PAKISTAN: Release with immediate effect, Baba Jan and other eleven human rights defenders, sentenced for life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-026-2014
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Human rights defenders, Impunity, Judicial system, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that 12 human rights defenders including Baba Jan, a prominent human rights defender, have been sentenced to imprisonment for life, by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). They have been so sentenced for raising their voice and holding a protest against not providing compensation rightly due to the people who were submerged and trapped under a massive landslide and against the killing of two persons – a father and his son by a high ranking police officer, during the demonstrations.  On a previous occasion six trade union members from the Power Loom factories were also sentenced with imprisonment in total of 493 years – 81 years for each person – by the ATC, who were merely demanding a hike in their wages as announced by the government. The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) claims that 13 trade unionists of the Power Looms industry were sentenced for life by the ATC. 

The Anti-terrorism laws are frequently used against protesting industrial workers. Their alleged crime is fighting for a better life for their members and demanding higher wages. This is a clear manifestation of the government going all out to crush any trade union movement in these factories that legitimately challenge their authority.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 25th September 2014, Mr. Baba Jan and the eleven activists from Gilgit-Baltistan, a Northern Territory of Pakistan, were sentenced along with 11 other activists to life imprisoned by an Anti Terrorist Court (ATC). According to the verdict by the ATC, they will spend 40 additional years in prison, besides paying one million rupees in fines each. Moreover, the convicts’ properties and earnings will be used to reconstruct buildings damaged and their assets we set on fire on the 11th August 2011 in Aliabad, Hunza. According to press reports, three accused were declared as absconding and they were sentenced to additional imprisonment for ten years each.

On 11th August 2011, the Judge, Shahbaz Khan presiding over the Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit announced the verdict of the case instituted against 17 people on charges of attacking, looting and torching government buildings in Aliabad. Enraged mobs had attacked and vandalized government buildings in Aliabad on 11th August after police killed two unarmed Internally Displaced People (IDPs) – a father and a son – who hail from the disaster hit Ayeenabad village of Gojal Valley, in Upper Hunza.

During the hearing it was proved through credible evidence led, that Baba Jan was not present when the incidents of killing of the father and the son by the police took place and the damage was being done to government property. He was popular among the youth in Gilgit-Baltistan for his activism. Baba Jan was well known for his campaign of “Attabad Lake” which came into existence earlier in year 2010 when in the massive landslide that resulted in a mountain hurling down into the Hunza River, which created an artificial lake. 

On July 4th 2010 a massive landslide occurred near the Attabad village in Hunza Valley, causing a heavy loss of life and property. The landslide blocked the River Hunza, which resulted in the formation of a lake, besides inundating about a two-kilometer long stretch of the main road. This resulted in several villages being submerged by the mudslide and the formation of a newly created lake. In total, over 1,000 persons were displaced and over 25,000 were cut off from the rest of the country.

Baba Jan and his colleagues were arrested during the agitation against the killing of the two persons by police officials, despite the evidence that the shooting was done by a high ranking police officer an officer with no lesser a rank than that of the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), himself. This incident occurred when on 11th August 2011 the Chief Minister of Gilgit and Baltistan was visiting the area and during that time Mr Baba was protesting on the issue of the settlement of the victims of the Attabad lake disaster (For further details, please see: AHRC-UAC-149-2011). Following the arrest he was detained for two years during which he, along with two more activists of the Pakistan Labour Party, were brutally tortured by the police and military intelligence, the ISI. 

On 11 August around 200 persons were protesting during the visit of the Chief Minister of the province to Aliabad against the delay in the payment of compensation to 25 affected families of landslides near the Attabad lake. In an effort to keep the protestors away from the place where the Chief Minister was staying the police baton charged and used tear gas on the assembled demonstrators. They also opened fire with live ammunition directly at the protestors. As a result one young man, Afzal Baig, 22 years old, was shot and injured. He later died in the hospital. His father, Sher Ullah Baig. 50 year old while attempting to stop the police aggression and shooting was himself shot dead – witness accounts stated that the police acting in complete arrogance deliberately opened fire and killed him on the spot. 

The next day, when the news of the deaths reached Aliabad and other areas of Hunza people came out into the streets and enraged with the incident, the protestors attacked the Aliabad police station and set fire to it. They also torched the office of the Deputy Commissioner. The law enforcement agencies again used baton charges and opened fire; they also arrested many of the protestors. 

