Pakistani government and ICRC at odds over access to detainees and applicablity of Geneva Conventions

Dawn reports that the Pakistani government has refused to allow the ICRC to visit jails in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan in order to visit hundreds of prisoners under charges of militancy and insurgency in Khyber and FATA. According to the ICRC and armed conflict exists in Pakistan’s north-West area, while Pakistan denies this and says that an ongoing ‘operation’ is taking place against ‘common criminals or anti-social elements’. Hence, the Pakistani government argues that article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is not applicable to the situation there, and that ICRC cannot visit prisons and detention centers in the area. The ICRC had access to prisons in Balochistan in July 2008, and in Khyber in October 2009. According to the Pakistani Human RIghts Commission more than 2600 detainees were arrested in Makakand division alone in 2009. Human Rights Groups.

More assassinations of Pakistani ‘informers’ because of increase in drones

The Washington Post reports that the current pace of assassinations of people who are labeled as US informers is unprecedented. The escalation parallels a massive surge in CIA drone attacks on North Waziristan. CIA drones have fired 112 missiles on Pakistan’s tribal areas this year, 88 percent of which hit North Waziristan, in a campaign whose effectiveness is hotly debated. But tribesmen say the U.S. campaign has had far-reaching consequences for the way of life in North Waziristan and provoked cycles of violence that, once in motion, are difficult to predict and impossible to control.

In interviews, several Pakistani officials, tribesmen, and one militant said the torrent of strikes has forced residents to stay indoors and deny friends shelter, fearing allegations of spying. The attacks have forced militants to ditch truck convoys and cellphones, and, in the case of the Pakistani Taliban, shutter an office in the town of Mir Ali.

Above all, residents said, the stepped-up strikes have perpetuated an entrenched culture of clan rivalry and retribution. With scant proof, militants are purging suspected moles, and their willingness to do so has made the accusation a valuable tool for people seeking revenge for land disputes or other personal enmities.

“They are just spreading terror by killing anyone,” said Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who commands all Pakistani troops in the northwest, including the semiautonomous tribal areas.

ICG report on Reforming Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System

Read it here.

An insight in how the UN’s 1267 comittee’s focal point for delisting works

Cable 09STATE83026 gives an unusal look insight in how the UN’s process for delisting terrorists works. The cable tells the story about how legal representatives for 1267-listed entity Jamaat-ud-Dawah and its leader, Muhammad Saeed (permanent reference number QI.S.263.08) petitioned on their clients behalf for delisting via the UN focal point. The focal point forwarded the de-listing request to the US (who was the designating state) and to the Government of Pakistan (state of citizenship/residence/incorporation). After three weeks the State Department concluded its review, and requested the US mission to the UN to do the following:

USUN is requested to inform the focal point on August 25, after both USUN and Islamabad have had a chance to inform Pakistani officials of our views, of our opposition to the de-listing request on behalf of JUD and Muhammad Saeed. In its communication to the focal point, USUN should refute the assertion in Saeed’s and his legal representatives claim in the focal point de-listing petition that “there are no grounds for placing Saeed and JUD on the Consolidated List and the material relied upon is incorrect and baseless” and note that we stand by the information included in the statements of case we submitted (co-sponsored by the UK and France) to the UN 1267 Committee to add JUD and Saeed to the Consolidated List. USUN should further state that we have seen no evidence of a change in circumstance warranting de-listing of JUD or Saeed.

The cable includes a detailed ‘non-paper’ which reveals why the US “intelligence community” wanted to put the organisation on the terrorist list.

The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad

This paper by the EPC looks at thehandling of counter-terrorism in the ensemble of EU external relations and assistance vis-à-vis five countries of recognised importance for European interests: Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

75% of Pakistani terrorism cases result in acquittals

The La Times reports that in Punjab Pakistan’s  largest and wealthiest province, nearly three of every four terrorism cases in 2009 and the first six months of this year ended with acquittals, according to provincial court records. And while army offensives have dented militant activity in the restive Swat Valley and parts of the largely ungoverned tribal badlands along the Afghan border, experts say a reliable justice system buttressed by sound police work is essential to a broader containment of terrorism.

Legal experts say militants are walking free because police investigators lack basic evidence-gathering techniques to build solid cases. Investigators eager to get terrorism investigations off their desks are also prone to framing Pakistanis on trumped-up charges. More often than not, judges see through the frame-ups and acquit the defendants.

Any overhaul of Pakistan’s criminal justice system, legal experts say, should start with a wholesale modernization of the country’s outdated legal code so that prosecutors have more authority over terrorism investigations. Currently, when police submit a weak, flawed terrorism case for prosecution, criminal law in Pakistan does not give prosecutors the discretionary power to reject it.

The Danish Embassy bombing case is an ideal example. Tayyab’s star witnesses were two Islamabad police constables who said they had seen two men in a car signal the car bomber to pull up to the embassy wall. Moments later, the car bomb exploded, blowing a gaping hole in the embassy wall. The men in the car sped off.

No arrests were made until a year later, when three men were charged in Islamabad’s next-door city, Rawalpindi, with murder. The Islamabad constables said when they saw two of those men in a lineup, they identified them as the men who had signaled the embassy bomber.

Even Tayyab acknowledged having doubts about the constables’ claim of remembering the faces of two men they had seen only momentarily a year before. The judge was just as skeptical.

“It was in my mind that it’s unsafe to rely on this,” Tayyab says. “And the judge agreed. He said, ‘It’s unnatural. They had no ample opportunity to note the features of these people. How can you say this is possible?’ “

Pakistani judge asks government clarification on rendition of Pakistani citizens to Bagram

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif has sought in the beginning of October a reply from the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs on a petition against the abduction and extradition to foreign countries of seven Pakistani citizens now detained at the Bagram Theatre Internment Camp in Afghanistan.

Sharif directed the lawyer representing the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), present in the courtroom, to get a report and comments from both the ministries by October 19. The seven Pakistanis include Awal Khan, Fazal Karim, Iftikhar Ahmad, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem, Saifullah Younas and Rehmatullah. No news about the Pakistan reply has been received yet.

Sultana Noon, a member of ‘Reprieve’, a (UK based organisation dedicated to ensuring enforcement of human rights of prisoners), moved the petition for the recovery of the detainees. The petitioners’ counsel Salman Akram Raja submitted that the Pakistani citizens, held in different jails of Pakistan from where they were abducted were handed over to foreign countries without any reason.

Raja alleged that Pakistani authorities played a role in the abduction and extradition of the citizens to foreign countries. He said that an ordinary citizen suspected of being involved in any purported wrongdoing deserved a chance to prove his innocence rather than being handed over to foreign powers. He asked the court to directthe two ministries to make a representation as required by law on behalf of the abducted citizens and arrange for their release and extradition to the country. Raja also requested the court to register criminal cases against those involved in the abduction of the citizens.