Pakistan: New 'security' arrests and fear of illegal USA 'war on terror'

In an open letter to Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, Amnesty International said:

'Given the widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in places of detention in Pakistan, we fear for the life and safety of the detainees. Being held incommunicado they are particularly at risk of torture and ill-treatment. We are also concerned that the detainees may be transferred to US custody in circumvention of Pakistan's extradition law.

'While we acknowledge that the security of the people of Pakistan and the curbing of political violence are important duties of the state, we are concerned that in this context basic civil and political rights of suspects are all too often ignored. Measures to curb violent political acts must be placed strictly in a framework of human rights.'

Pakistan has violated a range of human rights obligations guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan, Pakistan law and international law. It has arbitrarily arrested Pakistani and non-Pakistani people suspected of membership of al-Qai'da and the Taliban or of anti-state activities.

Amnesty International said: 'We are particularly concerned that there are Children's rights among those arbitrarily detained. Such arbitrary detention in unacknowledged places violates a range of obligations Pakistan entered when ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.'

There are indications that some of detainees may be in the process of being handed over to the US without reference to any legal requirements, including Pakistan's domestic legislation governing extradition. In the past Pakistan has handed over several hundred detainees to the US where they are likely to suffer further human rights violations.

Amnesty International is aware that the Government of Pakistan has on several occasions raised its concern with US authorities about the fate of Pakistani nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay. Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said before the Pakistani Senate on 21 January 2004 that the government was genuinely concerned about the conditions in which Pakistani detainees are held in Guantanamo Bay and had urged US authorities to release them soon. However, despite such expression of concern, the handing over of suspects to US custody does not appear to have stopped.

Amnesty International said:

'We call on the Government of Pakistan to strictly adhere to Pakistan's own constitutional and legal safeguards and international human rights law and standards.

'To discriminate against those suspected of 'terrorist' or 'anti-state' offences by arbitrarily arresting them and handing them over while circumventing formal extradition proceedings violates the principle of equality before law and equal protection of law which are fundamental rights recognised in the Constitution of Pakistan.'

Last year Amnesty International raised concern with the Pakistani government about two Children's rights of a wanted man suspected of links to al-Qa'ida who have been in arbitrary detention since September 2002, but has not received any response from the Government of Pakistan.

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