At the time of incident Baba Jan was according to reports, nowhere near the place of the incident and in fact he was a long distance away. Since he is a well-known human rights defender and a political activist of Labour Party of Pakistan –  the party that is at present, with the  Awami Workers Party – had been summoned by the people of the area to help organise the protesters and to save them from the onslaught of the police brutality. According to reports, Mr Jan, could reach there only on the following day.  

The nine human rights defenders sentenced for life are; Iftikhar Hussain, son of Muhammad Ishaq, Irfan Ali, son of Arman Shah, Baba Jan, son of Abdullah Baig, Aleemullah Khan, son of Taighoon Shah, Sher Khan, son of Hamadullah Baig, Rashied Minhas Anees, son of Abdul Mateen, Sarfaraz, son of Ghulam Musa, Musa Baig, son of Abdul Rehman and Shukrullah Baig, son of Amanullah (For further details, please see the previous Urgent Appeals on this case: AHRC-UAC-149-2011; and AHRC-UAC-070-2012).

Life sentences to power looms workers: 

The Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) has become a strong tool in the hands of successive governments to curb the trade unionist activities. The Act has failed to curb terrorism from the country and ATCs have continuously failed to punish the terrorists. Moreover, the ATCs have made quick decisions to release terrorists for want of evidence. The ATCs have proved weak in the face of terrorism, they have freed terrorists despite there being ample evidence, however, they have  been brave in punishing innocent workers with no evidence, whatsoever (For further details, please see: AHRC-FST-057-2011; and AHRC-UAC-109-2010).  

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The incident began when the Provincial Government denied the payment of compensation to the 25 affected families of the landslide disaster. There were however 457 families whose names were mentioned in the official list. It is reported that the provincial government allegedly paid the compensation owed to the 25 families to its political workers. Each family was to receive Rs. 400, 000 as compensation for the destruction of their houses in the massive floods which followed the landslide.

Pro government people with the direct help of the military have deprived the victims of the “Attabad lake” incident from receiving the compensation and have stood in between their demands for compensation. In spite of these hard facts, police opened fire on the protesters when they were protesting against the government demanding justice. Following the shooting and killing in cold blood of the young father and his son, the grandfather had pleased with the police not to use live ammunition against the protestors, but his pleadings fell on deaf ears and the police shot him dead without even a slight hint of a warning.

Gilgit-Baltistan people are well known for their active participation against the improper involvement of the American corporate and State intervention in the economic sector in the region and it is believed that this is the shadow reason behind the sectarian violence in that area. In another incident Shiite pilgrims were shot dead by persons in military uniform. Therefore, any kind of social and political activities in the area are seen by the military as anti-state activism.

Rules 776 to 809 of the Pakistan Prison Rules, 1978, deal with the issue of medical treatment. Under Rule 787, “…in each prison a hospital for the treatment of sick prisoners is required to be established. In case of illness, the prisoners should be admitted in hospital for proper treatment. Rules also provide for proper medical care and special diet to the patients during their illness.”

In absence of the criminalization of torture, the law enforcement agencies are able to use torture with impunity. The Pakistan government should instigate immediate reforms in Pakistan’s prison system. Baba Jan’s arrest and imprisonment highlights the corruption and dysfunctional nature of the prison system which is linked to the breakdown of the rule of law in Pakistan. For years, thumbing their noses at the criminal justice system, the military has detained hundreds of people on suspicion of terrorism which includes a large number of political dissidents and others opposed to the policies of the military, particularly in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). They have applied inhuman methods including torture, collective justice and extrajudicial killings. Now the military has crossed the line by entering the jails to torture political activists.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write the letters to the authorities calling them to immediately release Mr. Baba Jan and other activists of Gilgit Baltistan who were sentenced to life imprisonment for demanding a fair inquiry against the police officials for killing two persons in cold blood on the issue of the mere implementation of government announced compensation for the affected persons of the ‘Attaab Abad Lake’ disaster. Please also urge them to release the 13 workers of the powerloom industry from Faisalabad and Karachi who were also sentenced to life imprisonment by the Anti Terrorist Courts. The government must stop using the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against the workers who are struggling for decent wages and a decent life. The government must prosecute those police officials of the Gilgit Baltistan and also the officials of intelligence agencies who were involved in torturing Baba Jan and other four prisoners during their custody.   

