Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pakistan's Cooperation in the War on Terror Leads to Enforced 'Disappearances,' According to Amnesty International

To: National and International desks

Contact: Sharon Singh of Amnesty International,
202-544-0200 ext. 289

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In a new
report released today, Amnesty International charges
that by cooperating in the war on terror, the
Pakistani government has systematically committed
human rights abuses against hundreds of Pakistanis and
foreign nationals. As the practice of enforced
"disappearance" has spread, people have been arrested
and held incommunicado in secret locations with their
detention officially denied. They are at risk of
torture and unlawful transfer to third countries.

"In Pakistan, neighbors turn against neighbors," said
Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry
Cox. "Anyone can be labeled a 'terrorist,' sold to the
United States government and transferred to
U.S.-controlled detention centers in Guantanamo Bay,
Bagram Airbase or God knows where."

The routine practice of offering rewards running to
thousands of dollars for unidentified terror suspects
facilitated illegal detention and enforced
"disappearance," the report found. Bounty hunters --
including police officers and local people -- have
captured individuals of different nationalities, often
apparently at random, and sold them into United States
custody.

The new report, "Pakistan: Human Rights Ignored in the
War on Terror," states that 85 percent of detainees at
Guantanamo Bay were arrested, not by United States
forces, but by the Afghan Northern Alliance and in
Pakistan at a time when rewards of up to $5,000 were
paid for every "terrorist" handed over to the United
States government. Often the only grounds for holding
them were the allegations of their captors, who stood
to gain from their arrest. Some 300 people --
previously labeled as "terrorists" and "killers" by
the United States -- have since been released from
Guantanamo Bay without charge, the majority to
Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Many detainees remain unaccounted for, their fate and
whereabouts unknown. Three women and five children
were arrested alongside Tanzanian terror suspect Ahmed
Khalfan Ghailani in Punjab province in July 2004. They
included a baby and a 13-year- old Saudi boy called
Talha, according to reports. More than two years
later, nothing is known about the fate and whereabouts
of Talha and the other children and women. Ahmed
Ghailani was one of 14 individuals transferred from
secret CIA custody to Guant√°namo Bay in September
2006.

"Many children have lost their innocence as a result
of the Pakistani government's hunt for 'so-called'
legitimacy in the war on terror," said Cris Toffolo,
Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for
Pakistan. "These children are imprisoned for months
and years, without a trial or even an opportunity to
prove that they are not guilty. Pakistan's
politicians, media and citizens must take a stand and
hold the government accountable."

Terror suspects held in secret are especially
vulnerable to torture in Pakistan. Victims have been
hung upside down and beaten and deprived of sleep and
food. Agents from other countries, including the
United States, appear to have known of, or been
present during interrogations of people held in
arbitrary and secret detention.

Relatives have few places to turn in searching for
those who have been abducted. Police have refused to
investigate or register complaints. Those who
challenge detentions through the provincial high
courts find that security forces deny all knowledge of
a person's whereabouts and judges have frequently
failed to challenge these denials.

Khalid Mehmood Rashid, a Pakistani national, was
handed over to Pakistani officials in South Africa on
Nov. 6, 2005, and flown to Pakistan. He has not been
seen since. Despite official acknowledgements that he
is being held by the Pakistani government, the
Ministry of Interior has not responded to his family's
inquiries as to where he is being held.

The clandestine nature of the war on terror makes it
impossible to know exactly how many enforced
"disappearances," other arbitrary detentions or
unlawful killings have been committed in Pakistan, but
Pakistani military spokesperson Major- General Shaukat
Sultan said in June 2006 that since 2001 some 500
"terrorists" had been killed and more than 1,000 had
been arrested.

Amnesty International urges Pakistan to create a
complete record of the name and location of all
detainees that have been or are being held and
investigate every allegation of torture.

"The war on terror will not be won by any country that
sells its own men, women and even its children to the
highest bidder," added Cox.

For a copy of the new report, "Pakistan: Human Rights
Ignored in the War on Terror," and its summary, please
contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 ext.
302 or go to
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa330352006.

To see the text of a U.S. flyer offering substantial
rewards for the capture of suspected enemies, please
go to
http://www.amnesty.org/resources/pakistan/flyer.html.

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http://www.usnewswire.com/

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/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

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