Letter To Chief Justice Isa On Hassan Niazi’s Disappearance
A collective of senior journalists and political commentators have penned an open letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, expressing concern about the enforced disappearance and violations of fundamental rights of lawyer and political activist Hassan Khan Niazi and others in similar situations.
The letter, signed by prominent figures such as Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami, Altaf Hasan Qureshi, Ata ul Haq Qasmi, Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, and Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, addresses the Chief Justice as follows:
“To the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan,
Mr. Justice Qazi Faez Isa,
Supreme Court of Pakistan,
23 September 2023.
Urgent appeal concerning the enforced disappearance and other grave human rights violations against Hassan Khan Niazi and other detained individuals.
We are a group of print and electronic media journalists, political commentators, and, above all, concerned citizens from across Pakistan deeply dedicated to safeguarding constitutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law in the country.
We write this letter to you as the guardian of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan to draw your attention to serious constitutional violations and the flagrant disregard for the rule of law in the treatment of individuals accused of involvement in the disturbances on 9 and 10 May.
One illustrative case is that of Barrister Hassan Khan Niazi, the son of our colleague Hafeezullah Khan Niazi, a longstanding advocate in the media for upholding constitutional and democratic principles.
According to reports, the police arrested Hassan Niazi on 13 August 2023 in connection with the violence on 9 and 10 May. On 17 August 2023, his custody was handed over to the military. Since then, Hassan Niazi’s whereabouts remain unknown. Authorities have denied his family access to him and have even withheld basic information regarding his well-being. Hassan Niazi’s right to a legal defense, including the appointment of a lawyer of his choice, is also being denied.
The concealment of Hassan Niazi’s fate or whereabouts places him outside the protection of the law and subjects him to enforced disappearance, a crime against humanity, as defined by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has unequivocally stated that no law enforcement agency can forcibly detain a person without disclosing their whereabouts to their relatives for an extended period.
The Islamabad High Court, too, has recognized enforced disappearance as one of the most heinous crimes that cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever. Furthermore, it has acknowledged the anguish, suffering, and environment of uncertainty faced by family members of individuals in secret detention.
The treatment of Hassan Niazi also disregards the assurances given by the Attorney General of Pakistan to the Supreme Court in the case concerning the constitutionality of military trials for civilians. During a hearing on 26 June 2023, the Attorney General assured the Court that detained civilians would have telephonic communication with their nominated family members and that a visitation schedule would be established. On 21 July, he pledged that accused civilians would have the right to appoint private counsel of their choice for their defense.
We are also deeply concerned about Hassan Niazi’s health and safety. As noted by the Islamabad High Court, secret detention makes detainees particularly vulnerable to torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, as they are entirely at the mercy of authorities, without any oversight, accountability, or legal protection, in clear violation of Articles 9, 10A, and 14 of the Constitution and fundamental principles of humanity.
We urge you to instruct the relevant authorities to disclose Hassan Niazi’s whereabouts, permit Hassan Niazi’s family to visit him, allow him to engage a lawyer of his choice, and arrange for an independent medical assessment to address concerns of torture or other ill-treatment.
We also call on you to ensure that all other disappeared persons or individuals held in secret or arbitrary detention are placed in official detention facilities, provided access to their family members, and detained under conditions fully respecting their human rights.
We trust that our courts will ensure that those responsible for the disturbances on 9 and 10 May are brought to justice in accordance with the law. However, gross human rights violations against the accused and their families under the guise of “accountability” are unconscionable and make a mockery of the rule of law and due process.
We have the utmost faith and expectation that you will heed our appeal and take prompt action to uphold the Constitution, protect the fundamental rights of the people, and preserve the core democratic values in our country.”