A UK based human rights group has called for Pakistani authorities to end the use of enforced disappearances as a tool of state policy as it released new evidence documenting the effect of illegal abductions on the families of those victims.
The briefing, titled “Living Ghosts”, was released by Amnesty International on Monday, and is based on interviews with 10 family members of people “whose fate remains unknown after they were abducted by Pakistan’s security services”.
A proposed amendment to outlaw enforced disappearances has been mired in the legislative process for more than two and a half years and the current iteration does not conform with international human rights law and best practices, it added.
“Enforced disappearance is a cruel practice that has caused indelible pain to hundreds of families in Pakistan over the past two decades. On top of the untold anguish of losing a loved one and having no idea of their whereabouts or safety, families endure other long-term effects including ill-health and financial problems,” said Rehab Mahamoor, Amnesty International’s Acting South Asia Researcher.
“It’s a punishment without end that Pakistan’s authorities must consign to history. As well as expediting the criminalization of enforced disappearance through legislation in line with international human rights law, the authorities must immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of all victims to their families and release those still being held.”
Amnesty International also called for all those suspected of criminal responsibility for committing an enforced disappearance to be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to the death penalty.
The rights group spoke to the family members of 10 people whose fate remains unknown after they were abducted by Pakistan’s security services. “Each of them described resultant stress-related health issues including high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, and gastro-intestinal illnesses. Affected families also suffer financial consequences, as the disappeared are invariably the main breadwinner.”
“Intimidation and harassment from the authorities can follow them for years after a disappearance has taken place and sometimes continues after the person is returned. This can be in the form of heavy-handed surveillance, threatening calls from blocked numbers and even phishing attacks on personal devices,” the report added.