Protest launches tour against enforced disappearance in Pakistan

Amnesty International called on the Pakistan government to reveal the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of disappeared people, amid international protests to mark the 25th International Day of the Disappeared on Saturday 30 August. Amina Janjua, the founder of Defence of Human Rights, a Pakistani organisation that campaigns for the release of the disappeared, was joined by Amnesty International activists to demonstrate outside the Pakistani High Commission in London. They chanted “Justice now for the disappeared” and handed over a petition. The demonstration marked the start of an international tour by Amina Janjua, supported by Amnesty International. Amina Janjua will appeal to governments around the world to raise their voices against enforced disappearance in Pakistan. She speaks for 563 families of the disappeared. She knows only too well the pain and suffering caused by this illegal practice – her own husband, Masood Janjua, was apprehended in Pakistan over three years ago while travelling on a bus to Peshawar. State officials deny his detention and all knowledge of his whereabouts. Amina Janjua will go to Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and the USA as part of the tour to raise awareness of the issue in Pakistan. She will join Amnesty International in campaigning for governments to put pressure on Pakistan’s new ruling coalition to investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and to ensure the practice is brought to an end. Background The Pakistan government began widely using the practice of enforced disappearances after it joined the US-led “war on terror” in 2001. Hundreds of people suspected of links to terrorist activity have been arbitrarily detained in Pakistan and held in secret facilities. Denied access to lawyers, families and courts and held outside all protection of the law, they are victims of enforced disappearance. Most, if not all, are subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government has repeatedly denied any knowledge of their whereabouts, despite mounting evidence, including official court records and affadavits.

Many of those picked up in Pakistan were secretly handed over to the US authorities, often for financial reward, ending up in Guantánamo Bay and secret CIA detention centres. Domestic political opponents of the Pakistani government were also targeted, in particular, members of Pakistan’s Sindhi and Baloch nationalist groups advocating greater autonomy. Amnesty International’s recent report Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan, confronted the authorities with evidence of how government officials obstructed attempts to trace those who have “disappeared.”