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Pak Govt bars ICRC from monitoring plight of detainees in KP, FATA jails

March 14, 2011 - Peshawar

The Pakistan Government has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from monitoring the plight of hundreds of prisoners arrested on charges of militancy and insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The ICRC, which monitors International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations in hostile regions, is of the view that its mandate applies to northwest Pakistan, where conditions for an "armed conflict" exist, The Dawn reports.

This contention is indirectly backed by numerous assertions of the government, which has declared more than once that the region is 'conflict-hit', the paper said.

However, when it comes to giving the ICRC access to prisoners allegedly arrested for perpetuating that conflict, government authorities would rather not call it a conflict, instead they say it is an ongoing 'operation' against common criminals or anti-social elements, the paper added.

Hence, the government argues that Article 3 of the Geneva Convention is not applicable to the situation in northwest Pakistan, and that the ICRC cannot visit prisons and detention centres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to monitor prisoners.

"Our delegates' last visit to the prisons in Balochistan was in July 2008 and to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in October 2009," said ICRC Communications Delegate Michael O Brien.

He said the issue of allowing the ICRC access to detainees was still under discussion with the government because his organisation was pressing for the application of the IHL in the conflict-hit areas in the region.

"We have talked to everybody, but they don't recognise it," he rued.


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