Pakistan: “Shoot on Sight” Orders Issued following Clashes in Karachi and the North West Frontier Province Violation alleged: Deaths due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
Subject(s) of appeal: General
Character of reply: No response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of Pakistan has failed to cooperate with the mandate that he has been given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Allegation letter dated 23 May 2007 I am writing concerning recent reports I have received that the Pakistan army has issued ‘shoot on sight’ orders in different parts of Pakistan in the past weeks.
It has been reported to me that clashes broke out in Karachi on 12 May, 2007 between supporters of suspended Chief Justice Muhammad Chaudhry and President Musharraf, in the course of which 38 people are said to have been killed. Further contingents of paramilitary troops are said to have been drafted into the affected areas of Karachi. Major General Javed Zia is reported to have stated: “the rangers have got extra powers of shoot on sight and arrest in case of riots and violence”. At the same time, it was reported that security officials had stood by, or vanished from the streets in Karachi, as armed groups of the Muttahida Quami Movement, a pro-government political party, and opposition parties clashed with one another on Saturday.
On 5 May, 2007 it was reported that 40 persons had died after two days of fighting in Parachinar, north west Frontier Province between Sunni and Shiite muslims in response to a religious rally held the previous week. Officials reportedly stated that soldiers were given shoot on sight orders to curb the violence. It was reported that a curfew was imposed and that army troops backed up by gunship helicopters were patrolling the streets of the town.
In this connection, I would like to remind the Government of your Excellency of its obligations to promote and protect the right to life as required by the various international human rights treaties ratified by Pakistan. These obligations are given greater specificity in the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Principles provide that law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duties, shall as far as possible apply non-violent means and shall only use force in exceptional cases including self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Such force must be proportional to these objectives, the seriousness of the crime and must minimize damage and injury. Force may only be used when less extreme means are insufficient. Arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is to be punished as a criminal offence under national law. Similarly, Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials provides that law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all such cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on these cases to the Council I would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations.
1. Are the reports concerning the shoot to kill orders accurate? If so, has the Government taken any action to countermand the policy?
2. Please provide detailed information on the terms of the current rules of engagement that the military have to follow, including details on the above-mentioned policy allowing solders to “shoot to kill” those involved in rioting.
Pakistan: Killings in the Context of the Siege at Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) Violation alleged: Deaths due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
Subject(s) of appeal: At least 102 persons
Character of reply: Cooperative but incomplete response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur The Special Rapporteur appreciates the information provided by the Government of Pakistan. The SR notes, however, that the assertion that “the operation was launched in accordance with international laws and practices” is conclusory and that the response does not clarify what took place during the raid.
Allegation letter dated 26 September 2007
I am writing concerning information I have received relating to the siege and conflict at Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, between 3 July 2007 and 10 July 2007.
According to information received:
During the week-long siege in which students, supporters and clerics of Lal Masjid refused to leave the mosque and its annexed madrassa (Jamia Hafsa), and as a result of heavy fighting between mosque supporters and your Government’s security forces, at least 102 people were killed. According to reported Government figures, 16 people were killed on 3 July 2007, and when ‘Operation Silence’ was launched by your Government on 10 July to end the siege, a further 75 mosque supporters, 10 soldiers, and 1 policeman were killed. Allegations received from other sources suggest that the number of dead may have been much higher, perhaps in excess of 300.
Allegations received indicate that it is unclear if any women and children were among the dead. It is also unclear whether the mosque followers held hostages inside the mosque. It was reported by your Government that hundreds of women and children were being held against their will and perhaps used as shields inside the mosque, but this was disputed by mosque clerics and some students. Your Government is also reported as having stated that no bodies of women or children were found inside the mosque after the siege, although 13 bodies were, apparently, so badly burned that army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad stated that their age and gender could not be determined, and an Islamabad city official is reported as stating that at least two children were among the bodies later buried. The army is also reported as stating that the mother of Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdur Rashid, leaders of the mosque, was killed during the fighting.
