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Pakistan Government Must Resolve Hundreds of Baluch "Disappearances," Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - The Pakistani government
must immediately act on its commitment to trace hundreds of Baluch victims
of enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said today.  

The human rights organization also calls
on the United Nations to raise the issue of enforced disappearances in
Pakistan at the 10th session of the Human Rights Council (Geneva, March
2-27, 2009) to follow up on Pakistan's previous pledges to begin to resolve
the issue.

Despite several pledges to resolve the country's
crisis of "disappearances," Pakistan's new civilian government
has not yet provided information about hundreds of cases of people believed
to be held secretly by the government as part of the so-called war on terror,
or in response to internal opposition, for instance in Baluchistan.  

The Chief Minister of Baluchistan pledged
in April 2008 that resolving the cases of Baluch disappearances would be
a priority.  In May 2008, Senator Babar Awan, the Secretary of the
ruling Pakistan People's Party Reconciliatory Committee on Baluchistan,
announced the creation of a committee headed by Nawabzada Haji Lashkri
to trace "disappeared" persons of Baluchistan as part of its
efforts to address Baluch grievances.  

To date the government has not revealed the
findings of its investigations or any actions it has taken to resolve the
Baluch enforced disappearance cases.

According to press reports, on February 14,
Interior Ministry Adviser Rehman Malik stated that the Baluchistan Chief
Minister had given the government an "incomplete list of 800 ‘missing'
people," of which 200 names on the list had been verified.  

A hitherto unknown separatist group, the
Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), on February 2, kidnapped John
Solecki, head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees in

The BLUF (not to be confused with the long
established Baluchistan Liberation Front) claims that 6,000 Baluch activists
have gone "missing."  The BLUF also claims that 141 Baluch women
are among the "disappeared." The group demanded their release
in exchange for Solecki's return. The Pakistani government has denied the

Amnesty International condemns the kidnapping
of John Solecki and calls for his immediate and unconditional release and
points out that hostage-taking is a crime under international law.

Acts of enforced disappearance violate several
provisions of Pakistan's Constitution, including freedom from arbitrary
detention, the right to judicial overview of detentions and to human dignity
and the prohibition of torture, as well as constituting criminal offences.

Pakistan has still not acted on its promise
made in May 2008 that it would accede to International Convention for the
Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

At the meeting of the Working Group on the
Universal Periodic Review of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UPR), on May
8, 2008, Pakistan's representatives declared that its security forces
trained in international humanitarian law and were fully accountable. In
a written statement in response to the UPR, the permanent representative
"vowed to investigate" disappearances.

On several occasions, Amnesty International
has called the government to account on this issue.  In 2008, the
organization used official court records and affidavits of victims and
witnesses of enforced disappearances to show how government officials,
especially from the country's security and intelligences agencies, were
resorting to a variety of tactics to conceal enforced disappearance.  These
include: denying detention takes place and denying all knowledge of the
fate and whereabouts of "disappeared" persons; refusing to obey
judicial orders; concealing the identity of the detaining authorities,
for example by transferring the "disappeared" to other secret
locations, threatening harm or re-disappearance and leveling spurious criminal
charges to conceal enforced disappearances

Amnesty International urges the Pakistani
government to immediately resolve all acts of enforced disappearance; to
ensure the immediate release of all persons held in secret detention unless
they are transferred to official places of detention, charged with a recognizably
criminal offence and remanded by an independent court; and to bring to
justice officials found responsible. Victims, including families of those
"disappeared," should be granted reparations in accordance with
international standards.


Baluchistan has a history of insurgency with
local groups advocating greater autonomy.  Four waves of violent unrest
took place in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77.  In early 2005,
tensions in Baluchistan again increased, with numerous clashes reported
between security forces and Baluch tribesman.  Local people in Baluchistan
are demanding a bigger share of the revenue generated by the province's
natural resources, principally natural gas, which they believe now benefit
other provinces. A number of Baluchi groups are seeking more rights for
the province. Some of these groups have resorted to violence, while others
are campaigning peacefully. The Pakistani national government has attempted
to suppress this opposition by increasing the military presence in the
region. Many people have died at the hands of the security forces in extrajudicial
executions and deaths in custody, and thousands of people are reported
to have "disappeared." The confrontation between Baluch nationalists
and the state is characterized by human rights abuses committed by all

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.

# # #

For more information, please see Amnesty's
report, Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan


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