Pakistan: 18 shot dead in tribal areas- armed forces should be investigated

The shooting of 18 people in Pakistan’s tribal belt, allegedly by the armed forces, has prompted protests in the region. Amnesty International is calling for a thorough and speedy investigation into the murders.

Yesterday protesters gathered outside the residence of the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Peshawar Press Club, after the 18 bodies were found dumped across Barra district of Khyber Tribal Agency on Tuesday.

Relatives claim the 18 people were shot dead by soldiers of the Frontier Corp, part of the Pakistan armed forces, either during or after raids on their homes. The victims include seven members of the same family.

Amnesty International Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Isabelle Arradon said:
“Our research indicates that bodies of people who have been arrested by the armed forces are being returned to their families or apparently found dumped across the Tribal Areas almost every week.

“Unless these deaths are properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice – without recourse to the death penalty - the cycle of violence will continue.”

In a recent report on abuses by the armed forces and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas, The Hands of Cruelty , Amnesty documented the routine use of extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture in military custody. The Pakistan government has recently agreed to a list of demands made by tribal elders from Barra, including an end to indiscriminate mortar shelling by the armed forces, compensation for those killed during military operations, and a judicial inquiry into the Barra killings.

Isabelle Arradon said:

“The government’s swift response and agreement to provide compensation and undertake an independent inquiry into the Barra killings are a step in the right direction.

“But given their poor record in bringing perpetrators of such killings to justice in fair trials, whether they belong to the state or not, much more is needed.”

As far as Amnesty is aware, no serving or retired member of the armed forces has been prosecuted for their alleged involvement in extra-judicial executions or other human rights violations in the tribal areas, despite the existence of sufficient evidence to ground prosecution in many cases, including several documented in Amnesty reports.

Isabelle Arradon  concluded:

“That record is unlikely to improve while the Tribal Areas are excluded from Pakistani laws for the protection of human rights, and while security laws provide the military with sweeping powers and immunities from prosecution.

“There is no question that Pakistan is facing a major challenge confronting armed groups like the Taliban that are responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries across the country over the last decade.

“But the failure of the government to respect human rights and the existing legal regime are cementing a culture of impunity, rather than moving the region towards greater rule of law and justice for human rights abuses, whether perpetrated by the Taliban or by the government.

“Despite the many challenges, the government can immediately take these important, necessary steps to begin the long journey of bringing respect for human rights to the tribal areas.”

Background information:

Khyber and North Waziristan Tribal Agencies are part of the Tribal Areas, a region that is excluded from the courts, parliament and fundamental rights protections under the Pakistan Constitution.

Parts of the Tribal Areas are still governed by the draconian colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). In 2011, the armed forces were granted sweeping powers of arrest and detention under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations (AACPR) which the military invokes to prevent investigations into past and current violations.

As recommended in the report, The Hands of Cruelty, the FCR must be repealed or reformed in line with international human rights standards, while the AACPR must be repealed to prevent the armed forces using it as cover for past and current human rights violations. The Pakistani authorities must also formally extend the jurisdiction of the courts and parliament to the Tribal Areas.

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