International human rights organisation, Amnesty International has asked Pakistani security agencies, particularly the police, to end all secret detention and reveal the fate of hundreds of ‘disappeared’ people, who are believed to have been abducted.
The organisation was reacting to a Supreme Court missing persons proceeding on Monday, when authorities failed to present two missing persons before the court.
Last week, four men were presented before the court under persistent judicial pressure. Despite SC’s orders to charge or release them, two others have not yet been presented.
“This year Pakistan’s courts have gained unprecedented access to individuals secretly detained by the country’s security authorities demonstrating the importance of a robust and genuinely independent justice system,” said Catherine Baber, Deputy-Direct for the Asia-Pacific at Amnesty International.
“If court orders can bring these disappeared people to light in a matter of days or weeks, the question remains – how many more are being held in intolerable conditions in secret detention centres across Pakistan?”
In February, seven men were brought before the Supreme Court in Islamabad looking severely emaciated, some with urine bags protruding from their trousers. After the brief appearance in court they were taken away and remain ‘missing’.
Amnesty International highlighted the case of one of these seven men, 29 year-old Mazar ul Haq who originally disappeared in November 2007.
“Against all expectations, Haq and six other men appeared in court after more than four years in which their families did not know if they were alive or dead,” said Baber.
Part of the group of 11 persons, known as “the Adiala 11” – Haq was picked up in 2007 and later accused of being involved in attacks on the Army Headquarters and a camp run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).
Despite being cleared by the Anti-Terrorism Court, they again went missing, allegedly abducted by intelligence agencies.
Since last year, four of the Adiala 11 have died in custody in Peshawar.
Lawyers for the intelligence agencies maintain that the men died of natural causes, but the counsel for one of the deceased, Mohammad Aamir, alleges he was tortured to death in detention.
On Wednesday 11 April, the Supreme Court had also ordered the ISI, Military Intelligence and the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to explain the poor conditions in which the surviving seven Adiala prisoners were being kept.
“These seven men are but some of the hundreds kept in internment centres in Pakistan’s north-west alone, most as a result of military operations against the Taliban insurgency there,” said Baber.
“The families of these and other missing persons are waiting anxiously for Pakistani authorities to reveal the whereabouts of loved ones who have been missing for weeks, months, or even years.”
Despite the formation of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in May 2010 on orders of the SC, new ‘enforced disappearances’ continue to be reported every week.
“The Commission urgently needs the resources, powers and political support to investigate all cases vigorously, ensure released victims, witnesses and Commission members are adequately protected, and ensure that no security forces, intelligence agencies, or high officials are immune from its investigations,” said Baber.
“We recognise that Pakistan is facing multiple security challenges, and many of those held in secret detention may pose a threat to the society. Where these individuals are suspected of a criminal offence, they must be promptly brought to justice in trials consistent with international standards of fairness.
“The ongoing crisis will not end until all disappeared persons are accounted for and properly protected by the law again and all perpetrators are brought to justice regardless of their affiliations, rank, or status.”
Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law and a multiple violation of human rights.
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