‘Missing’ persons: Enforced disappearance unjustifiable, illegal, says SC

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 10:00:04 by


As he has been for the last six years, on the last day of his tenure Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will have made the headlines of every major newspaper in Pakistan – this time in regards to a case that deals with perhaps the single most controversial and heart-rending topic in the country.

After nearly eight years of a myriad of missing persons’ cases filed in the apex and high courts, a long-awaited judgment was passed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officially declaring prolonged and unannounced detention by security forces and intelligence outfits illegal.

The three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as the governor and chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to ensure the recovery of the missing persons in seven days and submit a report before the Supreme Court’s registrar – and only after strict action was initiated against those found responsible for the enforced disappearances.

The judgment in the 35 missing persons’ case also highlighted that the stance of army authorities that 35 missing persons were not in their custody proved to be false as they had made three contradictory statements before the court and they only produced seven persons out of the 35, the court observed.

It was stressed that no intelligence or security agency, including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Frontier Corps, could forcibly detain any person secretly for a longer period without sharing information about his whereabouts.

The verdict passed the responsibility to the civilian government to ensure the recovery of the missing persons and for action against those who caused them.

Since no law exists for the detention of the undeclared interned persons except for in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the rest of the provinces should also come out with proper legislation to discourage the tendency of enforced disappearances, according to the judgment.

Citing instances from different countries, the court said that such disappearances have always been considered a serious crime the world over. The chief executives of provinces should also ensure that no enforced disappearances take place in future, the verdict stated.

Except for the regulations relating to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata), no law or authority exists that sanction security agencies to confine persons without any authority.

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry maintained their stance that they do not have any of the 35 missing persons in the custody of the army or the agencies. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the authorities will wait for the final decision of the honourable court, after which they might file a review petition. “That is our legal right,” he added. The ministry might request for a fact-finding commission, the minister said.

Adiala jail 11 prisoners’ case

In a separate judgment relating to the seven surviving Adiala prisoners who were accused of terrorism, Justice Gulzar Ahmed held that since they have been convicted by the assistant political agent, lower Orakzai Agency, and detained in the Central Prison, Kohat, the Kohat jail administration is directed to deal with them under the applicable prisoners law.

These prisoners went missing mysteriously from the Rawalpindi Adiala Jail the day they were acquitted of terrorism charges in May 29, 2010 for their alleged involvement in the audacious October 2009 attacks on GHQ and the ISI’s Hamza Camp, Rawalpindi.

The verdict ordered the provision of safe and proper lodging to the convicts in the jail and, in case they require medical treatment unavailable in the jail hospital, they be brought to proper hospitals, preferably the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.

The relatives and the counsels of the prisoners will also be allowed to meet them without any hindrance but would be subject to law. The superintendent central jail, Kohat, will also submit a fortnightly report to the Supreme Court registrar regarding the implementation of the directions.

Missing from Balochistan

The same bench also ordered the interior secretary to submit a complete health record of Frontier Corps Inspector General Maj-Gen Ijaz Shahid from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) today (Wednesday). He said to be suffering from an ailment, which is why he has not been appearing in court.

The bench also wanted to know whether he proceeded on leave and passed the command of the force to Brig Khalid Saleem in his place, as no notification was issued.

Attorney General Munir A Malik will also independently inquire from AFIC about the ailment, the court order sated. The court was informed that the acting FC IG will also appear before the Supreme Court today (Wednesday).

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2013.

Peshawar News Sources -2

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