|Litigating the War of Terror in Pakistan|
“A day-long conference on 'Litigating the War of Terror” was organized on April 18, 2011 in collaboration with Reprieve, a UK based civil society organization.
The drone attacks, target killings, violations of human rights and extra judicial murders are offences that must be brought to the attention of the appropriate legal authorities in order to bring rule of law, this was the consensus at the day-long conference on “Litigating the War of Terror in Pakistan”, jointly organized by IPS and Reprieve, a UK based civil society organization, on April 18, 2011. A number of seasoned scholars, prominent human rights activists, academicians and representatives from the international organizations participated in the conference and discussed various dimensions of the issue focusing on the continuing human rights violations and related matters.
Clive Stafford Smith, founder and Director of Reprieve, said, “We are accumulating evidence, and we believe that war crimes have been committed against civilians who played no part in any conflict.” He argued that the confessions made by the former Pakistan’s military ruler in his memoir ‘In the Line of Fire’ regarding the torture and extradition of prisoners to the United States in his era could justify to put him on trial; he can be arrested and prosecuted under the Convention against Torture and human trafficking.”
Clive told the audience that “Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF) was Guantánamo's Evil Twin where number of captives was far higher than that of Guantanamo. “As many as 1500 detainees are held in Baghram and they are growing while Guantanamo has 173 detainees which are shrinking.” He further noted that “as many as 25 Pakistani prisoners are held in Bagram Air Force Base, some of them held for over seven years without any charge.”
Director General IPS Khalid Rahman said that at a time when humanity was believed to be moving towards an era where war was not an essential instrument of foreign policy, the response to the incidents of September 11 had put the heritage of a millennium at stake. The rights pertaining to detention and fair trial had been violated on large scale and neither the national penal law nor international humanitarian laws were in operation. “The United Nations today stands where League of Nations stood during 1940s, and Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and Abu Gharaib are blots on the face of humanity,” he deplored.
Mirza Shahzad Akbar advocate, an Islamabad-based lawyer representing the families of drone victims, informed that he had been accumulating evidence on drone strikes and having legal consultations on potential legal action. “As many as 25 families of the victims of drone attacks contacted me for legal counseling and approximately 200 cases would be filed in the courts after accumulating the required facts and evidences,” he asserted.
Emphasizing that the evidences exposed an urgent need for a full and independent inquiry into the use of drones, as well as litigation in Pakistani and international courts, Mr. Akbar said, “What we are discovering in our drone investigations is pointing towards culpability of not just Americans but also of their allies in this War of Terror, and we are determined to take these crimes to Courts in UK, USA and international forums seeking justice for the loss of life of the innocent people in Waziristan.”
He stated further that foreign nationals who came to Pakistan were tortured and this had a negative impact not only in the country but abroad as well. Substantiating his argument, he noted that Zeeshan Siddiqui a young British citizen who came to Pakistan for studies was beaten to an extent that one of his eyes was damaged by the Pakistan security services. The abuse that Siddiqui suffered resulted in irreparable physical damage and intense psychological disorder. After going through a terrible ordeal, he was eventually released without proving any charges against him.
Tariq Khosa, former IG Baluchistan, opined that Pakistan's future depended on three Ps i.e. Peace, Progress and Prosperity. He stressed the need to implement the 14-point resolution passed by the parliament in October 2008 with regard to drone attacks and other security issues. “This resolution must become the guideline to formulate the national security policy,” he maintained.
Denouncing the perceptions among certain quarters that the issue of illegal detentions had ceased to exist after regime change in Pakistan in 2008, Asim Qureshi, Executive Director, Cage Prisoners, a UK based organization, maintained that it continued in the current regime as well. He claimed that security agencies had opened as many as two hundred cells in the country for illegal detentions where the detentions were made merely on suspicion instead of any concrete evidences.
Chairman IPS, Prof. Khurshid Ahmad, while chairing the conference, pointed out major crimes, committed by the US and its allies, which include bringing about a paradigm shift in the conceptual frame work of crime and war and treating an act of crime as an act of terrorism, using terrorism as a strategy for the pursuit of political agendas in sheer disregard to the UN resolutions, particularly in case of Iraq and most recently of Libya and intervention in any country on the pretext of terrorism.
“These crimes resulted in the globalization of terrorism, increasing insecurity, humanitarian crisis in terms of civilian casualties, displacements, extra judicial killings, missing persons, illegal detentions, breach of states' sovereignty, global economic crisis, and by and large destabilization of the global architecture of peace and justice,” Prof. Ahmad submitted.
Crofton Black, an investigator who gathers information to support those who have been disappeared and detained without trial, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, President High Court Bar Association, Rawalpindi, Kamran Arif, Co-Chairman Human Rights Commission Pakistan, Kareem Khan, a journalist from Waziristan, Amna Masood Janjua, a human rights activist, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, Dr. Afia Siddiqui's sister, and other human rights activists also took part in the discussion. A committee comprising Irfan Shahzad (IPS), Nadeem Farhat Gillani (IPS) and Ms. Sultana Noon (REPREIVE) organized the conference.