JPP, Amnesty Intl Show Concerns Over Delay In Repatriation Of Pakistani Prisoners From  Saudi Jails


JPP, Amnesty Intl show concerns over delay in repatriation of Pakistani prisoners from  Saudi jails

Both organizations say that Prince Muhammd Bin Salman visited Pakistan last year on Feb 17 and made promise but that promise has not yet been fulfilled.

LAHORE: (Urdu Point/Pakistan Point News-Feb 17th, 2020) Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Amnesty International both have expressed their concerns over delay in repatriation of prisoners from Saudi Arabia.

Both organizations which work on human rights have said that a year has passed since Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman visited Pakistan on February 17, 2019, and announced the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistanis imprisoned in the Kingdom. But, they say, no prisoner has been released so far.

“The promise has not yet been fulfilled,” said the JPP in a statement.

A list of 579 Pakistani prisoners released from Saudi Arabia was submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Lahore High Court on November 12 last year. An analysis of that list reveals that only 89 of those prisoners returned after the crown prince’s announcement. The rest had been repatriated prior to that.

“We are also concerned about the lack of transparency shown by the government with regards to information on the release of the prisoners. Contradictory statements given in the parliament, in court, and to journalists is a worrying development that needs to be addressed as a responsibility towards the families who have been awaiting the return of their loved ones for a year,” JPP said. It further said that

“When we first heard the announcement from the Crown Prince in February last year, we were jubilant. We were convinced it was only a matter of time before we would be reunited with our mother who has been languishing in Jeddah’s Dhahban Prison since May 2017,” says Mehboob Baig, 36, adding that his ageing mother is over 60 years old and has lost sight in one eye. “Her health is deteriorating with each passing day and we appeal to the government to bring her back.”

We urge the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to take immediate steps to ensure the return of the rest of the more than two thousand prisoners pardoned by the Crown Prince. Many of these individuals are migrant workers who had never travelled internationally before, and were unaware of the laws of the land or even their own rights. They were victims of due process violations. Some were coerced into smuggling drugs on threat of violence, something that was never factored into the death sentences passed against them.

Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia are at the mercy of local courts without access to lawyers, impartial translators, or effective consular assistance from their diplomatic missions. They then face the harshest punishments due to their lack of understanding of and assistance with the legal process, incapability to communicate directly with the court, and inability to produce evidence from Pakistan in their defense.

Sarah Belal, Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan says: “A prince made a promise to a prime minister. It is now up to the bureaucracies and governments of both countries to make good on it. We are hopeful that the two governments will work together to ensure the return of these prisoners at the earliest. But we also urge the Government of Pakistan to enact and implement a uniform consular protection policy along with prisoner transfer agreements so that a permanent mechanism can be devised to repatriate prisoners instead of relying on ad hoc measures to provide relief to vulnerable Pakistanis imprisoned abroad.”

Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director of Amnesty International says: “Pakistan prides itself on the remittances that migrant workers bring into the country, but there is little thought given to the harsh conditions they work in or the even harsher penalties they face at the mercy of a legal system that often violates their human rights. Pakistan has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, one it should use to ensure those migrant workers who were denied justice finally see an end to their ordeal. A close relationship between two states shouldn’t be limited to its rulers, it should also translate into mutual respect for each other’s citizens,”.

Fida Hussnain

Fida Hussnain is a lahore based journalist. He writes on politics, religion, social issues and climate change. He is also a research fellow at University of Gujrat.