Detainee Khanwada found with bullet wound to the head
Pakistan has a serious problem which needs addressing, an inability to safeguard the lives of those the country holds in detention. Anyone incarcerated in prison or an internment centre could be at risk of joining the many that have gone before, tortured, killed, bodies dumped on the streets for families to collect.
So who is the latest victim found on Thursday evening 20th November 2014? I am told his name is Khanwada son of Said Mohammed and that he belonged to Mohmand agency Tasil Khwaizai village Koong. The person who contacts me, Abdul (not his real name) wants the death reported properly to the relevant authorities but he is also afraid, he has a wife and children and needs to protect his identity.
Abdul apologizes for his English as he delivers what information he can. Khanwada, he claims, was captured by rangers in Karachi one year ago. He alleges that this 27 year old who originated from his home area was killed (bullet wound to the head) and thrown by the road in the area of Karachi Qaid Abad jail. Khanwada is apparently married, may possibly have had some connections to the Taliban but as Abdul points out, “this is bad, this is not justice”.
Later today the details of this latest killing will be sent on to Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of Defence of Human Rights (DHR) a courageous lady whose husband Masood was “disappeared” in 2005. Working with families of victims, she helps them cope with the distress of losing a loved one, documents cases and attempts to hold people to account through the courts.
Since 9/11 many innocent people have been swept up in America’s War on Terror with pressure on the government to deliver up anyone suspected of connections to militant groups. State agencies by failing to adhere to the law and ensure fair judicial process have now become terrorists themselves forfeiting their morality. A scenario has developed where it is a case of the “kettle calling the pot black” with all sides engaged in brutality.
There is perhaps a spark of hope however that the legal system at least is now working positively towards change. This week DAWN media reported on Tuesday that Peshawar High Court (PHC) made a decision to issue “a bailable arrest warrant for the official in charge of the Lakki Marwat internment centre. The warrant was issued for failing to comply with earlier orders to appear in court and provide a death certificate to a detainee’s bereaved family.” This happens usually where a death occurs in suspicious circumstances and authorities wish to avoid awkward questions.
It is important to note that judges and court officials can also be targeted for their actions and suffer a similar fate to those whose cases they are hearing.
Once again we learn from the court that another detainee, Piyo Gul, will never be seen alive by his family again. DAWN states,
“during the hearing, the bench was informed by the deceased’s father Gul Mat Khan that his son was picked up on November 3, 2011 and his whereabouts remained unknown for around two years. In November 2013, Lakki Marwat internment centre handed over Gul’s body to the family without any explanation for his death”
There is also mention of a further such case,
“the court also sought reports from the then SHO of Chamkani police in the case of Roohullah who was picked up from his house on May 24, 2013 and subsequently granted bail by an anti-terrorism court. When he left Central Prison Peshawar on September 6, 2013, he was picked up by ‘unidentified persons’. His body was later found in Takhta Baig, Khyber Agency on November 20.
One other detainee Yaha is noted as being ” missing for a long time”. His case has been adjourned as a report is currently being prepared declaring him ‘black’ suggesting there was evidence of his involvement in acts of terrorism. Whatever his status, it is vital that there is a fair process of law, the detainee is held within a safe environment and has access to a lawyer.
Lawyers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are attempting to introduce legislation which would give better protection to individuals in state custody. They are working on a Bill to prevent torture, custodial deaths and custodial rape which is being moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar, Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP). It has been admitted by the Senate and prescribes stringent punishments for torture.
The proposed Bill defines ‘torture’ as an act intended to inflict physical or mental pain on a person in custody for securing a confessional statement or as a punishment for committing a suspected crime.
Those in authority that allow or carry out such crimes should consider three things.
First that evidence collected under torture is worthless in a legal case.
Second, enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings are creating an additional security risk to the state as there are well documented cases of retaliation attacks such as Taliban killing 23 Frontier Corps (FC) men as “pay back” for alleged extra-judicial killings of their men by state authorities. Taliban group Tehreek -e-Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (TTP JA) recently issued a press release condemning human rights groups for their double standards towards Muslim prisoners. They state, (in what could be taken as a warning) that “seeing the bias and hatred of human rights organizations against Islam and Muslims, it seems that you may also be included in this retribution process.”
Thirdly, the tide is beginning to turn and those who commit such crimes should not expect to escape accountability for ever!
“Pakistan 2014: Enforced Disappearances condemned, practice threatens security of the state”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.