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Pakistan: "Death in custody constitutes murder" rules the CJ

AHRC-STM-224-2013
December 2, 2013

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

Pakistan: "Death in custody constitutes murder" rules the CJ in cases of disappearances

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry makes laudable efforts to hold the security forces accountable for enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and in pursuing the cases of missing persons

It has been reported that the Attorney General informed the Supreme Court that two missing persons have died, allegedly in military custody. According to the daily Express News, which published a report today (December 2):

"......Two of the missing persons died in custody, Attorney General of Pakistan Munir A Malik informed the Supreme Court (SC) during the hearing of the missing persons case, the newspaper reported".

Activists and human rights defenders have been championing the cause of enforced disappearances for several years now and the Supreme Court has been placed in the position where it has no choice but to take action. In all fairness, they have faced unceasing hindrance from the military and intelligence agencies.

The report in the Express News went on to say:

"A three-member apex court bench – chaired by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry - heard the case in Islamabad.

".
The Chief Justice stated clearly that a death in custody constitutes murder.

"...... the deaths of these two people have made the case even more complicated".

He also ordered that the names and other relevant details of the deceased be submitted to the court.

Another SC bench had held two hearings of the missing persons cases in Lahore and ordered the defence minister and secretary to produce 35 missing persons or appear in person to "face the consequences".

The chief justice had passed the order after defence authorities failed to produce the people on November 26 and sought more time".

There is now empirical proof of what the activists and human rights defenders have been claiming for some time now, that the military and intelligence agencies are causing enforced disappearances, torturing detainees and then killing them extrajudicially.

"The attorney general informed the bench that one of the deceased died in December 2012 and the other in July 2013. He also revealed that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had told him about the deaths of the missing persons last night".

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) now asks the question as to who will take responsibility for the killing of these two persons. The two persons concerned were part of the thousands of detainees that have gone missing after arrest. Of these are the 35 detainees handed over to the Pakistan Security Forces by the government of Afghanistan almost five years ago who remain missing to date. The Chief Justice has been demanding that the Security Forces to produce them before the Supreme Court. However, those forces, particularly the Frontier Corp (FC) has failed to comply. In their arrogance they ignored the directive of the Chief Justice to appear before the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Crime Investigation Division (CID) and record a statement on the missing persons. The 19 officers of the FC were, in fact, named and identified by the family members of the disappeared persons. Their failure to appear reveals a total lack of respect for the rule of law and the courts.

The Chief Justice is correct in saying that a death in custody constitutes murder which is stated clearly in the international norms of human rights. According to those norms anyone arrested by the police or security agencies should be produced in court or released in the same condition in which they were arrested. However, in Pakistan the state has become a murderer and there is little or no accountability. At the present time, 14,000 persons remain missing (including women and children) since 2001 after arrest. In the same period the bodies of 2,500 missing persons were found, dumped on the roadside, after they had gone missing.

The 'kill and dump' policy of the state was instituted by the security agencies in order to hide the evidence that the victims had been severely tortured in custody. The state and Pakistan army stand accused of the torture and deaths of thousands of people. To date, there has been no accountability and the successive governments have failed, or proved themselves incapable, of standing up to the armed forces. They have failed the citizens in their haste to appease the military for fear of their own survival. The state of Pakistan has reached the stage where they are the killers of their own citizens. Due to the absence of a viable criminal justice system and witness protection the state enjoys every freedom to do as they wish including, disappearing, torturing, extrajudicially killing their victims and then dumping them on the roadside.

The AHRC appreciates the efforts of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in making the law enforcing agencies and in particular, the powerful Pakistan military, accountable before the law and especially his efforts to halt the ongoing human rights abuses. The Chief Justice has created history in the country by taking up the cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and in respecting the right to life of every citizen. The AHRC hopes that after Chief Justice Chaudhry's retirement the Supreme Court will continue to give a voice to the people.

Furthermore, the AHRC urges the government to charge and try the 19 officers of the FC who have been positively identified by the family members of the victims. This, more than anything done so far, will demonstrate the commitment of the government of Pakistan to ensure a remedy for the victims and their families and also the right to life.

ENDS

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