The AHRC will write separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders calling for his intervention into this matter.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ……………….., PAKISTAN: Release with immediate effect, Baba Jan and other eleven human rights defenders, sentenced for life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court Name of victims: 1.Baba Jan son of Abdullah Baig, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 2. Iftikhar Hussain son of Muhammad Ishaq, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 3. Irfan Ali son of Arman Shah, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 4.  Aleemullah Khan son of Taighoon Shah, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 5. Sher Khan son of Hamadullah Baig resident of Gilgit Baltistan 6. Rashied Minhas Anees son of Abdul Mateen, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 7. Sarfaraz son of Ghulam Musa, resident of Gilgit Baltistan 8. Musa Baig son of Abdul Rehman resident of Gilgit Baltistan 9. Shukrullah Baig son of Amanullah. resident of Gilgit Baltistan The workers tried in Anti Terrorist Courts; 10. Mr. Saif Ur Rehman, son of Mr. Muhammad Zahid, working in power loom factories 11. Mr. Naik Muhammad, son of Mr. Muhammad Qayum, working in power loom factories 12. Mr. Irshad, son of Mr. Gohar Rehman, working in power loom factories 13. Mr. Muhammad Rome, son of Mr. Mohammad Zaman, working in power loom factories 14. Mr. Nizam Uddin, son of Mr. Awas Gul, working in power loom factories 15. Mr. Akhter Ali, son of Mr. Muhammad Shreef, working in power loom factories 16. Mr. Hazrat Yousaf, working in power loom factories  17. Akbar Ali Kamboh, working in power loom factories  18. Babar Shafiq Randhawa, working in power loom factories 19, Fazal Elahi, working in power loom factories 20 Rana Riaz Ahmed, working in power loom factories Names of alleged perpetrators:  Anti Terrorist Courts in Karachi and Faisalabad Government of Punjab, Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan Date of incident: September 25, 2014 and 2011 Place of incident: Punjab, Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the sentences to life imprisonment passed on the human rights defenders and the trade unionists in Gilgit and Baltistan, Faisalabad Punjab and Karachi Sindh in Pakistan, by Anti Terrorist Courts.   I am shocked to know that the human rights defenders and trade unionist are tried in the Anti Terrorist Courts (ATCs) and are sentenced to life imprisonment for demanding the implementation of an already announced compensation and increase in wages. The acts of trying human rights defenders in ATCs are to harass and punish the people who are raising legal demands for a decent life. I have received information that on 25th September 2014, Mr. Baba Jan and the eleven activists from Gilgit-Baltistan, a Northern Territory of Pakistan, were sentenced along with 11 other activists to life imprisoned by an Anti Terrorist Court (ATC). According to the verdict by the ATC, they will spend 40 additional years in prison, besides paying one million rupees in fines each. Moreover, the convicts' properties and earnings will be used to reconstruct buildings damaged and their assets we set on fire on the 11th August 2011 in Aliabad, Hunza. According to press reports, three accused were declared as absconding and they were sentenced to additional imprisonment for ten years each. On 11th August 2011, the Judge, Shahbaz Khan presiding over the Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit announced the verdict of the case instituted against 17 people on charges of attacking, looting and torching government buildings in Aliabad. Enraged mobs had attacked and vandalized government buildings in Aliabad on 11th August after police killed two unarmed Internally Displaced People (IDPs) - a father and a son – who hail from the disaster hit Ayeenabad village of Gojal Valley, in Upper Hunza. During the hearing it was proved through credible evidence led, that Baba Jan was not present when the incidents of killing of the father and the son by the police took place and the damage was being done to government property. He was popular among the youth in Gilgit-Baltistan for his activism. Baba Jan was well known for his campaign of "Attabad Lake" which came into existence earlier in year 2010 when in the massive landslide that resulted in a mountain hurling down into the Hunza River, which created an artificial lake.  On July 4th 2010 a massive landslide occurred near the Attabad village in Hunza Valley, causing a heavy loss of life and property. The landslide blocked the River Hunza, which resulted in the formation of a lake, besides inundating about a two-kilometer long stretch of the main road. This resulted in several villages being submerged by the mudslide and the formation of a newly created lake. In total, over 1,000 persons were displaced and over 25,000 were cut off from the rest of the country. Baba Jan and his colleagues were arrested during the agitation against the killing of the two persons by police officials, despite the evidence that the shooting was done by a high ranking police officer an officer with no lesser a rank than that of the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), himself. This incident occurred when on 11th August 2011 the Chief Minister of Gilgit and Baltistan was visiting the area and during that time Mr Baba was protesting on the issue of the settlement of the victims of the Attabad lake disaster (For further details, please see: AHRC-UAC-149-2011 ). Following the arrest he was detained for two years during which he, along with two more activists of the Pakistan Labour Party, were brutally tortured by the police and military intelligence, the ISI.  