A Joint Press Release by ACAT-France and the Asian Legal Resource Centre
(Hong Kong & Paris, May 5, 2012) The Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and Action by Christians Against Torture France (ACAT-France) have today released a report concerning Pakistan’s human rights record. The report can be found here, http://www.alrc.net/PDF/ALRC-UPR-14-002-2012.pdf, along with an annex containing detailed case information, found here http://www.alrc.net/PDF/ALRC-UPR-14-002-2012-01.pdf. This report has been submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, under its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and notes that Pakistan has amongst the worst human rights situations in Asia and the world, notably concerning grave violations such as torture, forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and women’s rights. The report also highlights concerns regarding widespread corruption and impunity, which undermine efforts to establish justice and the rule of law in the country, as well as violations of the freedom of expression and the media, discrimination and violence against religious minorities, issues relating to the independence and functioning of the judiciary and the repressive and dangerous climate within which human rights defenders operate in the country.
Under the UPR, the human rights situation in each UN member-state is considered under a state-led peer-review system every four years. Pakistan’s record will be reviewed by the UN Working Group on the UPR on October 30th, 2012, on the basis of a report submitted by the government, one prepared by the UN, and another comprising the input of civil society organisations. The review will, in particular, evaluate Pakistan’s implementation of recommendations made to it during the country’s first UPR review in 2008.
“The UPR presents a rare opportunity to focus the international system’s attention on Pakistan’s human rights situation,” according to Mr. Baseer Naweed, ALRC Senior Researcher. “Although Pakistan is widely recognised as being a global hotspot in terms of insecurity and turmoil, due to its political alliances, it typically avoids the level of scrutiny by the international human rights system that the scale of rights violations in Pakistan warrants. Hundreds of forced disappearances have been reported from conflict-affected Balochistan province alone, for example. Elsewhere in the world, this would generally lead to far greater outcry.”
The ALRC and ACAT-France’s report includes analysis of Pakistan’s implementation of recommendations made during the 2008 UPR. Regrettably, while the government accepted and pledged to implement many recommendations in 2008 concerning the issues included in the report, in the majority of cases little credible action has in fact been taken.
ACAT-France’s Asia programs manager Christine Laroque notes that, “while the government’s ratification of the Convention against Torture (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are welcome moves, there are concerns that these are designed more to placate other UN member-states that have called for the government to tackle grave violations, rather than representing a credible attempt to halt such abuses and ensure justice for victims. This is made clear by the fact that torture remains widespread in Pakistan, and is being carried out by the military and intelligence agencies in the contexts of counter-terrorism and armed conflict, such as that in Balochistan province, but is also widespread in routine investigations by the police. Typically, those responsible continue to enjoy complete impunity for their actions. Credible action to investigate and prosecute such grave violations should be a major focus of future UPR recommendations.”
Also of concern is Pakistan’s ongoing failure to cooperate to acceptable levels with the UN’s human rights mechanisms. Despite pledges to invite UN expert Special Procedures on several key themes to conduct country visits, the government of Pakistan has continued to block such visits.
Naweed adds that, “the coming UPR round needs to ensure that the government of Pakistan implements the many pending recommendations from 2008 that remain relevant to date, and to increase its cooperation with the international system. Furthermore, the coming UPR round needs to push the government to institute reforms to its institutions of the rule of law – namely the judiciary, prosecution and police – that will enable the international conventions it has ratified and domestic legislation to become a reality on the ground. In particular, mechanisms must be created to ensure that the military and intelligence agencies operate within the law and can be held accountable for any and all abuses committee by their members. The government must commit to reforms to ensure impartial investigations – notably when those allegedly responsible are state agents – as well as effective prosecutions, and an independent judiciary that is capable of delivering justice. While some welcome new laws have been created recently, particularly concerning the protection of women’s rights, without institutions that are capable of upholding the rule of law, these will remain academic. UN member-states must look at the systemic causal factors that have resulted in the government’s failure to implement their prior recommendations, and focus new recommendations on these areas in the UPR’s second round, if it is to be a useful exercise.”
Some Key Recommendations
The ALRC and ACAT-France urge UN member-states to take up the recommendations included in the report, inter alia, by urging that the government of Pakistan:
- Takes all necessary measures to address corruption in the police, prosecution and judiciary;
- Reforms its institutions in order to enable effective investigations, prosecutions and fair trials concerning human rights violations, notably those allegedly committed by state agents and member of powerful groups;
- Ends the impunity enjoyed by the military and intelligence agencies, by ensuring civilian oversight over these agencies, and an effective and independent inquiry mechanism to ensure effective prosecutions of all allegations of human rights abuses made against their members.
- Ensures a standing invitation is issued to UN Special Procedures, and enables country visits by the mandates on torture, human rights defenders, extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances as a priority;
- Ensures the speedy ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture;
- Without delay, criminalises torture and forced disappearance under domestic law, in line with international standards, and ensures the immediate closure of all illegal secret detention centres;
- Removes all legal provisions that threaten the freedoms of the expression and the media;
- Ensures effective protection of the freedom of religion, by investigating and prosecuting all allegations of religious discrimination and violence, as well as forced conversion to Islam, including by punishing members of the authorities who are complicit with or fail to act to prevent such abuses;
- Ensures a review of the blasphemy law to bring it in line with the ICCPR.
- Ensures a halt to honour killings and other violations of women’s rights through the effective prosecution of those responsible, and accepts and implements the recommendations from the first UPR cycle concerning the Haddod and Zina Ordinances, adultery and the use of Qisas and Daiyat law.