Smash British-Pakistani torture chain

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AMNESTY International yesterday called for the new government of Pakistan to provide information about the hundreds of people held in the country’s ‘war on terror’, and to either release these ‘disappeared’ people or transfer them to official places of detention.

Publishing a new 50-page report outlining the cases of numerous people subjected to enforced disappearance, Amnesty also called for Pakistan’s judges to be reinstated.

Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director Sam Zarifi demands that ‘As a first immediate measure, the new government should ease the suffering of the relatives of the “disappeared” by either releasing the detainees or transferring them to official places of detention.’

The report adds: ‘In a hand-written note made available to Amnesty, Munir has described being held by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in solitary confinement cells, of being deprived of sleep, being fed food with a “tremendous amount of red chillies” until his stomach bled, and being made to “stand almost 15 hours a day in chains on both hands and both feet”.’

However it would be wrong to get the impression that the Pakistani dictatorship and its torturers are over there, with no connection to the activities of the British government over here.

In fact, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has called for an investigation into allegations that the Blair-Brown governments have been ‘outsourcing’ British citizens to Pakistan for interrogation under torture by the ISI.

The MPs’ report on rendition and torture states ‘that it is extremely important that the veracity of allegations that the government has “outsourced” interrogation techniques involving the torture of British nationals by Pakistani authorities should be investigated. . .’

It added: ‘We conclude that it is not acceptable for the government to use an individual’s dual nationality as an excuse to leave him or her vulnerable to the prospect of possible torture.’

The MPs’ report adds that ‘In April 2008, The Guardian reported a number of very serious allegations relating to torture and the conduct of UK officials in Pakistan. A number of British citizens claim to have been detained and tortured by the ISI agency. Whilst in detention, they claim that they were interrogated by British intelligence officers. Some of these men were later flown back to the UK and have faced trial on terrorism-related charges. The newspaper summed up the charge against MI5 as being one of “outsourcing” torture to the ISI.’

The MPs’ report adds: ‘Human Rights Watch comments on this issue. . . that the FCO report “remains notably silent on the hundreds of disappearances of terrorism suspects in Pakistan” and suggests that the “UK has itself been complicit in the illegal detention, forcible transfer to the UK and […] torture of some terrorism suspects”.’

The report continues that ‘Tom Porteus [Human Rights Watch] argued that the ISI was “one of the most brutal intelligence agencies in the world” and initially behind the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He said that there was “good evidence”, including medical evidence, that a number of the British men had been “brutally treated” over long periods by the ISI.’

Commenting on the meetings of the British nationals with UK officials, he argued: ‘It is incredible that British agents would not be aware of the kind of treatment these men could expect at the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agency. Either way, the circumstances seem to amount to complicity and collusion in the mistreatment of these men.’

The MPs said: ‘We conclude that it is extremely important that the veracity of allegations that the Government has “outsourced” interrogation techniques involving the torture of British nationals by Pakistani authorities should be investigated. . . We conclude that it is not acceptable for the Government to use an individual’s dual nationality as an excuse to leave him or her vulnerable to the prospect of possible torture.

‘We further recommend that the Government should describe its collaboration with the ISI, and its human rights concerns about this organisation, in its response to this Report.’

It is clear that the Pakistan regime could not exist without the support of the UK government and that it does its dirty work, torturing British nationals who are terrorist suspects. Both regimes must be brought down.