On 11 August around 200 persons were protesting during the visit of the Chief Minister of the province to Aliabad against the delay in the payment of compensation to 25 affected families of landslides near the Attabad lake. In an effort to keep the protestors away from the place where the Chief Minister was staying the police baton charged and used tear gas on the assembled demonstrators. They also opened fire with live ammunition directly at the protestors. As a result one young man, Afzal Baig, 22 years old, was shot and injured. He later died in the hospital. His father, Sher Ullah Baig. 50 year old while attempting to stop the police aggression and shooting was himself shot dead – witness accounts stated that the police acting in complete arrogance deliberately opened fire and killed him on the spot.  The next day, when the news of the deaths reached Aliabad and other areas of Hunza people came out into the streets and enraged with the incident, the protestors attacked the Aliabad police station and set fire to it. They also torched the office of the Deputy Commissioner. The law enforcement agencies again used baton charges and opened fire; they also arrested many of the protestors.  At the time of incident Baba Jan was according to reports, nowhere near the place of the incident and in fact he was a long distance away. Since he is a well-known human rights defender and a political activist of Labour Party of Pakistan -  the party that is at present, with the  Awami Workers Party - had been summoned by the people of the area to help organise the protesters and to save them from the onslaught of the police brutality. According to reports, Mr Jan, could reach there only on the following day.   As per the information I have received, the 09 human rights defenders sentenced for life are; Iftikhar Hussain, son of Muhammad Ishaq, Irfan Ali, son of Arman Shah, Baba Jan, son of Abdullah Baig, Aleemullah Khan, son of Taighoon Shah, Sher Khan, son of Hamadullah Baig, Rashied Minhas Anees, son of Abdul Mateen, Sarfaraz, son of Ghulam Musa, Musa Baig, son of Abdul Rehman and Shukrullah Baig, son of Amanullah. I may note that the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) has become a strong tool in the hands of successive governments to curb the trade unionist activities. The Act has failed to curb terrorism from the country and ATCs have continuously failed to punish the terrorists. Moreover, the ATCs have made quick decisions to release terrorists for want of evidence. The ATCs have proved weak in the face of terrorism, they have freed terrorists despite there being ample evidence, however, they have been brave in punishing innocent workers with no evidence, whatsoever.   Therefore, I am imploring on your good offices to immediately intervene to release Mr. Baba Jan and other activists of Gilgit Baltistan who were sentenced to life imprisonment for demanding a fair inquiry against the police officials for killing two persons in cold blood on the issue of the mere implementation of government announced compensation for the affected persons of the 'Attaab Abad Lake' disaster. Please also take appropriate action to release several other workers, 13 workers of the Power-Loom industry from Faisalabad and Karachi who were also sentenced to life imprisonment by the Anti Terrorist Courts. The government must immediately put a halt to using the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against the workers who are struggling for decent wages and a decent life. The government must prosecute those police officials of the Gilgit Baltistan and also the officials of intelligence agencies who were involved in torturing Baba Jan and other four prisoners during their custody.    Yours sincerely, ………………. PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: 1. Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif Prime Minister Prime Minister House Islamabad PAKISTAN Fax: +92 51 922 1596 Tel: +92 51 920 6111 E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk or pspm@pmsectt.gov.pk 2. Mr. Syed Mehdi Shah  Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan  Chief Minister's Secretariat, Gilgit  Tel: +92-5811-920573  Fax: +92 5811 50-201  Email: info@gilgitbaltistan.gov.pk   3. Mr. Tahir Shahbaz Registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan Constitution Avenue, Islamabad PAKISTAN Fax: +92 51 9213452 Email: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk 4. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court High Court Building Saddar, Karachi Sindh Province PAKISTAN Fax: +92 21 9213220 5. Mr. Pervez Rashid  Federal Minister Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights Old US Aid building Ata Turk Avenue G-5, Islamabad PAKISTAN Fax: +92 51 9204108 Email: contact@molaw.gov.pk 6. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif Chief Minister Government of Punjab Province Chief Minister's Secretariat 5-Club Road, GOR-I, Lahore, Punjab PAKISTAN Fax: +92 42 99205065 Email: cmcomplaintcell@cmpunjab.gov.pk 7. Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah Chief Minister Sindh Karachi, Sindh Province PAKISTAN Fax: +92 21 920 2000 Email: pressecy@cmsindh.gov.pk Thank you. Urgent Appeals Programme  Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)
Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-026-2014
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Human rights defenders, Impunity, Judicial system, Torture,