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HRW blasts govt. for letting 'law of its own' ISI remain beyond reach of Pak criminal justice system

Islamabad, Tue, 31 Jan 2012 ANI

Islamabad, Jan 31 (ANI): Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern over a judicial inquiry of a commission into the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, indicating that it overlooked the alleged role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the conspiracy.


A news release by the Human Rights Watch on Monday claimed that it had extensively documented ISI's alleged intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings of many journalists, and feared that the commission's failure in naming a culprit hinted back to ISI's "strong hold over the country's judicial system."


The Express Tribune quoted HRW Asia Director Brad Adams, in the release, as saying: "The commission's failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan's criminal justice system... The government still has the responsibility to identify those responsible for Shahzad's death and hold them accountable, no matter where the evidence leads."


Adams added that Shahzad had made it clear to the HRW that if he was killed, the ISI should be considered the principal suspect.


"He had not indicated he was afraid of being killed by militant groups or anybody else," he added.


The HRW release said that the power of the ISI over the commission was visible from the fact that journalist Umar Cheema was not called to record his statements in the case. Cheema was also abducted, tortured and then dumped 120 km from his residence in Islamabad in September 2010. Cheema had alleged that his abductors were from Pakistan's intelligence agencies.


It is inexplicable that the commission failed to seek Cheema's testimony despite his very public allegations against the ISI and repeated offers to testify before the commission, the HRW said.


"ISI abuses will only stop if it is subjected to the rule of law, civilian oversight, and public accountability," Adams said. "It is the government's duty to insist on such accountability and the military's duty to submit to it. The ISI needs to stop acting as a state within a state," it added.


Shahzad had disappeared from Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011, and his body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31, near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometres southeast of Islamabad. (ANI)


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