Human Rights Watch (HRW) on March 23 said that Pakistan should hold former military ruler Pervez Musharraf accountable for alleged human rights abuses upon his return to the country. Musharraf is expected to return to Pakistan on Sunday to be a candidate in upcoming parliamentary elections, ending a four-year self-imposed exile. A judge on Friday granted him protective bail so that he cannot be arrested within 10 days of his return on charges related to dismissal of judges and 14 days on charges related to two murders. HRW Pakistan Director Ali Dayan Hasan said:
The US gave full control of Bagram Prison to Afghanistan on March 25, winding down the US military presence in the country. President Hamid Karzai sought to regain control of the detention center in efforts to reclaim sovereignty over the country, as the US prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The US was concerned that turning over the prison would put the secure detention of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members at risk. The official handing over of control to Afghan authorities took place after an agreement was reached during a phone call between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Karzai on March 23. US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan in an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
A car bomb exploded at the Jalozai displaced persons camp outside Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan on March 21, killing at least 15 and leaving some 50 injured. The dead included two women and two children. The camp, Pakistan's largest, is home to tens of thousands fleeing violence and persecution in the Taliban-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan. The blast took place at the gate of a FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) distribution point where camp residents had lined up to for rations. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) disassociated itself from the attack. (Dawn, BBC News, March 21)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Feb. 25 ordered all US Special Forces out of two key provinces within two weeks, accusing Afghan units under their command of being responsible for the torture, abuse and disappearance of civilians. Wardak and Logar provinces, lying just outside Kabul, are considered strategic gateways to the capital. Karzai's charges reference two apparently recent incidents: The disappearance of nine civilians following a special forces operation, and the death of a student who was taken away during a night raid and whose body was found two days later under a bridge with his throat cut and signs of torture. The US has denied its forces were involved.
One of Afghanistan's top airlines has been officially blacklisted by US authorities for allegedly trafficking opium on civilian flights, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 25. Kam Air is said to be smuggling "bulk" quantities of the drug to Tajikistan, a major export route to international markets. US Army Maj.-Gen. Richard Longo, commander of Task Force 2010, a coalition anti-corruption unit, stated: "The US will do no business with those who fund and support illicit activities. Kam Air is too large of a company not to know what has been going on within its organization." Gen. Longo confirmed that his task force has conducted an investigation into Kam Air but said details remain classified. The airline remains barred from US contracts, even as Kam Air is in talks to merge with Afghanistan's state-owned carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines.
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson announced (PDF) on Jan. 24 that he will begin investigating the legality of the use of drone strikes. Emmerson said that after asking the US to allow an independent investigation of its use of targeted killings last year, there is still no consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. He stated an investigation by the UN was necessary in order to establish clear international guidelines on the use of this and other emerging technology:
Prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities are still being beaten and tortured, according to an annual report (PDF) released Jan. 20 by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA interviewed 635 conflict-related detainees in detention facilities across Afghanistan, finding that more than half of those interviewed had experienced maltreatment and torture. Fourteen different methods of torture were described, including prolonged and severe beatings with cables, pipes, hoses or wooden sticks, and suspension from the ceiling by the wrists or from chains attached to the wall so that the victim's toes barely touch the ground or he is completely suspended in the air for lengthy periods. Detainees were also threatened with sexual violence or execution. Torture generally took the form of abusive interrogation techniques by Afghan officials seeking information or a confession:
Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Jan. 22 condemned US drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. Khar stated that the drone attacks are "counterproductive" and that she plans to discuss the issue with the US and its ambassador to Pakistan. Earlier this month, retired general Stanley McChrystal expressed similar concerns cautioning against the overuse of drone attacks and stating that their use breeds resentment around the world. US President Barack Obama, who personally approves each drone strike against suspected terrorists, is expected to sign off on a manual which will establish rules for the administration's targeted killing program. However, the administration's counter-terrorism manual will exempt drone strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan from being bound by the new rules.