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Pakistan Urged To End ‘Abhorrent’ Practice Of Enforced Disappearance

Relatives hold portraits of disappeared family members during a protest in Karachi on August 30.
Relatives hold portraits of disappeared family members during a protest in Karachi on August 30.

Amnesty International is urging Pakistani authorities to end their use of enforced disappearance, saying such an “abhorrent” practice not only violates the rights of those who vanished but also has a “devastating” impact on their families.

In a statement issued on November 22, the London-based human rights organization said that cases of enforced disappearance -- in which state agents deny holding an individual or refuse to provide information on their fate or whereabouts -- have been documented in Pakistan since the mid-1980s.

The practice has been “routinely used by Pakistan’s intelligence services [since 2001] to target human rights defenders, political activists, students, and journalists, with the fate of hundreds of victims still unknown,” it added.

According to Amnesty International, enforced disappearance has caused “indelible pain” to hundreds of families in Pakistan over the past two decades, affecting their “mental and physical health, financial status, and security, as well as leading to stigma and social isolation.”

The group cited the case of a family with 10 members whose fate remains unknown after they were abducted by Pakistan’s security services.

Each family member “described resultant stress-related health issues including high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, and gastro-intestinal illnesses,” it said.

Amnesty International is calling the authorities to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of all victims to their families and release those still being held.

The authorities should also expedite the criminalization of enforced disappearance through legislation in line with international human rights law, and bring to justice “in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to the death penalty” all those suspected of criminal responsibility for committing an enforced disappearance.

Last month, Amnesty International criticized proposed amendments to legislation to end the practice of enforced disappearance, saying they did not conform with international human rights law and best practices.

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