Court orders Pakistan Govt to present Bagram detention evidence

May 25, 2011

Reprieve and the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) appeared today in the Lahore High Court for the seventh hearing of the ‘Bagram Petition’. The court directed the Government to present evidence of their efforts in securing the release of the seven Pakistanis at Bagram.

In October 2010, Reprieve and local partners initiated legal action in the Lahore High Court on behalf of seven ‘disappeared’ Pakistani citizens detained in the notorious US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The petition challenges the Pakistani Government’s role in the illegal abduction, rendition and detention of the men who are being held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Reprieve and JPP identified the seven prisoners and located their families, to offer free legal assistance. A case was filed in the Lahore High Court against the Government of Pakistan for violating the human and constitutional rights of the seven Pakistani nationals. Reprieve and the JPP argue that by becoming “mixed up in the wrongdoing” against their own citizens, the Pakistani Government and its agencies have violated several provisions in Pakistan’s Constitution, including the right to security, due process, and freedom from torture. Moreover, since Pakistan has signed and ratified the Convention against Torture, the Government has also violated international law.

In today’s hearing, the court directed the Government to present evidence of their efforts with the authorities in Afghanistan, including the US representatives, in securing the release of the seven Pakistanis. The matter will be heard in the Lahore High Court on June 9th 2011 when the respondents will be present in court.

JPP’s Sarah Belal said:

“This is a positive effort by the judiciary to hold the Pakistani Government accountable. It is shameful that even after seven hearings in the Lahore High Court, the Government it still trying to evade its responsibility towards its citizens. The Government must put an end to this grave violation of justice and reunite these innocent men with their families.”

The seven prisoners are Awal Noor, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Faizal Karim, Amal Khan,Yunus Rahmatullah and Iftikhaar Ahmed. All seven 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. One prisoner is merely 16 years of age and was seized two years ago at the age of 14. Another was not permitted to speak to his family for six years, and is believed to be in a grievous physical and psychological condition.

The prisoners’ families have suffered severe 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 repairing cars and then as a goat-herder, struggle to make ends meet.

In the last year 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 and the Pakistani Government’s commitment to securing the rights of its citizens in illegal detention facilities abroad.

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

For more information in Pakistan contact Maryam Haq (mob: 0300 450 8234, email: maryam.haq@jpp.org.pk) or Sultana Noon (mob: 0345 888 3290, office: 051-265-4629, email: sultana@reprieve.org.uk) or Reprieve’s Donald Campbell (office: +44-207-427-1082, email: donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk).

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. 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.’ Justice Project Pakistan, is a non-governmental organisation, which was established in Lahore in January 2010. The JPP provides support to those prisoners who are the most vulnerable in the criminal justice system, namely those facing the death penalty and those who are held beyond the rule of law in secret prisons.