Editorial : ICRC concern - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/15/icrc-concern.html

THE International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors violations of international humanitarian law in conflict-hit regions, has reason to be concerned over the government`s refusal to allow it access to prisoners in parts of the country. Believing that conditions of `armed conflict` exist in parts of Pakistan, the ICRC wants to see the implementation of the provisos of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, covering the treatment of people in such zones. The ICRC has made it clear that the government is not allowing it access to scores of prisoners arrested under charges of militancy and terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata and Balochistan. The government maintains that the Geneva Conventions provisos do not apply to the current situation, referring to the conflict as an `operation` against common criminals. This description must be questioned as the government and army have themselves said time and again that the operation was against anti-state elements. Moreover, common criminals could have been prosecuted under normal laws and tried in any court of law.
Pakistan ought not to hide behind euphemisms and smokescreens in its mission to eradicate militancy. There have been a number of reports suggesting that due process is not being followed. Human rights bodies have raised concerns about reports of extra-judicial killings and delays in bringing suspected militants before the courts. In terms of Balochistan, the resolution of the issue of `enforced disappearances` — involving the clandestine workings of security forces — has been demanded for years. There is no getting away from the fact that Pakistan has thousands of people in custody, who are not being treated according to the laws of the land. This undermines the legitimacy of the security forces` mission, besides increasing public resentment, which adds fuel to the militants` fire. Considering that the battle against militancy will be a long-drawn-out one, the country must have clearly defined laws on militancy and insurgency, abide by the rules of engagement and have a process in place to bring suspected militants to justice. Meanwhile, bodies such as the ICRC and the HRCP must be given access to detainees and detention centres to monitor the treatment of prisoners.

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