Amnesty International Says Millions Suffer in 'Human Rights Free Zone' in Northwest Pakistan

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Amnesty International Says Millions Suffer in 'Human Rights Free Zone' in Northwest Pakistan

Human rights organization urges President Obama to pressure Pakistan to end abuses in area; calls for accountability in drone attacks

WASHINGTON - Millions of Pakistanis in the
northwest tribal areas live in a human rights free zone where they have
no legal protection by the government and are subject to abuses by the
Taleban, Amnesty International said in a major report released today.

"Many areas of north-western Pakistan
now
resemble the Taleban-ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s," said Larry
Cox, Amnesty International USA Executive Director. "The world should be
alarmed by the way living conditions have deteriorated under the
increasingly
brutal control of the Pakistani Taleban and its allied insurgent groups;
instead, the suffering of the people of this area has been largely
ignored,
sacrificed in the name of geopolitical interests."

The 130-page report, ‘As if Hell Fell
on Me': The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan
, is based on
nearly 300 interviews with residents of the Federally Administered
Tribal
Areas (FATA) and adjacent areas of the Northwest Frontier Province
(NWFP).
 

Amnesty International's review of
available
information also suggests that at least 1,300 civilians were killed in
the fighting in northwest Pakistan in 2009, from a total of more than
8,500
casualties (including combatants).

The report documents the systematic
abuses
carried out by the Taleban as they established their rule by killing
those
who challenge their authority, such as tribal elders and government
officials.
Amnesty International was told of Taleban insurgents blocking roads to
prevent civilians from escaping as villages fell under heavy bombardment
by government forces. The insurgents also increased the likelihood of
civilian
casualties by dispersing themselves among civilians and in and around
schools.

Successive Pakistani governments have
treated
the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan with disdain, ignoring the rights
of the area's residents, particular in FATA. Over the past decade,
Pakistan's
government has veered from appeasing the Pakistani Taleban through a
series
of failed "peace deals" to launching heavy-handed military operations
that include indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks.  

The United States' use of drones to
target
insurgents in northwest Pakistan has generated considerable resentment
inside Pakistan. Amnesty International has called on the U.S. government
to clarify its chain of command and rules of engagement for the use of
drones and ensure proper accountability for civilian casualties.

"President Obama should exert pressure
on
the Pakistani government to take steps to address abuses by the
Pakistani
security forces and local militias called "lashkars" - who are
little more than bandits," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA
director
of international advocacy. "As the main military supplier and trainer
of the Pakistani security forces, the U.S. government cannot turn a
blind
eye to their abuses. President Obama should also speak out about the
abuses
committed by the Pakistani Taleban and find ways to exert pressure
through
those entities who support or who otherwise have influence on them."

The report also demonstrates the role of
China and its influence on the Pakistani government. China has been
Pakistan's
largest supplier of arms and military equipment.

FATA residents are governed by the
Frontier
Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901.  The FCR provides a
government-appointed
Political Agent ultimate judicial and executive authority, including the
ability to carry out communal punishment, including formal detention, by
holding all members of a tribe potentially responsible for alleged
infractions
committed by any tribe member.  

The Constitution of Pakistan of 1973
explicitly
excludes FATA from the legal, judicial and parliamentary system of
Pakistan,
including barring residents from voting in parliamentary elections and
bringing appeals to a higher court outside the territory.  Pakistan
has recently promised to reform the FCR but this has not yet happened.
 

Amnesty International urges both the
Pakistani
government and the Taleban to comply with international humanitarian law
by taking all measures to prevent loss of civilian life and buildings
including
hospitals and schools and allowing unfettered NGO access to provide
food,
shelter and medical supplies to the injured and displaced.

"Both the Pakistani and U.S. governments
should take note that addressing human rights abuses is not just the
right
thing to do from a human rights perspective," said Cox.  "It's
also the smart thing to do from a security perspective.  The insurgent
abuses described in this Amnesty International report have occurred as
part of their efforts to carve out a safe area to recruit, organize, and
train fighters-not only to launch military attacks in Pakistan and
Afghanistan
but also armed attacks on far-off international targets."

"All nations have two interrelated
obligations:
they must protect civilians from abuses by non-state actors, and they
must
respect human rights in the process of confronting non-state actors.
 Getting
this balance right is a challenge that governments can no longer afford
to ignore," said Cox.

This report is supplemented by an
innovative
new website (www.eyesonpakistan.org)
that, through interactive maps, offers virtual access to this isolated
region. The information presented is based on a geo-coded database of
more
than 2,300 publicly reported incidents occurring between 2005 and 2009,
including suicide attacks, U.S. drone strikes and insurgent attacks
against
civilians. The Eyes on Pakistan website is unique, as it allows
users to manipulate the data and identify temporal and spatial trends of
insurgency and military activity, and contextualizes the hundreds of
individual
stories that Amnesty International has collected.

###

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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