Govt’s efforts to bring Dr Aafia home meet another setback


Aafia’s lawyer says Pakistan did not need to become party to multilateral treaty for her repatriation

The government’s efforts to secure early repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui from the US suffered a setback after the Council of Europe rejected its request for accession to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, according to sources.

In August last year the federal cabinet approved a proposal for the government to seek accession to the Council of Europe’s treaty on transfer of convicts. Subsequently, the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, wrote a letter to the council requesting accession to the convention.

The council is Europe’s leading human rights organisation. It has 47 member states, 28 of them members of the European Union.

When contacted, Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam denied that Pakistan’s request had been rejected.

“The Council of Europe has neither rejected nor accepted the request. The matter is still pending with the council for a consensus decision,” she added.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s sister Fauzia has blamed the government for what she termed a fiasco. “I am disappointed… I had maintained that the Council of Europe had nothing to do with my sister, who is detained in the US,” she remarked.

In a letter sent to Aziz, Dr Aafia’s attorney, Tina M Foster, wrote, “Even now that the request (for accession to the convention) has been rejected, no alternative measures are being taken.”

Pakistan did not need to become a party to a multilateral treaty in order to secure the repatriation of Aafia, the attorney said.

The letter read that Pakistan and the US recently executed a bilateral agreement for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners held in US custody in Afghanistan.

Foster described Aafia’s transfer from Afghanistan to the US in 2008 as illegal.

“As a Pakistani citizen, Dr Siddiqui was entitled to consular access by Pakistan officials while in Afghan police custody in July 2008. Instead, the United States transferred her from Afghan sovereign territory to the United States against her will, without the consent of the government of Pakistan and in contravention of international law.

“Even if the US government had not acted illegally by transferring her to US jurisdiction, Pakistan can, and should, demand her immediate repatriation.”