05 October 2010

Reprieve sues Pakistan government on behalf of seven ‘disappeared’ prisoners rendered to illegal detention in Bagram Prison, Afghanistan


Reprieve and local partners have this week launched legal action in the Lahore High Court on behalf of seven ‘disappeared’ Pakistani citizens currently detained in the notorious US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan.

The lawsuit challenges the Pakistani government’s role in the illegal abduction, rendition and detention of the men, who are held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Reprieve identified and located the seven prisoners, contacting them via their families to offer free legal assistance. Pakistani Advocate Salman Akram Raja then filed a case against the government of Pakistan and its agencies for violating the prisoners’ human and constitutional rights.

Reprieve’s claim was heard yesterday by Lahore’s High Court. Reprieve argued that by becoming “mixed up in the wrongdoing” against their own citizens, the Pakistani government and its agencies violated several provisions in Pakistan’s Constitution, including the right to security, due process, and freedom from torture. As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, the Pakistani Government has also violated international law.

The prisoners’ families asked the Court to secure the immediate release of their loved ones, and to bring criminal charges against the Pakistani Government and its agencies for violations of Pakistani and international law.

The seven claimants are Awal Noor, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Faizal Karim, Amal Khan, Itfikhar Ahmed and Yunus Rahmatullah. All are Pakistani citizens who are being held indefinitely at Bagram without access to lawyers and without having been informed of the evidence against them. Some have been there for many years. Some have been abused there. One claimant was a juvenile (a mere 14 years old) when he was seized two years ago. Another was not permitted to speak to his family for six years, and is apparently in a grievous physical and psychological condition.

The prisoners’ families have suffered great emotional and economic hardship and are desperate to see their loved ones again. The father of Abdul Haleem Saifullah, upon learning that his son was in Bagram, became so sick with worry that he died one year later. Amal Khan’s mother breaks down each time she tries to speak to her son via the International Committee of the Red Cross. Awal Noor’s family, who relied on the income he earned as a goat-herder, struggle to make ends meet.

In the last six months the Obama Administration has attempted to legitimise Bagram Prison, claiming that conditions and procedures there have been improved, and conceding that many prisoners are wrongfully held. This case will test the Obama Administration’s resolve.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif has now sought a reply from the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, directing the lawyer representing the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), to request a report from both the ministries by October 19.

Reprieve's Pakistan investigator Sultana Noon said:

"Pakistan's government has badly betrayed seven of its citizens, and shown disgraceful contempt for Pakistani and international law. These men disappeared into the US-run Bagram Prison, a legal black hole far worse than Guantánamo Bay, where they are now held indefinitely without trial and far from their families. Yet instead of protecting them, it appears the Pakistani government has actively assisted in their kidnap and illegal imprisonment. Reprieve is bringing this lawsuit to force Pakistan to do the right thing for these prisoners and their traumatised families, and to ensure that this never happens again."

For more information contact Salam Akram Raja justiceprojectpakistan@gmail.com/ 0321-844-9932 or Reprieve’s Katherine O’Shea: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk/07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

Hamidullah Khan is a sixteen year old boy currently imprisoned at Bagram Airbase. He was picked up in July 2008, when at the age of fourteen he traveled from Karachi to his father’s village in Waziristan to salvage the family’s possessions in their home during the ongoing military operation. His friend, Khairullah, traveled with him by bus from Karachi up till Dir Ismail Khan. When Hamidullah parted with his friend, he told him to wait for his return from Waziristan within two days so they could travel back to Karachi together. Khairullah never saw Hamidullah again and since then his family has been desperate for his return. Hamidullah’s mother, Din Roza is desperate for his return and continues to fast from dawn till dusk even during the scorching summer months of Karachi with the hope that her prayers are answered and her son is returned to her.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves.

Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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