HRW concerned over ‘extrajudicial killings’

Published: July 18, 2010

Rights-based NGO says it has corroborated as many as 50 cases

A rights-based organisation has expressed deep concern about the “extrajudicial killings” being perpetrated allegedly by the Pakistan Army and other security forces in Swat, and asked for immediate action to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released on Friday urged that, “the Pakistani government should immediately investigate reports of summary executions, torture, and mistreatment perpetrated during counterterrorism operations in the Swat valley.”

The report continued that, “Since September 2009, when the Pakistani military re-established control over the valley, Human Rights Watch has received numerous credible reports of extrajudicial executions allegedly committed by soldiers operating in Swat or police acting at the behest of the military.”

It was also said that while reports of alleged extrajudicial killings “linked to the military” had gone down in recent times, instances are still reported.

HRW said that it had examined the allegations that some 238 cases of extrajudicial killings had taken place in the region, and had “corroborated” about 50 of the cases by talking to locals and other rights-based organisations operating in the area. “In no case examined by Human Rights Watch was a killing falsely reported, suggesting that the total number of killings is as high as or greater than those reported,” it claimed.

It also expressed lament that the Pakistan Army had thus far not held any perpetrators accountable.

The HRW report quoted a number of locals and their assertions that the phenomenon was indeed prevalent, and even cited many specific cases. The report further claimed that there had been no protest for fear of repercussions.

However, HRW did mention that, “since the military regained control of the Swat valley, there had been a marked improvement in the overall security situation. Public floggings and hangings perpetrated under Taliban control have largely ended.”

“The military should investigate reported killings and send unequivocal orders down the chain of command that those responsible for such killings would be held accountable,” HRW urged.

The NGO also called upon the United States to intervene and “review the possible responsibility of military units receiving US military aid for alleged abuses in Swat and to take appropriate action.”

When contacted by The Express Tribune to comment on the HRW report, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Athar Abbas, spokesperson for the Pakistan Army, said that the details of the report were “being examined” and had been sent to the relevant quarters. A response, he added, was awaited after which he could comment more openly.

However, he said, past instances of such reports, which have often quoted anonymous sources, have been rejected by the army.

He said that the parameters of judging the work of the army in the war-torn region are the people of Swat – an overwhelming number of whom, he said, had appreciated the army’s efforts to bring back peace and stability, as well as pushing development.

Despite the scepticism with which the army was looking at the report, he said that details had been forwarded to the relevant quarters to respond to.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.

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