According to information received, there is little independent information available on the weapons or methods or force used by mosque supporters or by your Government’s security forces. Some reports suggested that mosque supporters were armed with mortars, grenades, machine-guns and suicide-bomb belts. There have also been reports of multiple suicides, or suicide bombings within the mosque, although there has been no confirmation of this, or of numbers of those civilians who may have been killed by mosque supporters. Reports of the possible use of nerve gas by your Government’s security forces in the basement of the mosque complex have also been brought to my attention, as have allegations of the use of white phosphorous, or M15 White Phosphorous hand grenades, and rocket propelled grenades. I have also received allegations that the Jamie Hafsa madrassa has since been destroyed, and that the reason for this may have been to destroy evidence related to the siege and conflict.
The final attack on the mosque on 10 July 2007 by your Government’s security forces occurred, according to reports from Government sources, after negotiations between your Government and mosque leaders broke down. Other accounts received by me have suggested that negotiations were hasty – according to statements made to the media by a member of the Government negotiating team, “the Government wanted to do the operation in a hurry”. It was also widely reported that President Musharraf offered an ultimatum to mosque supporters, stating that people “hiding in the Red Mosque should come out, otherwise they will get killed. Action will be taken against them if they don't come out.”
I have received further allegations that since the siege, there have been no independent inquiries or investigations to determine what occurred at the mosque, the numbers and identities of the dead, or the circumstances of each death. It has been brought to my attention that at the end of August 2007, the Supreme Court ordered Government departments to explain the legality of the security force response to the siege. According to information received, this information has yet to be submitted to the Court, or to have been made public.
While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of informed received, I would like to refer your Government to the applicable principles of international law. In relation to the many children who may have been present in the mosque, Article 6(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which your Government has ratified, provides that every child has the right to life. With respect to the use of force at Lal Masjid by your security forces, customary international law requires (see Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, UN Doc A/61/311, para 35), as expressed in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (“Basic Principles”), that law enforcement officials shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force (Basic Principles, Principle 4). Further, whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence, minimize injury, and respect human life (Basic Principles, Principle 5). Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life (Basic Principles, Principle 9). In allegations received, there has been some concern that the very high numbers of mosque supporters killed, together with the ‘surrender or be killed’ ultimatum offered by President Musharraf, allegations of hasty negotiations, destruction of the Jamie Hafsa madrassa, and use of weapons such as grenades and white phosphorous or nerve gas, suggest that your Government’s security forces may have failed to exercise sufficient restraint, and may have failed to minimize injury or to use lethal force only where strictly necessary to preserve life.
I would also like to bring to your Government’s attention its duty to investigate, prosecute, and punish all violations of the right to life. This duty applies with respect to all persons killed, whether they were killed by mosque supporters or your Government’s forces. To fulfill this legal obligation, governments must ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence (Basic Principles, Principle 7). There must be also thorough, prompt and impartial investigations of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions. Principle 9 of the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (“Prevention and Investigation Principles”) provides guidelines for investigations, which includes conducting an adequate autopsy on each victim, and the collection and analysis of all physical and documentary evidence. Families of the deceased should be informed of information relevant to the investigation, and the findings of the investigation should be made public (Prevention and Investigation Principles, Principles 16 and 17).
It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on these alleged incidents, I would be grateful for your cooperation and observations on the following six matters:
1. How many people were killed at Lal Masjid, between 3 and 10 July 2007? How many of these were students, leaders or supporters of the mosque, and how many were journalists, civilian bystanders, police, or security forces? Of those killed within the mosque, how many, if any, were hostages held by mosque supporters? How many of the victims were killed by mosque supporters, and how many by Government forces?
2. Did the mosque supporters hold hostages in Lal Masjid? What measures were taken to ensure that a decision to raid the mosque to free hostages was based on credible evidence? What measures were taken to ensure that such a raid would result in minimal harm to any hostages?
3. What measures were taken to ensure that your Government’s security force engagement with the mosque supporters complied with international law? Please provide a copy of the rules of engagement that the security forces were required to follow. What methods of force, and what weapons were used by your Government’s forces? In particular, were chemical or incendiary weapons used?
