An Open Letter to President Zardari re Repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
LAW OFFICE OF TINA M. FOSTER
TINA MONSHIPOUR FOSTER
ATTORNEY AT LAW
An Open Letter to President Zardari re Repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
November 29, 2012
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
cc: Mr. Rehman Malik, Minister of Interior
Dear President Zardari,
I write on behalf of my client Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who has been unjustly imprisoned for nearly a decade. As you know, Dr. Aafia is currently suffering thousands of miles away from her home at the notorious Carswell prison in Texas. I will be visiting Dr. Aafia at Carswell in approximately two weeks. Accordingly, I am writing to respectfully request the courtesy of your government’s response to the following several options that I have previously suggested to achieve Dr. Aafia’s repatriation. Of course, I would greatly welcome news of any alternative suggestion or plan of action under consideration by your administration.
Ratification of a Multilateral Prisoner Transfer Treaty
At a public appearance last week, you stated that your government was unable to repatriate Dr. Aafia because Pakistan lacks a prisoner transfer treaty with the United States. But both the US government, attorneys for Dr. Siddiqui, and numerous independent legal experts have repeatedly advised your administration that Pakistan could easily become a signatory to one of the multilateral treaties that would allow Dr. Aafia to return to Pakistan.
I have repeatedly urged your government to sign-on to one of the multilateral prisoner transfer treaties in order to bring Dr. Siddiqui home. I first suggested this in 2010, both in correspondence as well as during face-to-face meetings with Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, and former Ambassador Hussein Haqqani. Since then, I have consistently asked your government to pursue this option, to no avail. For example, on April 24, 2012, I wrote the attached letter to Ambassador Sherri Rehman, setting forth (again) the numerous avenues for Dr. Aafia’s repatriation, including the adoption of one of the prisoner transfer treaties.
In addition, your administration has been provided with extensive legal briefing and recommendations from other attorneys with expertise in the domestic law of Pakistan, as well as international law. For example, in March 2012, Mr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi presented your government with extensive legal research memoranda and recommended that Pakistan ratifyeither the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, or the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad. As he explained, the ratification of such a treaty would enter into force after only 30 days and would allow Dr. Aafia to be legally repatriated to Pakistan immediately. Mr. Soofi
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sent the attached letter to follow-up on these recommendations with Interior Minister RehmanMalik on May 9, 2012, but received no response.
Now that Dr. Aafia’s legal case in the United States has concluded, the US government has suggested that she may be repatriated pursuant to one of the international prisoner transfer treaties to which the United States is a party. I hope that you will publicly announce that you support the immediate adoption of such a treaty so that Dr. Aafia can return to Pakistan.
Negotiated Bilateral Agreement for Prisoner Exchange
Regardless of the status of any applicable treaties, Pakistan and the United States could decide to repatriate Dr. Aafia based on an informal or ad hoc agreement between the nations at any point. As recently as August 2012, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Hoagland, stated that though the US and Pakistan do not currently have a formal agreement for the exchange of prisoners, “everything is possible in this world, if the will exists.” As an example of how such transfers may occur in the absence of any applicable treaty, Mr. Hoagland cited the exchange of cold-war era prisoners with the now-defunct Soviet Union. Such prisoner exchanges were accomplished through “backdoor negotiations” and informal bilateral arrangements between the two nations. However, as Ambassador Hoagland pointed out, Pakistan has not even taken the initial step of requesting Dr. Aafia’s repatriation from the United States.
For the past several years, numerous delegations of legal experts and activists from across the globe have visited Pakistan to urge your government to affirmatively seek Dr. Aafia’s repatriation to Pakistan. For example, UK-based attorneys with expertise in international prisoner transfers – Saghir Hussain and Amjad Rais – traveled to Pakistan in July 2010 to meet with Ministry of Interior officials concerning possible avenues for Dr. Aafia’s repatriation. It was agreed that the Ministry of Interior would transmit a formal request on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United States seeking Dr. Aafia’s repatriation.
Earlier this year, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited Pakistan for the sole purpose of urging your administration to take action to repatriate Dr. Aafia. During his meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Mr. Clark noted that, to date, Pakistan has failed to make a formal request to the United States for Dr. Aafia’s repatriation. Mr. Clark emphasized that a letter requesting Dr. Aafia’s repatriation must issue directly from the President of Pakistan to the President of the United States in order to be given appropriate weight.
Since Mr. Clark’s visit, former US Senator Mike Gravel and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have similarly urged Pakistani authorities to formally request Dr. Aafia’s repatriation from the United States. Mr. President, if you favor Dr. Aafia’s return to Pakistan, I urge you to immediately sign and send a letter to President Obama seeking Dr. Aafia’s repatriation without delay.
Option Three: Moratorium on Prisoner Transfers to the United States
The United States government illegally transferred Dr. Aafia – a Pakistani citizen – from Afghanistan to the United States in July 2008. Shortly thereafter, the attorney hired by the government of Pakistan to represent Dr. Aafia in the United States, Elaine Sharp, advised the Pakistani government that the transfer to US custody was not a legal extradition but, in fact, an illegal rendition. On August 29, 2008, Ms. Sharp wrote a 24-page letter to Pakistani authorities, detailing the numerous violations of Dr. Aafia’s legal rights by the US government. These include the USA’s violation of Dr. Aafia’s right to consular access pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, her illegal rendition in violation of the laws of Pakistan, and her rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Despite the US government’s flagrant disregard for the human rights of Pakistani citizens like Dr. Aafia, the Pakistani leadership continues to fulfill American requests for assistance in counterterrorism activities. Despite the absence of a formal prisoner transfer treaty, this routinely includes requests for prisoner transfers.
Since Dr. Aafia’s illegal rendition to the United States in 2008, there have been several golden opportunities for Pakistan to bring the daughter of the nation home. For example, in early 2011, the US government was demanding the repatriation of US citizen Raymond Davis, despite the fact that he had murdered two Pakistani citizens on Pakistani soil. At the time, I urged your government to demand Dr. Aafia’s repatriation as a precondition for negotiations with the United States regarding Davis. As you know, Davis has long since been repatriated to the United States, where he lives as a free man, while Dr. Aafia suffers daily under brutal conditions thousands of miles from her children, family, and homeland.
Mr. President, as a matter of policy I ask that your government immediately adopt a moratoriumon prisoner transfers to the United States unless Dr. Aafia is returned. Given the extreme crimes and continued injustices being perpetrated by the US government against Dr. Aafia, your government’s refusal to transfer prisoners to US custody would be an appropriate response until the daughter of the nation is returned.
I have previously presented the above recommendations to your embassy in Washington, as well as to various ministries of your government. However, to date, I have received no substantive reply from any Pakistani authority. Therefore, I am repeating my requests in this open letter, addressed directly to you, Mr. President, with the hope that it will finally produce a positive response.
Tina M. Foster
Attorney for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui