Amnesty International's Report on Pakistan

Amnesty International’s annual human rights report: Pakistan used ‘war on terror’ to arrest political protesters

LONDON: Deaths and disappearances increased in South Asia in 2004 and were fuelled by separatist conflicts and corruption, said London-based Amnesty International in its annual human rights report released on Wednesday.

Amnesty International said that Pakistan’s military-led government used emergency powers aimed at combating terrorism to arrest journalists and political protestors. It also noted continued violence against women including a spate of “honour killings” approved by quasi-judicial tribal councils.

In India, the rights group said authorities had not investigated successfully over 8,000 disappearances since a separatist conflict started in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. However, the report said peace talks in 2004 between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have led to a series of confidence-building measures aimed at reducing violence.

However, several other separatist conflicts in India, including a Maoist insurgency and militants fighting for new homelands in the country’s northeast, led to increased use of force in 2004.

But, Nepal and Bangladesh witnessed the sharpest increase in rights violations, said Amnesty International, adding that a Maoist rebellion in Kathmandu and a specialised crime-fighting force in Dhaka led to a surge in suspected criminals’ deaths. The report said 416 people disappeared after being arrested by the Royal Nepalese Army and police forces in 2004. And in Bangladesh, Amnesty said at least 147 people died in 2004 in what the government portrayed as crossfire deaths between suspected criminals and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The report also said that some progress on human rights had been recorded but warned that “pockets of repression” remained, with many abuses committed in the name of the “war on terror”. The watchdog singled out “grave human rights violations” committed in the US-led “war on terror” in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area. “In Afghanistan, hundreds of people suspected of being Taliban or Al Qaeda sympathisers were held in long-term arbitrary detention at Bagram airbase and other detention centres run by the US armed forces,” it said, adding, “Without access to judicial authorities, the detainees were effectively beyond the reach or protection of the law.”

It also voiced concern about the newly emerged conflict that has flared in southern Thailand, where at least 78 demonstrators suffocated inside army lorries and 500 people had been killed by the end of last year. Human rights abuses were also frequent in Asian conflicts where both sides were working on a resolution, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and in little-watched trouble spots, such as the 30-year-old conflict in Laos. The group also said there were grave concerns for the human rights of vulnerable groups affected by the tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. afp

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