The Pakistani authorities must immediately determine the whereabouts of an anti-drone activist who disappeared days before he was due to travel to Europe to give testimony before the European Parliament, Amnesty International said.
According to witnesses, over a dozen men, some in police uniforms, others in plain clothes, burst into Kareem Khan’s home and whisked him away in the early hours of the morning on 5 February.
“We are concerned that prominent human rights activist Kareem Khan may have been disappeared to prevent him from giving testimony overseas about US drone strikes in Pakistan,” said Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
Kareem Khan’s brother and son were killed in a US drone attack in December 2009.
Khan has brought a case to the Pakistan courts calling for members of the US Central Intelligence Agency to be prosecuted for the killings. He is also suing the Pakistani government because of their alleged failure to effectively investigate the deaths of his son and brother.
“The disappearance of Kareem Khan highlights the disturbing trend of targeting those who dare to speak publicly about human rights abuses in Pakistan, and raises serious concerns about the country’s possible continued complicity in the US drone programme,” said Isabelle Arradon.
Police authorities have denied any involvement in Kareem Khan’s disappearance, nor have any formal charges been brought against him. His disappearance, however, is in line with other cases documented by Amnesty International of peaceful activists and terrorism suspects being subjected to enforced disappearances in Pakistan.
“Instead of silencing peaceful activists, Pakistan must carry out credible investigations to determine who is behind the disappearance of Kareem Khan, ensuring that suspects are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty,” said Isabelle Arradon.
The Pakistani and other relevant governments including US authorities must also ensure victims of US drone strikes can access justice and reparations. They must disclose information they hold on the secretive programmes.”
Amnesty International urges that anyone who has been subjected to enforced disappearance or otherwise held in secret or arbitrary detention must be released unless they are charged with a recognisable criminal offence and brought promptly to a fair trial in accordance with international standards. Those against whom sufficient admissible evidence of responsibility for enforced disappearances exists must be brought to justice in fair trials without recourse the death penalty.
In October 2013, Amnesty International published the report “Will I be next? US drone strikes in Pakistan”, one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the US drone programme from a human rights perspective.
Amnesty International has raised concerns about the widely unchecked US drones programme in Pakistan in which at least dozens of civilians have been killed, including children and elderly people.
In public, the Pakistani authorities claim to oppose the US drone programme. There are concerns that some officials and institutions in Pakistan and in other countries including Australia, Germany and the UK may be assisting the US to carry out drone strikes, some of which constitute human rights violations.