Pakistan’s New Government Must Reveal Truth about Enforced Disappearances

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[Washington, DC]–The new government of Pakistan should immediately reveal details of where hundreds of missing people–victims of enforced disappearances–are being held, investigate all cases and hold to account those responsible, including the country’s security and intelligence agencies, said Amnesty International in a report released today. Hundreds of people who have “disappeared” are detained under counter-terrorism measures, justified by Pakistan as part of the U.S.-led war on terror.

In its new report, Denying the undeniable, enforced disappearances in Pakistan, Amnesty International used affidavits and testimonies to reveal a pattern of security forces, among others, arbitrarily detaining adults and minors, blindfolding victims, and moving them to various detention centers so they become difficult to trace.

Enforced disappearances, by their nature, are shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible to provide accurate numbers of victims. Pakistani organizations, working on behalf of families of those who have “disappeared,” claim there are at least 563 cases.

The evidence depicts how government officials, especially from the security and intelligence agencies, obstructed attempts to trace those who had “disappeared.”

“As a first, immediate measure, the new government should ease the suffering of the relatives of the ‘disappeared’ by either releasing the detainees or transferring them to official places of detention,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

The report also calls on other governments — most notably the United States — to ensure that they are not complicit in, contributing to or tolerating the practice of enforced disappearances. Many people who have been secretly held in detention centers in Pakistan say they were not only interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agencies, but also by foreign intelligence agents.

Amnesty International urges Pakistan’s new government leaders to reinstate the judges who, before, had demanded answers from the state on enforced disappearances, so that each case may have the opportunity to be investigated thoroughly. In November 2007, President Musharraf declared state of emergency and deposed these judges.

“Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has emphasized the coalition government’s commitment to upholding human rights. We urge him to act immediately to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance,” added Zarifi.

Case studies from the report:

* Asad Usman, a nine-year-old boy, was picked up by the Balochistan Frontier Constabular who are on the record as saying that he would be released after his wanted elder brother surrendered. He was freed after a Supreme Court ordered his release on April 27, 2007.

* Masood Janjua, a 45-year-old businessman and father, was apprehended by Pakistani security forces while on a bus in July 2005 with his friend Faisal Faraz, a 25-year-old engineer from Lahore. The government has not acknowledged that it is holding Mr Janjua, despite testimony from several former detainees who saw him in custody.

* Dr. Imran Munir, a Malaysian citizen of Pakistani origin, was arrested in July 2006 and his whereabouts remained unknown until Pakistan’s Supreme Court was informed in its hearing on May 4, 2007, that he was facing a court martial on charges of “spying against Pakistan.” A month later, the court was informed that Dr. Munir had been sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. The court ordered his appearance in court and, on finding that his health was deteriorating, ordered that he be admitted to a hospital. Dr. Munir was set to record his statement regarding his enforced disappearance when the hearing was disrupted with the imposition of the state of emergency in November last year. Dr. Munir’s conviction was set aside by military authorities after the Supreme Court questioned the conviction. Amnesty International has been informed that Dr. Munir has not yet been retried on spying charges, which remain pending against him, and that he is still confined to hospital.

In 2006, Amnesty International documented dozens of cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, focusing on people who were picked up in the counter-terrorism measures adopted by Pakistan in the context of the U.S.-led war on terror.

At the time, President Musharraf dismissed Amnesty International’s allegations by stating: “I don’t even want to reply to that, it is nonsense, I don’t believe it, I don’t trust it.” He added that his government had detained 700 people, but that all were accounted for. In March 2007, President Musharraf again asserted that the claim that hundreds of persons had “disappeared” in the custody of Pakistani intelligence agencies had “absolutely no basis,” but that in fact these individuals had been recruited or lured by “jihadi groups” to fight. “I am deadly sure that the missing persons are in the control of militant organizations,” he said.

This report is the latest in an ongoing campaign by Amnesty International to end the practice of enforced disappearances worldwide.

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