4. What are the status and results of any police, medical, or military investigation, or judicial or other inquiries carried out in relation to the alleged incidents? What efforts have been taken by your Government to ensure that investigations have, or will be, independent, thorough and prompt? Was the Jamie Hafsa madrassa destroyed after the siege was concluded, and if so, why? If its destruction was necessary, was all relevant information related to police, medical or other investigations obtained from the area first?
5. Please provide the details, if any, of any disciplinary measures imposed on, or criminal prosecutions against, police or members of the armed forces, or mosque supporters or leaders responsible for the alleged incidents.
6. Please state whether any compensation was, or is intended to be, provided to the families of the victims.
Response from the Government of Pakistan dated 13 December 2007 Background The facts that led up to 3 July 2007 have been cataloged extensively by the national and international media. These include the fact that the Lal-Masjid administration committed serious crimes, including abduction of women and foreigners, moral policing, threat to peaceful civilians, including video-shop owners as well as abduction of police officials.
The Lal-Masjid is located in the centre of Islamabad, within a densely populated residential area, and is close to the diplomatie enclave. The activities of the administration and the students of the adjoining Jaamia Hafsa directly affected the civilian population.
Based on their particular extreme views they tried to create a state within the state by establishing a parallel (religious) Court and took upon themselves "moral policing". Despite repeated requests and warnings, the Lal-Masjid administration refused to accept the writ of the Government and intensified their unlawful activities. They refused to abide by the rule of law and threatened the Government with violence and suicide attacks.
It was only after the unprovoked and unlawful resort to violence by the inmates of the Lal-Masjid and Jamia-Hafsa Complex on the 3rd July 2007, in which they took hostages and set fire to three government buildings that resulted in the loss of 16 innocent civilians, that the Government decided to lay siege of the Complex.
Casualties During 3-10 July 2007, 103 people lost their lives as a result of the Lal-Masjid crisis. These included eleven security forces personnel. Detailed breakdown is attached as Annex-A.
Mosque supporters killed sixteen people during the initial violence on the 3rd July 2007. Thereafter, 10 security forces personnel lost their lives.
Only one dead body of an unidentified female was recovered from the Complex after the operation.
Release of hostages and efforts by the government for a peaceful settlement The Lal-Masjid Administration kept hostage innocent civilians for quite some time. Fortunately all of these innocent victims were released before the final operation.
Released hostages were handed over to their relatives. While female hostages were immediately handed over to their relatives, the male hostages were released after interrogation.
The Government laid siege for seven days before launching the final operation. This was done despite repeated advice from many concerrrned citizens to take action. The objective was to provide maximum space for a negotiated settlement as well as to ensure release of all hostages. Details of the released hostages are given in Annex-B.
The operation was Iaunched only when credible evidence was available that there were no hostages/innocent civilians left inside the Mosque.
The Government provided every opportunity to the militants in the Lal Masjid/Jaamia Hafza Complex to surrender before launching the operation.
The decision to launch the operation was taken alter careful consideration when all other options were closed and a peaceful settlement of the issue looked impossible. The Government involved all concerned including prominent politicians, Ulema (religious scholars) and members of civil society to negotiate with die Lal-Masjid administration.
Details of the Operation The operation was launched in accordance with international norms and practices. No chemical or incendiary weapons were used. The entire operation was conducted by the best trained Anti Terrorist Unit of the Pakistan Army using conventional weapons. All the drills and procedures followed during the operation were in accordance with international standards.
The operation helped recover huge catchets of arms and ammunition from the Complex. Details are attached as Annex-C. Details of the operation were also issued to the media and civil society through daily press briefings.
Identification of casualties Identification of the dead was done after die operation through biometric matching and DNA tests.
Reconstruction and Compensations After the operation, Lal-Masjid has been renovated and opened to the general public. However, the structure of the Jamia-Hafsa building has been declared dangerous by experts. It has therefore been demolished.
The Government of Pakistan has announced compensation for the relatives of innocent victims.
I hope the above points respond to the questions raised in your letter. We remain ready to discuss with you any further queries that you may have with regard to the Lal Masjid situation.
Annex “A” DECEASED
Annex “B” HOSTAGE RELEASED
Annex “C” ARMS/AMMUNITION
The Government recovered a huge quantity of arms and ammunition from the compound. Details are as under: