Thursday, December 12, 2013

PAKISTAN: Whereabouts of 9,120 arrestees from Karachi remain unknown

I prepared this Statement on behalf of the Pakistan Desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission. It is high time the government of Pakistan started protecting the people they have sworn to protect.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The suspects are missing after arrest and 150 have been extrajudicially killed during the last three months of the “Karachi operation”

The federal government has started an operation in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, under the title: “Targeted Operation” with the support of the police and Pakistan Rangers. The operation, which commenced on September 5, is supposedly against the increase in targeted killings, extortion, kidnappings and incidents of terrorism including bomb blasts. The Pakistan Rangers has been given powers of arrest and detention of the suspects including permission to shoot on sight. The operation has mainly focused on Lyari, the Baloch dominated area and one ethnic political party.

The photos reveal that the arresting officers wore head masks during their targeted operations. The question which begs to be asked is, if indeed, the operations are perfectly legal why should they be afraid to reveal their identities. Also, the second picture shows the suspects also wearing head masks standing before a cache of weapons supposedly taken at the time of arrest. The photos are reproduced courtesy of News Tribe and the Daily News.

During the last three months of the operation, from September 5 to December 5, according to official report, 10,620 persons were arrested on several charges. However, contrary to this figure, the two jails operating in Karachi claim that only they have received 1,500 suspects. The police and Pakistan Rangers, who at the end of every 30 days issue their report on their successes, have not mentioned the whereabouts of the remaining 9120 suspects. The correct figures about the encounters and extra judicial killings were not available but through reports published in the media more than 150 persons were killed in mysterious encounters after their arrests and torture during the interrogation.

Prime Minister Sharif has taken step of commencing the operation in Karachi after the increase in crime, target killings, extortion, sectarian violence and bomb blasts. Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, was designated the operational commander. Despite the operation there has been no reduction in the crime rate during the last three months. Every day in Karachi an average of ten persons become victims of targeted killing and sectarian violence and the so called 'operation' has not yielded any positive results to halt the crimes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is very much concerned about the number of missing persons after their arrest by the law enforcement authorities and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons in encounters. Every day the news is received of the killing of at least one person in custody or in an encounter. In several cases the family members of the arrested erson stated that the victim was arrested from their homes but later it was announced that they were killed in an encounter or died in detention. The authorities have not produced any of these persons before the media for identification.

It is quite clear that the police and Rangers are working with ill-intent as not a single man has been presented in court after arrest during the last three months nor have the family members been told of their whereabouts or have been allowed to meet them.

It is also appalling that despite the large number of missing persons no questions have been raised in parliament.

The relatives are legitimately concerned that the victims would be killed in the illegal detention centers by the torture they are sure to be subjected to or in a fake encounter.

The AHRC terms the ‘targeted operation’ as a gross violation of the constitution and law of the land and believes that its purpose is to make the mockery of the rule of law. If the purpose of the operation was to control the killings and terrorism in Karachi then there would have been a visible reduction in such incidents. However, the law enforcement agencies, including the Rangers and the police are scoring to show their efficiency. There is always a blame game between the police and Rangers for interfering in each other’s affairs and destroying the law and order situation. When the joint operation was started both the law enforcement authorities tried to show their effectiveness by conducting raids at the victim's houses, arresting as many as possible and killing them in so called encounters. In addition to extortion, target killings and sectarian violence the citizens are now facing new kind of state violence in the name of a targeted operation.

It is evident that the operation is being conducted in phases. The first and second parts of the operation have now been completed with the arrest and enforced disappearances of 9,120 persons and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons. The third phase is likely to be even worse and it is expected that the numbers of disappeared persons, fake encounters and extrajudicial killings will increase. One can expect that many more innocent people will be disappeared.

The dignity and lives of the people means nothing to the government of Pakistan whose only action is a smokescreen to make it look as if they are doing something to fight crime. The people are merely cannon fodder in the name of 'law enforcement'. The authorities have once again proved themselves incapable of maintaining law and order and controlling the terrorism that virtually rules the country.

It is the sole responsibility of the government of Pakistan to either release the arrested persons or reveal their whereabouts. If, indeed, there are viable charges to be laid against them they must be produced in court immediately. It must be asked why the government of a democratic country is arrogantly ignoring the laws of the land and the international norms.

The AHRC urges the government to ensure the recovery of the 9,120 persons who were arrested during the operation, as according to official sources. These people must be immediately brought before a court of law. Furthermore, officers in charge of the Police and Pakistan Rangers must be prosecuted for keeping thousands of arrested persons in illegal custody and extrajudicially killing them in fake encounters.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Sea Gypsies - The Badjao meet Joseph

Dear Friends,

I am happy (and a little proud) to inform you that one of Airyn's poems, 'Badjaos meet Joseph' has been used on the back cover of a book published by the organiser of the Badjao project, Joseph Zanetti Jr. in collaboration with Rochelle Rubio.

