Lahore High Court Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan on Wednesday sought written replies from the ministries of interior and foreign affairs by November 21 (today) on the whereabouts of six Pakistanis released from US detention at Bagram who went missing when they were handed over to Pakistani authorities.
Appearing on behalf of the detained persons, Barrister Sara Bilal told the court that all six Pakistani detainees being held at an American facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, were handed over to Pakistani authorities on November 16.
“Since then, these men have been in detention in Pakistan,” she said.
She said the Department of Justice had informed a US court of the release of one Hamidullah Khan.
She said the government had not disclosed where Khan, Sabeel Suleiman, Abdul Qadir Imran, Muhammed Riaz, Abdul Karim and Palak Jan were.Bilal’s organisation Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit law firm has represented these Pakistani detainees in the Lahore High Court since 2011.
Bilal said all six Pakistanis had been held for several years without charge, trial or access to a lawyer.
“We have not been informed of our clients’ location nor have we been granted access to them,” she said told the court.
Bilal said Khan was 14-years-old when he was captured from Pakistan in 2008 and detained in Bagram, despite being a juvenile.
She said Imran and Riaz, were picked up by the Afghan army and handed over to the US military in 2005.
“None of them have ever been charged with a crime,” she said.
On a number of occasions since 2011, the LHC had directed the government to secure the release of these Pakistanis from Bagram.
In October 2012, the government submitted a list of six Pakistani detainees due to be released, she said.
It took over a year for their repatriation to materialise, she told the court.
Bilal said the delay from the Pakistani government added to the injustice.
“The court should have had a victory in this regard one year ago,” she said.
“These men are being detained illegally by their own government. Their current detention is at an undisclosed location with no access to their families or their lawyers. It took the Pakistani government more than a year to repatriate men who are innocent of any crime and should never have been detained. Now they are holding them incommunicado, without access to their families or to their lawyers.”
Bilal said that the detention following their repatriation was “illegal” and that it “must come to an end.”
”They have suffered too long because of the failures of the US government and their own government,” she added.
“These missing men should be united with their families in this courtroom,” Justice Khan remarked, seeking the government’s reply by November 21.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2013.