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Sunday, 28 February 2016
US declines Aafia Siddiqui’s repatriation
Says political climate not favouring repatriation even if Pakistan joins Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad
ISLAMABAD - The United States has said it would not repatriate Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan even if Islamabad joins the Inter-American Convention on Serving of Criminal Sentences Abroad 1993, it has been learnt reliably. According to the documents exclusively available with The Nation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had approached the US government for confirmation if they would agree to its proposal for transfer of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to serve her remaining period of jail in Pakistan, in case Pakistan secures membership of the said convention. The US side has now formally conveyed, “the present political climate in the USA would preclude the chances of any meaningful response regarding Pakistan’s request for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui even if Pakistan were to join the Inter-American Convention on Serving of Criminal Sentences Abroad,” the documents revealed. A source in the Foreign Office here said that the US decision has thrown the political government in Pakistan into utter disappointment which, he said, wanted to take a political mileage of the repatriation of Siddiqui. “The government sincerely did its efforts to achieve the objectives but the same did not yield positive results,” he added. The source told this correspondent that the Pakistani authorities believe that the US side intends to pursue the matter as a political one rather than a legal or humanitarian subject. “Keeping in view the US approach, the Pakistani authorities are now weighing other options to lure the US authorities for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The possible subjects for discussion with the US authorities in the coming days can be revocation of death sentence, amendment in blasphemy laws, better security for minorities and more rights for Pakistani women,” he added. The documents further show that a number of legal options were under consideration of the Pakistani authorities to handle Aafia’s case. One of them was Transfer of Prisoners for completion of sentences. Under the US law, a person sentenced under federal law to a term of years may be repatriated or transferred to their country of national origin only if the country in question is signatory to a prisoner transfer treaty to which the US is also a signatory. The US is a signatory to two multilateral prisoner transfer treaties, namely the Council of Europe (COE) Convention; and the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad (OAS Convention). Pakistan, however, is not a signatory to either convention nor is there a bilateral treaty in place between Pakistan and the US for prisoners transfer. Therefore, in the absence of Pakistan’s accession to one of the multilateral prisoner transfer treaties or negotiations of a bilateral treaty between the US and Pakistan, it would be unlawful for the US government to return Dr Siddiqui to Pakistan while her sentence is still in force. The documents further revealed that the ministry of foreign affairs in its communications dated 26, 27 July, 2010, took up the matter with the Interior Ministry and Law and Justice Division. Both the ministries were requested to initiate steps for acceding to international Conventions on Transfer of Prisoners with EU and OAS but the US side has now declined the repatriation even if Pakistan were to join the convention. The documents said, the other available option for Aafia’s repatriation was the ‘Presidential Pardon’ or commutation. The US constitution gives the US President absolute discretion in awarding a pardon or commuting a sentence. However, they are usually not awarded in cases where the defendant has not admitted responsibility nor shown any remorse. Dr. Siddiqui had limited chances of the use of this option since she did not accept any responsibility for her alleged crimes. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui had reportedly gone missing along with her three children in 2003. After British journalist Yvonne Redley had stated at a press conference in July 2008 in Islamabad that a woman prisoner No 650 (grey lady) was detained at the US Base in Bagram, human rights organizations and media claimed that the grey lady was the missing Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The US embassy in Islamabad on August 4, 2008 conveyed the Pakistani authorities that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was taken in the US custody from Afghan authorities on July 17, 2008 in Ghazni and had been transferred to the US on August 3, 2008. As the Pakistani embassy in Washington approached the US authorities to hand over the custody of her children to Pakistan in case they were in the US custody, the US responded that it had no information about her two missing children. The US, however, facilitated repatriation of her eldest son Ahmed to Pakistan through Afghan authorities. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was indicted by the US government in a US court of law on September 2, 2008 on charges of seven counts of attempted murder and assault on the US soldiers during a confrontation in Afghanistan in July 2008. Pakistani embassy in Washington was engaged with senior US officials for finding a way out for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in parallel, was also pursuing the matter with the visiting US dignitaries and embassy officials for her repatriation to Pakistan. When contacted, US embassy in Islamabad’s spokesman said that the US can only evaluate a request for a prisoner transfer once the country is a signatory to the convention.