FYI (From Wikipedia) The Bajau (/ˈbædʒɔː/, also spelled Badjao, Bajaw, Bajao, Bajo, Badjau, or Badjaw), are a Moro indigenous ethnic group of Maritime Southeast Asia. The Bajau continue to live a seaborne lifestyle, making use of small wooden sailing vessels (such as the perahu and vinta). They are also known as Sama or Samal.

The Bajau are traditionally from the many islands of the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines, as well as parts of the coastal areas of Mindanao and northern Borneo. In the last fifty years, many of the Filipino Bajau have migrated to neighbouring Malaysia and the northern islands of the Philippines, due to the continuing conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Currently, they are the second largest ethnic group in the Malaysian state of Sabah, making up 13.4%[1] of the total population. Groups of Bajau have also migrated to Sulawesi and Kalimantan in Indonesia, although figures of their exact population are unknown.[3]

Bajau have sometimes been referred to as the "Sea Gypsies", although the term has been used to encompass a number of non-related ethnic groups with similar traditional lifestyles, such as the Moken of the Burmese-Thai Mergui Archipelago and the Orang Laut of southeastern Sumatra and the Riau Islands of Indonesia. The modern outward spread of the Bajau from older inhabited areas seems to have been associated with the development of sea trade in sea cucumber (trepang).

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Neglected Genocide

The Neglected Genocide - Human rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977-1978, co-published by the Asian Human Rights Commission and ICP (Human Rights and Peace for Papua), is a report detailing a series of human rights abuses that took place in the Central Highlands of Papua, during the military operations in 1977-1978. In this publication, the AHRC reports that at least 4,146 Papuans, including children, women, and the elderly were killed. The research found that the methods of killing employed by the Indonesian military at that time included aerial bombings and strafing of villages using America-supplied Bronco OV-10 planes as well as indiscriminate shooting.

Apart from the killings, interviews conducted by the AHRC with the victims also revealed that sexual violence against women; torture and ill-treatment of Papuans by the Indonesian military were common at that time. The military were also reported to have burned the houses and destroyed the crops of the Papuans forcing to leave their homes and go into hiding. Some of the Papuans went to the jungles where access to food, water and protection from diseases was limited. Some others fled to the neighbouring country, Papua New Guinea.

In this report, the AHRC argues that the aforementioned series of atrocities amount to genocide as defined by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

I am pleased to have worked with the Indonesia Desk of the AHRC in the editing and preparation of this publication.

PHILIPPINES: Massacre victims' family to mark 4th year anniversary by protest, candle light, Nov. 23

(Four years ago on November 21st a horrendous massacre took place in Maquindanao in the Southern Philippines on the island of Mindanao. The family members of the victims still seek justice with no help or assistance from the government of President Aquino. I was proud to have been asked to assist in the writing of this Press Release by the Philippines Desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission)

November 22, 2013


(Hong Kong, November 23, 2013) Myrna Reblando, widow of journalist Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, one of the journalists killed in Maguindanao massacre, will join the victims' families and lawyers' group as they commemorate the 4th year anniversary of the massacre in General Santos City from Hong Kong.

Speaking to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Atty. Gilbert Bandiola, a member of the Union of People's Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM), said the victims' families will hold a protest, forum and light candles at cemetery in General Santos City.

For her part, Myrna said since she could not be physically present with the other families; she will monitor the local activities and will also light candles here in Hong Kong in solidarity with other families.

Bandiola said some of the victims' family had already visited the scene where the massacre took place four years ago on November 21. His former colleagues, Atty. Concepcion Brizuela and Atty. Cynthia Oquendo, human rights lawyers, were among those killed in the massacre. See the list of victims here.

He further said they will also conduct a forum on "Warlordism and Impunity" at the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Gensan campus tomorrow, November 23. The forum will discuss how and why extrajudicial killings and impunity remains pervasive in areas where warlords continue to exist.

Myrna said of these events: "This incident (the Maguindanao massacre) and the families of the victims are part of this tragic history. We need to keep on reminding the people that we are still continuing the fight."

Myrna said she hopes she could also air her sentiments at the forum, notably the difficulties she is facing after leaving from her country due to threats on her life, via long distance communications from Hong Kong.

Earlier, Myrna wrote and read the poems to pay tribute to her husband and all the families of the victims of the massacre.

To read and view her videos, please see:

Maguindanao massacre widow's poem - "You and me against the world"

Maguindanao massacre widow writes a poem to pay tribute to her husband and other victims

Another reason to go vegan

Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives

(I was recently asked to write a review for the latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives, a magazine which is jointly published by the Asian Human Rights Commission and DIGNITY).

