Lahore High Court forces Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reveal all communications with US regarding ‘disappeared’ Pakistanis rendered to Bagram

June 10, 2011

Reprieve’s Pakistan partners Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) appeared for the eighth time before the Lahore High Court (LHC) today to challenge the Pakistani government’s role in the rendition of seven Pakistani citizens kidnapped and held without charge in Bagram, Afghanistan.

At today’s hearing, the LHC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came head-to-head as the Ministry failed to properly comply with the Court’s previous order. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was directed to file documentary evidence of the Government’s efforts to secure the release of the seven men, who have been illegally held without charge or trial in the notorious US prison since 2003. However, the Ministry’s failure to do so was a real test of the Court’s patience.

Reprieve and its local partner, JPP, initiated legal action in the Lahore High Court in October 2010 after identifying the seven prisoners and offering their families free legal assistance. The case was filed in the Lahore High Court against the Government of Pakistan for violating the fundamental and constitutional rights of its own citizens. Reprieve and the JPP argue that by becoming “mixed up in the wrongdoing”, the Pakistan 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 (CAT), the government has also violated international law.

At today’s hearing, not only was no official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs present, but the required documentary evidence, while in the possession of the standing counsel, was not officially filed with the Court. Consequently, the Court, in a strongly-worded oral order directed the Ministry to file this immediately and fixed the next hearing for 22nd June, 2011.

JPP’s Sarah Belal said

“It must be said that the order requiring an MoFA official to be present and submit documentary evidence is a positive effort by the judiciary to enforce the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens detained at Bagram. It is about time that the judiciary held the government of Pakistan accountable for its failure to safeguard and protect the rights of its own citizens.”

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 Sarah Belal (mob: 0321 844 9932, email: sarah.belal@jpp.org.pk), Maryam Haq (mob: 0300 450 8234, email: maryam.haq@jpp.org.pk), Sultana Noon (mob: 0345 888 3290, office: 051-265-4629, email: sultana@reprieve.org.uk) or Reprieve’s Katherine O’Shea (office: +44-793-159-2674, email: katherine.oshea@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, 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.