Received earlier today from Jatin Desai
Press Release: Peace activists urge India-Pakistan Judicial Committee to make efforts for release of prisoners
Pakistani and Indian peace activists have urged India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners to recommend to both the governments to immediately release all Pakistani and Indian prisoners who are languishing in each other’s jails even after completing their periods of sentence and to establish a Joint Commission to devise a mechanism to determine and demarcate the maritime boundaries in a way that is visible to the fishermen of both countries.
In a letter to the Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners, whose members met in Pakistan from April 19, the peace activists and members of civil society organizations of Pakistan and India welcomed the convening of a meeting after a gap of more than two and a half years. The last meeting of the committee was held in Delhi in August 2008. It is significant that the Committee is meeting at a time when both the countries have decided to take the peace process forward.
“We sincerely thank both the governments for releasing a number of prisoners from each other’s prisons,” said the letter signed from, Pakistani side by Syed Iqbal Haider, Former Law Minister & Attorney General of Pakistan; Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF); Dr. A.H.Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC); Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo; Akhtar Hussain, Member, Pakistan Bar Council & Former President, Sindh High Court Bar Association; Syed Shamsuddin, Senior Journalist and Human Rights Activist; Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER) and B.M.Kutty, Secretary General, Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) and from Indian side by Mahesh Bhatt, film maker; Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT; Shahid Siddiqui, Former Indian MP and Journalist; Jatin Desai, Journalist & Associate, Focus on the Global South; Vrinda Grover, Lawyer & Activist of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and Mazher Hussain, Executive Director, COVA.
The letter requested the Joint Judicial Committee to make efforts for the release of all prisoners beyond the age of 70 years, particularly the most deserving case of Dr. Syed Muhammad Khalil Chishti, who has been in detention in Rajasthan for the last 20 years; and the creation of a mechanism that allows first-timers to be released along with their boats, with a warning, out at sea itself.
Around 400 Indian trawlers and about 150 Pakistani trawlers are lying in each other’s custody. The owners of these trawlers are also from the fishing community and they suffer heavily, as they are deprived of their only source of income. “We request the Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners to urge the two governments to release these trawlers without delay and facilitate their delivery to their owners in the two countries,” the peace activists appealed the committee.
They emphasized that women and juvenile prisoners, prisoners who are terminally ill or suffering from serious illnesses or physical disability, mentally disabled persons and prisoners involved in minor offences such as over-staying or visiting places not covered by the visa, deserve compassionate and humanitarian consideration. “We request the Joint Judicial Committee to recommend to the two governments to expedite the release and repatriation of such prisoners, whether under trial or convicts, to their respective countries.”
They said it has been observed that the nationality verification often takes around two years and even after completion of sentence, the prisoner cannot return to his/her country sans verification. “We request the Joint Judicial Committee to recommend to the two governments to complete the nationality verification formalities within a period of three months.”
The Indian and Pakistani civil society members requested the Joint Judicial Committee to recommend to the two governments that the Agreement on Consular Access be implemented in letter and spirit.
“We also request the Committee to recommend to the two governments that in case of death of a prisoner, his/her body should be handed over to his/her country of origin without delay. To clear any kind of doubt, the post-mortem examination should be carried out by a team of doctors.”
Both the governments may be requested to facilitate the prisoners to correspond with their family members, the letter urged.