PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 33/011/2002
UA 127/02 Fear of forcible return/Fear for safety 25 April 2002
Fear of torture/ill-treatment
PAKISTANElham Tohtam (m) aged 30
Ablitip Abdul Kadir (m) aged 30
and possibly one other man
The two men named above and possibly one other man, were arrested on 22 April
in Rawalpindi, northern Pakistan. Their current whereabouts are unknown and
it is feared that they may be or may already have been, forcibly returned to
China. All three men are members of China’s ethnic Uighur minority and would
be at risk of torture and possibly execution, if returned to China.
Elham Tohtam was picked up by police from his home at 6.30am on 22 April.
According to eye-witnesses he was blind folded and led away to an unknown
destination. He is originally from Ghulja, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
(XUAR), China and was arrested and tortured in 1996 and 1999 for his suspected
In April 1999, fearing further persecution, Elham Tohtam fled first to Kyrgystan
and then to Kazachstan. In November 2000 he went to Pakistan, where he lived
with his wife and four children in Rawalpindi. He has applied to the UNHCR
in the capital Islamabad and in Canberra, Australia for emergency visas to
Australia, where he has family members.
Ablitip Abdul Kadir was also arrested on 22 April. Though known to be a member
of the Uighur ethnic minority, little else is known at this stage about his
background. According to several reports a third Uighur man was also arrested.
Their family members and friends have searched police stations in Rawalpindi
for them without success. It is feared that they will be or have already been
forcibly returned to China. This would be in violation of international human
rights law, which prohibits the return of anyone to a country where they may
face serious human rights violations including torture.
Human rights violations in the XUAR, northwest China, have increased sharply
in the last year. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, China
has intensified its political crackdown by closing down mosques and branding
those in favour of independence for the region, such as suspected Uighur
political opponents, ‘ethnic separatists’ or ‘terrorists’.
In addition, observers believe that China has put significant political pressure
on neighbouring states, including Nepal and Pakistan, to return those it
suspects of being involved in ‘terrorist’ or ‘separatist’ activities.
Pakistan has on several occasions returned people to their countries of origin
without due process and without regard to the risk to the lives of the people
deported. In February 2002, two Uighur men were arrested in Rawalpindi and
according to unconfirmed reports, immediately returned to China. In 1997, a
group of 14 religious students were arrested in Gilgit and handed over to Chinese
authorities without due process. They were reportedly summarily executed soon
after being driven across the Chinese border.
Pakistan has also recently handed over a large number of Pakistani and Arab
detainees to the US-led coalition operating in Afghanistan, without observing