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Pakistan Military, Taliban Blamed for Northwest Abuses

Pakistani security forces stand guard at the site of a deadly blast by four Taliban suicide bombers in Bannu, Pakistan, December 10, 2012.
An international rights group is blaming Pakistan's armed forces and the Taliban for human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture and unlawful killings in the northwestern tribal region.

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International said millions of Pakistanis are affected by a "legal wilderness" in the region near the Afghan border.

The rights group said Pakistan's military is responsible for human rights abuses that include enforced disappearances and ill treatment of those in custody. The group says it has documented cases in which the bodies of individuals who had been arrested by the armed forces were returned to their families or reportedly dumped in tribal areas.

Amnesty Deputy Asia Pacific Director Polly Truscott told VOA it is difficult to get information on the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

"Many of the bodies that do turn up show beatings and other such torture marks. And families, often, during the times between [the detainee] being taken away and the body found - if they are found at all -- they have no idea where their loved ones are," said Truscott.

Amnesty International said the Taliban has been committing a "range of human rights abuses," including capturing and killing soldiers, and carrying out unfair "quasi-judicial proceedings" that fail to meet basic international standards for fair trials.

Truscott said a lack of justice is a significant problem in the region.

"Both the Taliban armed groups, as well as the Pakistan armed forces, are able to commit their violations with complete impunity. And one of the reasons for that is that in the tribal areas, people do not have access to the courts, while in the rest of Pakistan they do. In the tribal areas, there is no opportunity for them to complain and to ensure justice for the situation that they are facing," said Truscott.

The Pakistani military rejected the allegations, calling them "a pack of lies." The military also said the findings were part of a "sinister propaganda campaign" against the armed forces.

Amnesty International said its findings are based on interviews that included victims, witnesses, Pakistani authorities and armed groups in the northwest region.

The London-based group urged Pakistani authorities to take steps that include investigating reports of human rights violations and abuses involving both the armed forces and the Taliban. The group also has called for legal reforms in tribal areas.

The U.S. has used drone strikes to target al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants in the northwestern region. The U.S. has said the strikes are a key tool in eliminating terrorists. However, Pakistan says the strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.