November 28, 2013

John Stewart Sloan

The latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives covers the issue of military torture in the article, Psychodynamic - Military torture in UN peace operations. This article by Claus Kold raises the question of human rights abuses committed by soldiers attached to UN peace keeping operations. In the introduction to the article, Kold comments:

".....soldiers deployed by the UN end up torturing the civil population they are supposed to protect and help. While it may seem somewhat likely that soldiers in war operations end up torturing a much hated enemy, it seems profoundly at odds with the basic values and goals of a UN peace operation. So, why do some soldiers deployed in UN peace operations end up torturing?"

Kold examines the situation at considerable length and, amongst other things, concludes that:

".....human nature and alarmism are still part of military attitudes, even in peace operations. Traditional nationalism, ........ observations can only find few slight changes in military ideology; this probably means that the military identities are still at work in peace operations".

The article 'The right against torture is not justiciable in Asia' by Basil Fernando covers the theme of the contradiction between the international law obligation to ensure justiciability of the right against torture and the impossibility of the realisation of this due to the extreme defectiveness of the legal systems in Asia. The implications of the right for justiciability is analysed and the requirements of justiciability is contextually analysed in terms of specific countries, India, Pakistan, Thailand Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Singapore.

The crucial issue is: who is to investigate torture. There is popular disbelief about the police investigating torture committed by themselves, the same is true about military torture. Therefore, an independent agency which has the capacity to competently conduct criminal investigations is the sine qua non of investigations and justiciability. However, the stake holders resist the creation of such an independent investigating body. The governments bow down to this pressure. The stake holders justify their resistance on the basis that given the primitive nature of the criminal justice systems they operate in they cannot do without torture. If the government really wants to resolve this problem they need to reform and modernise the criminal justice systems where investigations into crime can be conducted without resorting to torture. Thus, the responsibility lies with the governments to ensure such reform. On the other hand the national institutions such as the human rights commissions by their very nature are incapable of conducting criminal investigations competently.

The Practice of Witch Hunting by Anjuman Ara Begum reveals the violence perpetrated against women accused of practicing witchcraft in India. The paper reveals that:

Offences related to witch hunting have been reported from various states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. Media sources have revealed that 2,556 women have been branded as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 20032. In the state of Bihar alone, around 522 cases of witch hunting were registered between 1991 and 2003.

A ‘witch’ or its Assamese vocabulary ‘daini’ in Assam is used to identify a male or female is alleged to have magical powers that it used to bring evil to the community. ‘Witches’ are in most cases women who are alleged to use their evil powers to harm others. In fact, however, many of those accused of witchcraft are simply vulnerable women and children, the elderly or the mentally ill, and are sometime the victims of an accuser’s personal grudge. In many cases they are killed with impunity. Despite several voices against it practice the culture is rampant and is quite common among the communities Rabha, Hajong, Mishing, Bodo, Adivasi etc in the state of Assam. It has been reported that 2,556 women were designated as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 2003.Witch hunting is mostly committed by private individuals or non-state actors and is an abuse of right to life.

The latest issue of ‘TORTURE: Asian and Global Perspectives’, published by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Danish Institute Again Torture (DIGNITY), is now available online at .


When Freedom Replaced ‘Patriotism’- by Nilantha Ilangamuwa - Page 2

‘I Never Justified Torture’- Col. Lawerence Wilkerson - Page 5

‘Capitalism, The Rule Of Law And Human Dignity’ - James Otteson -Page 10

‘Torture Criminalised, What Next? - Saber Hossain Chowdhury- Page 16

Reform Police To Benefit From Anti Torture Law - By Md. Ashrafuzzaman Page 74

World Poverty - By Michael Freeman - Page 79

Medieval Torture - By James Mcdonald - Page 57

Deteriorated System - Page 84
(Interview With A Human Rights Activist)

The Right Against Torture Is Not Justiciable In Asia - By Basil Fernando- Page 51
Paper: The Practice Of Witch Hunting - By Anjuman Ara Begum –Page Page 39

Arrow On The Doorpost – by Ron Jacob - Page 91
Comment, But No Comments – by Baseer Naweed - Page 94
Germinal – by Tisaranee Gunasekara - Page 98
The Correctionist- by Binoy Lampmark - Page 101

How dare we live? - by Karen Malpede - Page 104
Reflections on “Blue Is the Warmest Color” a film by Adellatif Kechiche

New books
The Nellie Massacre of 1983 – by Makiko Kimura – Page 109
The Slacker Torturer - by Ximena Ortiz – Page 111
The Story Of A Survivor (‘A Victim Of Liberian War’) - by Seidy Swaray - Page 119

ISSN 2304-134X ( PRINT) ISSN 2304 -1358 ( ONLINE)