ISLAMABAD - Terming the enforced disappearances allegedly at the hands of military’s intelligence agencies as ‘heinous crime’, a high-level UN delegation has demanded of Pakistan to show ‘zero tolerance’ for stopping the practice.“The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) is aware of the difficulties encountered by law enforcement officials to bring criminals to justice and acknowledge the security challenges faced by Pakistan in different areas. However, it underscores that these challenges cannot be accepted as a justification to commit such a heinous crime as enforced disappearances,” said Olivier de Frouville, the chair-rapporteur of WGEID, while sharing the group’s preliminary observations on the completion of its ten-day visit to Pakistan (September10-20).The four member UN delegation, comprising two independent experts including the chair-rapporteur and Osman El-Hajje had paid visits to Pakistan’s five major cities, the federal and four provincial capitals and met with majority of the stakeholders (excluding military authorities who refused to meet with the UN delegation) for gathering information, make conclusions and suggest recommendations regarding missing persons scenario in Pakistan.“Human rights violations in the name of the fight against terrorism do not achieve their aim but can only, on the contrary, lead to further violations,” he said sharing the WGEID’s preliminary observations.“The figures communicated to us range from less than a hundred to thousands. In Balochistan alone, some sources allege that more than 14,000 persons are still missing, while the provincial government only recognises less than a hundred. To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket concerning the whole country. The number of officially registered allegations, although may not be reflective of the reality of the situation, is itself an indication of the existence of the phenomenon,” the observations said.The preliminary observations, however, did not include any mention of the much demanded and longed proposed legislation on antiterrorism laws, appeared to have lacked in their reflection on recommendations about these observations.Some other excerpts taken from the preliminary observations of the WGEID are narrated as: “As far as the nature of the practice is concerned, the authorities at the federal and provincial levels with whom we met often declared that most of the ‘missing persons’ were in fact not victims of enforced disappearances. According to those authorities, some of those persons had been under criminal charges and had chosen to go in hiding, while some others have fled to another country to join illegal armed groups.”“The Working Group received allegations according to which some of the persons with whom we met had been threatened or intimidated. We call on the state to guarantee the safety of those who have met with us and protect them against any form of reprisals, threat or intimidation.” “The WGEID also underscores that in order to prevent any act of enforced disappearances, it is of outmost importance that, as enshrined in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, any person deprived of liberty shall be held in an officially recognised place of detention and be brought promptly before a judicial authority.”“The Working Group welcomes the role played by the judiciary to shed light on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan and to trace missing persons. In 2007, the Supreme Court filed a number of petitions presented by individuals or NGOs. In a number of cases, the Supreme Court also took suo motu actions, showing its determinate will to tackle the problem. After the independence of the judiciary was reinstated in 2009, the courts continued to play a major role in the search for the disappeared persons and a number of persons resurfaced after having been kept in unlawful custody for several months, sometimes for years.”“Reportedly, the courts have avoided using compelling methods to ensure the cooperation of law enforcement and intelligence agencies whose agents were accused of having perpetrated an enforced disappearance. Some families informed the WGEID that, although they had brought witnesses before the court to substantiate their claims, the court before which the case was filed satisfied itself with the oral declaration by the representative of the said agency, denying the custody of the person. Others told the WGEID that the court failed to use its power to summon an agent suspected of having participated in an enforced disappearance. The main complaint was that the courts’ proceedings failed to result in prosecutions of the named perpetrators, even when evidence was, according to their lawyers, sufficient to do so.”“We were told by government officials that families of disappeared persons were not so keen to file complaints against named perpetrators and that in the absence of any complaint, no prosecution could be initiated. However, the WGEID would like to recall article 13(1) of the Declaration which provides that whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an enforced disappearance has been committed, the State shall promptly refer the matter to a competent and independent State authority for investigation, even if there has been no formal complaint. No measure shall be taken to curtail or impede the investigation. It was also reported to the WGEID that some victims and witnesses received serious threats when reporting their cases to the police, the courts or the Commission of Inquiry.”“The abduction, often taking place in front of witnesses, is reported to be perpetrated by law enforcement agencies, like the police or the frontier corps, jointly with members of intelligence agencies in civilian clothing. When asked whether they had filed a complaint for illegal arrest, families generally say they tried to file a first information report (FIR) with the police, but were turned down or discouraged to do so.”“Some families were promised that if they would not file a case, their loved ones would be released, which did not happen. Some other families were threatened that if they did file a case, their loved ones will be harmed, or another member of their family would also be abducted. According to the families we have heard, witnesses who were called to testify before the courts were threatened and in some cases victimized. In a few cases, the lawyers defending the families were reportedly themselves victims of enforced disappearances. Some of the abducted persons were released while others were never seen again by their relatives. A number of those who have returned have testified to being held in unofficial places of detention. Many of those who came back were allegedly threatened not to speak about their period of disappearance. Some however have chosen to take high risks to give statements before courts or before the Commission of Inquiry.”“The commission informed the WGEID that should its orders not be complied with, it had the power to initiate criminal proceedings against the potential perpetrators. But the WGEID has received no report of such criminal proceedings. Some families also reported to the WGEID that the Commission, after having reviewed a case, gave oral assurances to the family that their loved ones would soon return back home, which in fact never happened. They were not aware of whether or not a formal order had been delivered to the authority allegedly having the disappeared person in its custody.”“In Islamabad, the Working Group also held meetings with the Chief Justice and the judges of the High Court of Islamabad, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and the parliamentarians of the Standing Committee on Human Rights. Regretfully, some of the meetings that the Working Group had requested with a number of important actors both at the federal and provincial levels did not take place, notably with the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Inspector-General of Frontier Corps in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and the Chief Justices of the High Courts of Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.”