HRCP presents bleak picture of human rights in 2010-2011
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) launched Observatory Annual Report 2011 on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders at a local hotel on Thursday. HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusaf, HRCP Director IA Rehman and Salima Hashmi were present on the occasion.
According to the report, in the year 2010-2011, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances remained rampant, particularly in Balochistan, creating an extremely high-risk environment for human rights defenders. Judicial process in front of both the Supreme Court and high courts was still unnecessarily lengthy, contributing to a feeling of impunity. A high number of cases of enforced disappearances remained unresolved.
The report said that in an attempt to address the situation, the government set up a three-member Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED), headed by a former Supreme Court judge, in March 2010.
The CIED submitted its report at the end of the year. Yet, as of April 2011, its findings had not been made public and the CIED claimed that it had not been able to make any substantial progress in tracing the whereabouts of missing persons in Balochistan.
According to the report, throughout 2010 and in the beginning of 2011, the government had failed to provide safe and enabling environment for human right defenders who continued to be the victims of killings and abductions, in particular in areas that fall outside of its effective control, such as the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. Perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders were rarely brought to justice, and impunity remained widespread throughout the country.
In 2010-2011, members of religious minorities remained particularly vulnerable. In particular, members of the Ahmadi minority faced threats, discrimination and violent attacks, as illustrated by the attack on two Ahmadi places of worship on May 28, 2010 killing at least 70 members of the community.
The Shia community was also the victims of target killings, particularly in Balochistan. In addition, in January and March 2011 respectively, Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for opposing the blasphemy law. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that these high profile killings were “symptomatic of pervasive violence against religious minorities in Pakistan and a lack of protection for their places of worship.”
Torture remained widespread in 2010-2011, with security forces and other law enforcement agencies enjoying almost complete lack of accountability. Acts of torture committed in military custody or in detention centres run by the intelligence services were also endemic. Conditions of detentions remained poor in all parts of the country. As a welcome step, the government ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on June 23, 2010. However, the authorities made several reservations upon ratification, which raise serious concerns.
Freedom of Expression remained under attack by both government and the non-state actors. Although Pakistani media can openly criticise the government, journalists were targeted for their critical views of the military, the countries intelligence agencies and the Taliban forces alike. Reportedly, 20 journalists and media workers were killed in 2010, making Pakistan one of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world.
The Church-based NGO had been working for the rehabilitation of victims of the 2005 earthquake. HRCP believed that Taliban were behind the attack on the office of World Vision, which subsequently suspended all its operations in the country.
In addition, national and international NGOs reportedly suspended their field activities for earthquake victims in the Mansehra district and complained that the police had failed to provide them adequate security.
Human rights defenders working on the rights of religious minorities and women also faced increased risks. On August 19, 2010, HRCP member Veerji Kolhi was abducted in Hyderabad. He had previously called for justice for a gang-raped victim. He was subsequently released on August 23, 2010, after being threatened with dire consequences should he not be able to convince the victim and her parents to agree to a compromise in the rape case.