Pakistan Government due to report on illegal detentions by US at Bagram prison, Afghanistan

November 21, 2011

The Pakistani Government is tomorrow (22 November) expected to report back to a court on the illegal detention of seven of its nationals at a US prison in Afghanistan. In a hearing at the Lahore High Court, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is due to fulfil an order made by the judge last month, requiring them to send a representative to the US-run Bagram prison to interview seven Pakistanis held there without charge or trial. The order was made in response to a legal petition filed by non-profit law firm Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) on behalf of the seven – one of whom, Hamidullah Khan, was just 14 at the time of his capture three years ago. The petition seeks to engage Pakistan’s Government in upholding the constitutional rights of its citizens, and securing their release from Bagram. One month ago, in response to the petition, a Lahore High Court judge ordered Pakistan’s Government to interview the seven detainees in Bagram Internment Facility, and to gather information to enable their lawyers to pursue their case. The Government was instructed to report back within one month with detailed information about the seven, some of whom have been held beyond the rule of law for as long as eight years. The detainees include Yunus Rahmatullah, who was originally detained by British forces and subsequently rendered to Bagram, where he was held incommunicado for six years and remains to this day. On Thursday this week (24 November), in a separate case, the English Court of Appeal is set to hear a claim against the British Government demanding that they secure the release of Mr Rahmatullah. Under a deal signed with the US, the UK, as the original ‘detaining power’, retains the ability to ask for his return from Bagram. Reprieve’s Legal Director Cori Crider said: “We hope that tomorrow the families of seven Pakistanis languishing in Bagram may finally get some answers from Lahore’s High Court. After years of grief, these mothers deserve to know how and why their sons – including an innocent 14 year-old kid – have not been brought home by the government of Pakistan. All they need is for the government to stand up for their basic rights as Pakistanis – the Pakistani government has done this in other cases, and there is no good reason why it cannot do it for these young people, here and now.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information please contact JPP Barrister Sarah Belal +92 321 844 9932, investigator Maryam Haq +92 300 450 8234 or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082 2. At a previous hearing, on 20 October 2011, the judge ordered the Standing Counsel to advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send a delegate to interview the seven Pakistani prisoners and to file a report with regards to the facts of their rendition and illegal detention. Further information can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_10_21_bagram_order 3. The prisoners on the JPP petition 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 as long as eight years. Some have been abused. The prisoners’ families have asked the Lahore 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. Hamidullah Khan was just 14 when he was picked up while travelling from Karachi to his father’s village in Waziristan to salvage the family’s possessions during the ongoing military operation. Now 16, he is still being held at Bagram and his family are desperate for his return. Further information on the case of Yunus Rahmatullah, captured by British forces in 2004, can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/yunusrahmatullah/ The next hearing in his UK case is set to be in the Court of Appeal this Thursday (24 November). 4. Bagram Theatre Internment Facility, now known as Parwan Detention Facility, has become backlogged with prisoners who are held for years without charge, trial or legal rights. Unlike detainees at Guantánamo, who can at least engage a legal team to represent them at a military hearing, prisoners at Bagram have no access to lawyers and thus are simply unable to challenge their detention. 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 tests the Obama Administration’s resolve and the Pakistani Government’s commitment to securing the rights of its citizens in illegal detention facilities abroad.5. 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’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ 

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