On missing persons, SC makes final call

ISLAMABAD - Giving 24 hours for the recovery of 33 undeclared detainees languishing in internment centre of Fata, the Supreme Court Tuesday ordered the defence minister to initiate legal proceedings against officers involved in murder of two men who went missing and later died in agency’s custody.
Attorney General Munir A Malik informed the bench that two of the 35 missing persons had died. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading a three-judge bench hearing the human rights case for the recovery of one Yasin Shah and 34 other internees, inquired about the cause of their death.
The additional secretary defence responded that the two detainees had died of natural causes.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked, “Thirty-five missing persons have not been produced despite repeated court orders. Two missing persons have passed away. Death in detention is murder.”
“Tell us how the death occurred. Postmortem of both the dead bodies be conducted. Now the missing persons are being killed. The situation has turned grave. Government too is keeping mum. Government should recover 33 persons first and then make legislation, otherwise the law will take its course.”
“Close down the detention centers if the detainees are to be killed in such a way,” the chief justice observed.
The CJP further remarked, “We want to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. No one will be allowed to violate court’s orders.”
Khawaja Asif, who had been assigned the additional charge of defence minister last week, appearing before the bench sought time to speak to the relevant authority. The bench, however, told him that they had been hearing the case for the last 21 months. The court directed the defence minister to ensure production of 32 plus one (Yasin Shah) without any excuse today (Tuesday) by 11:30 am or court will consider him helpless. The chief justice asked the minister if he was helpless, he should tell that in writing.
CJP remarked, “Ample time has already been given. If missing persons are not produced, we will initiate more proceedings. If someone does not accept your directives then give us in writing.”
“What your legislation will give to those two men who have died. Even if missing persons are not innocent, they should be presented. We cannot give you three to four days.”
The CJP remarked, “FIR be registered in respect of the persons who have died.”
The CJP observed, “You should get register cases as defence minister. Tell the court about FIR and arrests till the Monday evening. If you fail to get the case registered, it will hint at serious atrocities in the system.”
He further remarked, “Intelligence agencies think they are above the law. They have no idea what we can do. We have made you bridge but you are also doing nothing. We will now issue orders in this regard. Arrests will have to be made today.”
He said the judges could not chase any accused nor they had weapons in their hands, it was defence minister’s duty to ensure implementation of orders.
CJP remarked, “Defence minister should realise that another government is running parallel to his government. And this is not a good omen. The case will have to be registered at every cost. Whosoever these people are, they must be arrested.”
Two years ago the superintendent Malakand Internment Centre had submitted a statement before the Peshawar High Court that army had handed over 35 persons, including Yasin Shah, a resident of Mardan, to him and later took them away from the internment centre.
The court noted that the army authorities had no right to retain them in unlawful custody and were bound to produce them before the court of law. He observed that these people were not missing persons because their custody had been identified. The court ordered for the arrest of those responsible for the enforced disappearances and registration of cases against them.
The chief justice was annoyed over the letter written by Director (Legal) Defence Ministry to the Attorney General for Pakistan through Secretary Law to dissociate Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar as he had given misstatement.
The court ruled that an inquiry against the officer, who wrote a letter to remove additional attorney general from the case, should also be initiated.
According to the letter, the AAG had told the court that Yasin Shah and others were kept in unauthorised detention and would be produced before the court. The attorney general informed the bench: “I stand by my Additional Attorney General and have told the ministry that if they don’t trust the AAG then they can appoint their own counsel.”
The court also ordered for the arrest and registration of cases against those responsible for the disappearances.
The chief justice ordered to produce report of undeclared detainees in all internment centres. The hearing was adjourned till today (Tuesday).

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