Pakistan: End Collective Punishment in Swat

The Pakistani government should immediately investigate reports that security forces are carrying out collective punishment against relatives of suspected Taliban militants during operations in the Swat valley, Human Rights Watch said today. Since September 2009, when the Pakistani military re-established control over the valley, Human Rights Watch has received numerous credible reports of collective punishment, including arbitrary detention, forced evictions, and house demolitions by the military and police. Human Rights Watch has investigated these allegations on the ground in Swat since February 2010, and documented scores of abuses. "Punishing people because their family members may be militants has become rampant in the Swat valley," said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Not only is collective punishment illegal, it’s counterproductive, because it angers the very people the government hopes to win over." On May 21, a military-backed tribal jirga (council) expelled about 25 families with 130 people from the Kabal and Matta sub-districts for being relatives of Taliban militants who did not adhere to a May 20 deadline to surrender. The military took the families to a former Afghan refugee camp at Palai, where they remain effectively incarcerated. Samiullah, one of the expelled family members, told Human Rights Watch: "My brother Rafiullah was a Taliban commander. We left Swat during the operation and returned when it ended. We have not heard from my brother for two and a half years. This camp is heavily guarded like a jail, and it is impossible to enter or leave without the military’s permission. What have we done to lose our home?" Tariq Aalim, a resident of Kabal, told Human Rights Watch that one of his sons had been picked up in place of another son who was an alleged Taliban member. Both he and the son had been arbitrarily detained, and the house of the son who was detained was demolished as a form of reprisal.

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