Amnesty International Calls on Pakistani Army to Stop Harassment of Mehsud Tribe

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Amnesty International Calls on Pakistani Army to Stop Harassment of Mehsud Tribe

WASHINGTON - The
Pakistani military must stop its harassment of civilians from the Mehsud
tribe as they flee the government's latest offensive against the Pakistani
Taliban in the northwest of the country, Amnesty International said today.

The Pakistani military refused to allow Mehsud members to use major roads
in fleeing the conflict zone, witnesses told Amnesty International. Some
of the tribe members are involved in the senior leadership of the Pakistani
Taliban.

"Mehsud tribes-people, including women and children, are being punished
on the roads as they flee simply because they belong to the wrong tribe,"
said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director. "This
could amount to collective punishment, which is absolutely prohibited under
international law."

One Mehsud man outside the town of Tank told Amnesty International that
he had left his home with his family after the army bombed his town last
week.

His family was part of a group of five families, constituting about 20
men, 15 children and 17 women with their luggage, who were travelling on
donkeys. They were trying to get to their relatives in Tank but were afraid
of the army because of the restrictions imposed on Mehsud tribes-people
using the road.

The man told Amnesty International:


"We are not allowed to use the roads, the army does not allow any Mehsud
to come to the road and use it...When we left our homes we took some food
which we used the first two days and after that we had nothing at all and
what ever was left we gave to the children, we only drank some tea and
water. We had to spend the nights under the open sky. As we were not allowed
to use the road we had to walk in the mountains...we lost our way twice."

"When we reached Murtuza area we hired a pickup and wanted to go by road
as the women and kids were very tired and it was very difficult for them
to walk any more, but when we reached near Korr there was an army check
post where we were stopped by the army soldiers. They asked us why we were
on the road, and said that Mehsuds are not allowed on the road. They made
us walk back and away from the road, they also abused the driver, who was
not a Mehsud but was from the Marwat tribe. He was first beaten by the
soldiers and then they told him not to drive anyone from Mehsud tribe."

"The Pakistani government must immediately investigate this targeting
of members of the Mehsud tribe by the army and put an end to it," said
Zarifi. "The group has already suffered years of fear and oppression under
Taliban control in their region - the government should help to find a
path for them to safety and a solution to their problems - not exacerbate
them."

Amnesty International recognizes the real threat posed by insurgents and
the Pakistan government's need to ensure the security of all Pakistani
citizens. But restrictions on movement should be only imposed if absolutely
necessary, related to a specific security threat, and non-discriminatory
and proportionate in terms of their impact and their duration.

Notes to editors:

South Waziristan is the largest of the seven agencies within the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas, with an estimated population of 450,000, most
of whom belong to either the Mehsud or Wazir tribes. The population of
the Mehsud tribe is thought to be around 300,000.

International human rights and humanitarian law prohibit collective punishment.
The prohibition on collective punishments is broadly understood to apply
to official sanctions and harassment of any sort against persons for actions
for which they do not bear individual criminal responsibility.

On June 14, 2009, the South Waziristan political agent issued a general
order to arrest people belonging to the Mehsud tribe in any part of Pakistan
and to confiscate their property. He cited the Frontier Crimes Regulations,
an archaic legal regime governing FATA, to target the Mehsuds.

The political agent is the head of the tribal agency that represents the
President of Pakistan and the governor in NWFP.

The order has been challenged by two residents of Tank, Mohammad Nawaz
and Tawkal Din, in the High Court of Peshawar, who have been detained under
section 21 of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

The order has been contested on the grounds that the political agent has
no jurisdiction outside of South Waziristan and that it's unjustifiable
to arrest any member of the Mehsud tribe in any place in Pakistan without
sound legal grounds.

         

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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