Northwest Pakistan is "human rights free zone" - Amnesty

Northwest Pakistan is "human rights free zone" - Amnesty

At least 1,300 civilians were among a total of 8,500 people killed - including combatants - in fighting in the north-western region of Pakistan in 2009, Amnesty International said in a report published in London Thursday.

The report, entitled As if Hell Fell on Me, said millions of Pakistanis in the north-west tribal areas lived in a "human rights free zone" where they had no legal protection from the government and were subject to abuses by the Taliban. DPA reported.

Nearly four million people were effectively living under the Taliban in the region without the rule of law and had been effectively abandoned by the Pakistani government, said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International's interim Secretary General.

More than a million people were still displaced.

The 130-page report is based on some 300 interviews with residents of the area, Amnesty said.

The report documents what it calls the systematic abuses carried out by the Taliban "as they established their rule by killing those who challenge their authority."

"They imposed their rule through torture and other ill-treatment, targeting teachers, aid workers and political activists. The Taliban have particularly targeted women and schools and health clinics catering to their needs."

Successive Pakistani governments had treated the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan with "disdain," Amnesty said.

Over the past decade, Pakistan's government had "veered from appeasing the Pakistani Taliban through a series of failed 'peace deals' to launching heavy-handed military operations that include indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks." 

The use of drones by the US to target insurgents had generated "considerable resentment" inside Pakistan. Amnesty called on the US to clarify its chain of command and rules of engagement for the use of drones and to ensure proper accountability for civilian casualties.

Amnesty urged the Pakistani government to bring the region "out of this human rights black hole" and asked the Taliban to comply with international humanitarian law by taking all measures to prevent loss of civilian life while allowing access to provide aid to the injured and displaced.

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