary safeguards contained in international and national law. Some were arrested alongside their adult relatives, some were themselves alleged to be terror suspects and some were held as hostages to make relatives give themselves up or confess.When Tanzanian terror suspect Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was arrested in Gujrat, Punjab province on 25 July 2004, three women and five children were also arrested. They reportedly included a baby and a 13-year-old Saudi boy, Talha. Nothing is known about the fate and whereabouts of the women and children.

On torture:

The secrecy surrounding the detention of terror suspects provides conditions in which torture and ill-treatment flourish. Forms of torture reported by detainees include: being beaten; being hung upside down and beaten, including on the soles of the feet; sleep and food deprivation; hooding; prolonged solitary confinement; and threats to the detainee and their families. These methods are often used in combination. Torture was reportedly inflicted in many places of detention; some former detainees reported seeing rooms apparently specifically set up for torture.

On enforced disappearances:

Hundreds of people have been subjected to enforced disappearance since Pakistan joined the "war on terror" in late 2001. The government has failed to acknowledge that enforced disappearances have occurred. In habeas corpus proceedings before provincial high courts, state representatives have consistently denied knowledge of the fate and whereabouts of detainees, despite eyewitness accounts of arrests and even in cases where the individuals have subsequently reappeared.

On ineffective remedies:

Ineffective remedies Relatives of persons subjected to enforced disappearance can either file a complaint with the police, who are then obliged to investigate, or assert their right to habeas corpus by filing petitions in provincial high courts. In the context of Pakistan’s cooperation with the "war on terror", both options have proved ineffective in tackling the violations. Many relatives have turned to informal mechanisms for tracing victims of enforced disappearances, usually without success.Police have in virtually all the cases monitored by Amnesty International refused to register First Information Reports (FIR) on the basis of which a police investigation begins. In some cases police have said that they have no competence to do so as the individuals were reportedly captured by intelligence agencies.

On extrajudicial killings:

Amnesty International is also concerned that the clandestine nature of the conduct of the "war on terror", particularly in the tribal areas of Pakistan, may conceal widespread and systematic human rights violations. In particular, the organization is concerned about reports that Pakistani and US law enforcement and security forces may have used force, including lethal force, unnecessarily and excessively, and have extrajudicially executed a number of individuals, some suspected of links with al Qa’ida and others unconnected with any terrorist activities. Under international law, extrajudicial executions are prohibited at all times. In none of the cases reported do Pakistani or US forces appear to have made any attempt to arrest the suspects before using lethal force.

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