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Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 18:22 UK

Video shows Pakistan army 'abuse'

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

Men in Pakistani army uniform are seen beating a suspect
Men in uniform are seen kicking and hitting detainees

Pakistani soldiers are seen apparently abusing Taliban suspects in a 10-minute video which has been posted on the social networking site, Facebook.

The video would be the first clear proof of such abuse. It shows men in military uniform beating suspects as officers stand by giving instructions.

It is not clear who shot the film or where. It appears to have been made recently, perhaps in the Swat valley.

Pakistan's army has said it needs to examine the video before commenting.

Conversations heard on the video suggest it is recent. Troops recently declared they had largely cleared the Swat valley of insurgents after a sustained offensive there.

Human rights groups have accused the military of being involved in torture and extra-judicial killings in the region.

Whips

"This is a very serious accusation," Gen Athar Abbas, head of Pakistan army's public relations wing, told the BBC when asked about the video.

"I cannot comment on the video till we have examined it. This will take some time as the army headquarters will have to be involved in the process."

The footage shows an officer in Pakistani army battle uniform interrogating several suspects, some of whom are quite elderly and are presumably relatives of men being sought.

When the officer does not receive satisfactory answers, he motions with his head and soldiers rush in to punish the suspect.

They then beat him with belts, fists and what appear to be small whips. He is also kicked all over the body by soldiers wearing heavy army boots.

The suspect is heard screaming and imploring the soldiers to stop in the name of Allah, repeatedly saying he has told them all he knows.

In the video the soldiers administering the beating have to be restrained by the officer on at least two occasions.

Threats

After an initial round of punishment, the officer tells a suspect that this is "soft treatment". Unless the suspect tells all, the officer says he will have to administer "hard punishment".

"You don't want me to cut off your hands and feet," the officer says.

If confirmed, this would be the first clear proof of the Pakistani army being involved in the abuse of detainees.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and other groups have accused the army of such violations during the recent Swat campaign.

The HRCP says it has also found evidence that the army is involved in extra-judicial killings in the region.

The Pakistani army has consistently denied the reports, calling them "baseless."

But it has also said it will investigate if any solid proof emerges of its personnel being involved in such activities.



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