PAKISTAN: Children of Dr. Afia Siddiqui are removed from Bagram and their whereabouts are unknown and Dr. Afia is denied permission to attend court proceedings

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that the two children of Dr. Afia Sidiqui, who is currently in custody in the United States on charges of assault and attempting to murder members of the American forces during her custody in Afghanistan, have been removed by Afghan and foreign forces from Bagram prison. The current whereabouts of the two children is unknown.

In a letter sent to the Attorney of Dr. Afia Sidiqui, on August 22, 2008, from the US Department of Justice, the attorney was informed about the identification of Mohammad, one of the children of Dr. Afia who has been missing since March 2003, according to Dr. Fauzia Sidiqui, Dr. Afia’s sister. She states that the letter informed that Mohammad is now in the custody of the Afghan National Police since his purported arrest in Afghanistan on July 17, 2008.

According to the details received later, Dr. Afia’s children have been missing since August 31, 2008, after soldiers from the Afghan Army and Rangers from one of the foreign forces removed Master Mohammad, age 11, the eldest son, from the Bagram prison, where he was kept in illegal detention according to the laws of that country. Details with regard to the younger child are even scantier.

In between the dates of August 31 and September 3, a person Dr. Afia’s sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui was in contact with, suddenly disappeared and his cell phone no longer responds. He has not contacted Dr, Fauzia since September 1. She had been in contact with this person for some time and through him was able to talk to Master Ahmed on at least two occasions. Master Ahmed told her that he was just able to recognize Dr. Fauzia from photographs of her press conferences, which he was shown by the man as Ahmed had accompanied her to a medical conference just one month prior to his disappearance.

After these contacts, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui applied for a visa to Afghanistan on August 24, to meet her nephew. Again on August 25, she sent faxes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and the Consul General of Afghanistan in Karachi. On August 26, she talked personally to one of the high officers of the foreign office who confirmed that she would get a visa. The Afghan Consul also confirmed this. Furthermore, on August 28, Dr, Fauzia received a phone call from the office of Mr. Farooq Naik, the Minister for Law, who told her that she would get full support from the government to locate Dr. Afia’s children. That same day, a Mr. Durrani, from the Pakistani embassy in Kabul phoned Dr. Fauzia and confirmed that both the children, Master Ahmed and Marium, age 9, were in Afghanistan and they would both be provided full security and assistance in returning to Pakistan.

Then, on September 2, despite all the indications of promises of support from the Pakistan government, she was informed that she could not get a visa for Afghanistan. On September 3 Dr. Fauzia received a telephone call from the US State department that as the “family is disinterested in the children they may be transferred to the USA”. Despite this statement by the US State Department there is still no information on the whereabouts of the children after they were removed from Bagram prison.

Meanwhile, it has also been reported by the media in New York that Dr. Afia Siddiqui was denied on Thursday, September 4, 2008 as she had refused to submit to a body search. However, there is confusion as to this statement as Dr. Afia’s family in the United States reported that she had specifically asked for her brother to be present in court as she wanted to speak with him about some important issues, particularly her children. This message was delivered to her brother, Mr. Mohammad Ali Siddiqui. The family sources claimed that she told the lawyer to emphasize that her brother should cancel all his engagements so as to be sure to attend the court.

The government of Pakistan and the United States owe an obligation to the family of Dr. Afia to inform them of the whereabouts of the two children, Master Ahmed and Marium. It would be a blatant violation of the rights of the child to keep them in secret places without access to their natural guardians. Since Dr. Afia is in the custody of the United States the natural guardians of her children would be her family. It is a matter of the absolute rights of children that whatever be the charges against the parents that they have the right of protection. Therefore the relevant UN agencies and all the authorities of the government of Pakistan and the United States should effectively intervene to return these two children to their natural guardians.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-235-2008
Countries : Pakistan,