Amnesty assails military, Taliban over ‘abuses’
ISLAMABAD: Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday accused Pakistan Army of continuing to commit grave abuses in the fight against Taliban militants in the restive tribal region, including the areas now cleared of militancy.
The report also criticised the Pakistani Taliban for killing suspected spies and military personnel captured by them. The report titled “The hands of cruelty — abuses by armed forces and Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas” is said to be based on more than 100 testimonies from victims of human rights violations in detention, witnesses, relatives, lawyers, and the representatives of Pakistani authorities and armed groups.
The petitions challenging detentions under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations, 2011, and the Frontier Crimes Regulation, and the court judgments in the cases have also been analysed in the report.
“The Pakistan Armed Forces are accused of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and deaths in custody. The Taliban continue to commit indiscriminate attacks and unlawful killings of captured soldiers and individuals accused of spying,” the report said.
The Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia-Pacific, Polly Truscott, said: “By enabling the Armed Forces to commit abuses unchecked, the Pakistani authorities have given them free rein to carry out torture and enforced disappearance.”
The report listed several instances of death in custody and abuse during detention, but the names of the victims were changed for what Amnesty said “individual safety” and “on request” of the victims.
The military’s public affairs wing — the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) — dismissed the report as a “pack of lies and part of sinister propaganda campaign against Pakistan and its Armed Forces”.
Pakistan Army has been hit by a volley of fresh accusations over the past few days. It all began with the allegations by the Afghan government that its spymaster was injured seriously in an attack planned inside Pakistan. Then came a damaging Pentagon report.
The army sees the Amnesty report as part of a campaign to discredit it.
In the past too the army was accused of committing human rights violations during military operations in Swat and other militancy-affected areas. In October of 2010 Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani ordered an inquiry into a video clip that appeared to show a soldier executing suspected militants in Swat, but nothing was heard afterwards about the outcome of the probe.
What is important to note in the latest Amnesty report, however, is the allegation that the violations continue across the tribal areas, in parts where an armed conflict between military personnel and militant groups is continuing as well as those where hostilities are said to have stopped.
“It is a biased report based on fabricated stories twisted to serve an agenda,” the military spokesman said while assailing the reports findings. Amnesty International said it had documented a number of cases where the suspected Taliban detained by the military for investigations were killed or their corpses were dumped in different places.
Amnesty regretted that neither were the cases involving abuse of detainees investigated nor were those responsible prosecuted. The watchdog said it had recorded at least 17 cases of individuals dying in detention, but admitted that it was not able to establish the cause of deaths in most of the cases. However, in many other investigated cases, it noted, “there was relevant testimony and some medical records, suggesting that the detainee died as a result of torture or other ill-treatment”.
The report said that many of the freed detainees had been warned by the military authorities against disclosing the abuses they had faced while in custody. “Detainees who have been released alive have been threatened with death… if they speak publicly about their treatment in detention, leaving them in a state of anguish and with little possibility of accountability.”
The report also appeared to build a case against special anti-terror laws called the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations 2011 (AACPR), which was enacted last year with retrospective effect from February 2008 in order to provide legal cover to the actions taken by the armed forces while combating militants in Fata and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The AACPR authorises a scheme of prolonged, arbitrary, preventive detention by the Armed Forces…. The AACPR also cements the culture of impunity in the region. As a result, there is no meaningful accountability for the cases of deaths in custody, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment committed in the region.”
Touching upon the unlawful actions of the militants, the report said: “The Taliban continue to commit a range of human rights abuses, from the unlawful killing of captured soldiers and accused spies to indiscriminate attacks that have killed and injured thousands across Pakistan.
“They regularly carry out suicide attacks and bombings using improvised explosive devices, in marketplaces, mosques, schools, and other populous areas that either indiscriminately or deliberately target civilians.”