//Disappearances increase in Asia, Amnesty says

Disappearances increase in Asia, Amnesty says

Wed Aug 30, 2006

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Several hundred people in Pakistan have disappeared, apparently taken into detention in connection with the war on terrorism, human rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

So called enforced disappearance has long been a problem in strife-torn countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka, but new patterns have emerged in South Asia related to the war on terrorism, such as the Pakistani cases, it said.

"Whilst many of those have eventually been acknowledged as being held in Guantanamo Bay, others are believed still to be held in Pakistani detention although their precise whereabouts remain unknown," the rights group said, referring to the U.S. prison in Cuba.

Pakistan is a major ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and has rounded up hundreds of suspected militants and many are believed to have been handed over to the United States.

"South Asia has a history of enforced disappearances, with tens of thousands of people going missing over past decades in countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka," Amnesty International's deputy Asia director, Catherine Baber, said in a statement.

"It is very disappointing to see countries such as Pakistan join in the trend that one would hope would be declining," she said.

In Nepal, where Maoist rebels have battled government forces for the past decade, a government committee is investigating more than 600 cases of enforced disappearance, the rights group said.

But Nepal's state-funded National Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday at least 936 people were missing.

The commission said around 563 people have disappeared after being detained by government troops and around 315 others after being abducted by Maoist rebels.

"It is a matter of concern that the situation under which people are detained and kept without any information continues," it said in a statement.

The United Nations urged the Nepali government on Wednesday to clarify the fate of hundreds of missing.

Sri Lanka, where ethnic Tamil rebels began a war for a separate state in 1983, has one of the highest levels of unresolved enforced disappearance in the world, it said, though it did not give an estimate of the number of cases.

Up to 10,000 enforced disappearances have been reported in the Indian-controlled part of the disputed Kashmir region, where Muslim rebels have been battling security forces since 1989, it said.

Dozens of people demonstrated in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, on Wednesday to urge action to trace their missing relatives.

Baber said people should be detained lawfully.

"People should be arrested and detained according to the law, not forced into a van in the middle of the night and swept off to an anonymous detention centre where they risk torture and further abuse," she said.

Individuals should have the right to challenge their detention, to see a lawyer of their choice and talk to their families, Baber said.

(Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq in Srinagar and Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu)