US citizens tortured in Pakistan

The same day Amnesty International released its annual report with unprecedented criticism for the US, comes this chilling release from Human Rights Watch:

Pakistan: US Citizens Tortured, Held Illegally
Human Rights Watch

Tuesday 24 May 2005

FBI participated in interrogations despite apparent knowledge of torture, abduction.

U.S. FBI agents operating in Pakistan repeatedly interrogated and threatened two U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin who were unlawfully detained and subjected to torture by the Pakistani security services, Human Rights Watch said today.

The brothers Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal were abducted from their home in Karachi at about 2 a.m. on August 13, 2004. They were released on April 22, 2005 without having been charged.

During eight months of illegal detention, Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal were routinely tortured by Pakistani authorities to extract confessions of involvement in terrorist activities. During this period, FBI agents questioned the brothers on at least six occasions. The FBI agents did not intervene to end the torture, insist that the Pakistani government comply with a court order to produce the men in court, or provide consular facilities normally offered to detained U.S. citizens. Instead, they threatened the men with being sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay if they did not confess to involvement in terrorism.

Human Rights Watch’s information is based on extensive and separate interviews with the two brothers since their release and other sources. “It is outrageous that Pakistan abducts people from their homes in the middle of the night and tortures them in secret prisons to extract confessions, all the while ignoring court orders to produce their victims in court,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “The United States should be condemning this, but instead it either directed this activity or turned a blind eye in the hopes of gaining information in the war on terror.”

Human Rights Watch pointed out that Pakistan has a long and well-documented history of “disappearances,” illegal and arbitrary arrests, and torture of individuals in government custody. According to the 2004 State Department human rights country report on Pakistan:

Police and security forces held prisoners incommunicado and refused to provide information on their whereabouts, particularly in terrorism and national security cases … Security force personnel continued to torture persons in custody throughout the country. Human rights organizations reported that methods used included beating; burning with cigarettes; whipping the soles of the feet; prolonged isolation; electric shock; denial of food or sleep; hanging upside down; and forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters. Officials from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimated 5,000 cases of police torture annually. … Prison conditions were extremely poor, except those for wealthy or influential prisoners. … Shackling of prisoners was routine. The shackles used were tight, heavy, and painful, and reportedly led to gangrene and amputation in several cases.

“Pakistan’s dreadful record on illegal detentions and torture, well-known to the United States, should have acted as a stop sign for the FBI,” said Adams. “Instead, the FBI aided and abetted the illegal actions of the Pakistani security services by participating in the interrogations.”

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