Update from Wilder Tayler on the situation of Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani

Dear ICJ Commissioners and Honorary Members,

I am writing to follow-up on my letter of 21 August 2009 concerning the arrest and detention of our Syrian ioner Muhannad Al-Hasani. As he awaits likely prosecution before the State Security Court, Muhannad Al-Hasani is now facing a disciplinary “trial” before the Syrian Bar Association on the same charges pending against him before the State Security Court.  The Syrian Bar Association is not independent and is under the control of the Baa’ts ruling party.  Under the 1981 Syrian Bar association law, Al-Hasani might be suspended from practicing law for an unlimited or indefinite period.  The Bar Association allowed him to be represented by a lawyer during this proceeding, and according to information provided by his lawyer, Al-Hasani is remains at risk of ill-treatment in Adra prison, Damascus.

I had a meeting with the Syrian ambassador last Friday. It was an opportunity for me to express the ICJ¹s deep concern about the arrest of Al-Hasani and to impress upon the the Syrian Government that his arrest constitutes a serious attack against the Syrian legal profession and the Rule of Law in Syria.

However, I am concerned that it is quite possible that the Syrian authorities will go ahead with the trial of Al-Hasani before the State Security Court. If this were to occur, we will monitor the trial. Meanwhile, we are seeking to send an urgent mission to Syria in solidarity with Al-Hasani and to see if we can make progress with the relevant officials in Damascus.

The Mission will try to meet with representatives of the Syrian Government, the Bar Association and the State Security Court, and will seek Al-Hasani¹s release and the dropping of the charges, and the restoration of his capacity to practice his profession, including as a human rights defender.  The Mission will also try to have access to Al-Hasani in Adra prison.

I will let you know as soon as there is any further development with this situation. Many thanks to those of you who have already taken actions in defense of, and solidarity with, our colleague Muhannad Al-Hasani.

Best regards,

Wilder Tayler

Acting Secretary General

International Commission of Jurists

HRCP urges Pakistan, India to resume prisoner swap, stop arrests for minor violations

Press Release, 5 August 2009

Lahore: As the Pakistani and Indian governments exhibit a welcome resolve to resume dialogue, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urges them to also reconsider the plight of each other’s nationals incarcerated in prisons across the border, institute long-term policies to de-criminalise minor visa or border-crossing violations and stop violating Article 73 (Enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal State) of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that prohibits the arrest of fishermen crossing a maritime border.

HRCP urges an early resumption of the process of reciprocal exchange of prisoners, halted since the Mumbai attacks.

HRCP endorses the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s demand for a permanent solution that includes a policy in which Pakistan and India stop arresting each other’s fishermen for maritime boundary violations. Such detentions routinely violate Article 73 of UNCLOS, according to which penalties for violations “may not include imprisonment, in the absence of agreements to the contrary by the States concerned, or any other form of corporal punishment”.

When making such arrests, the security agencies also seize boats, equipment and catch worth lakhs of rupees. Dozens of such boats, representing the hard work and sweat of the poor, lie rotting in harbours on either side.

Pakistan and India allow each other’s arrested citizens no access to consular services until after they have served their prison terms. Many languish for years in brutal conditions. They have no legal rights or the ability to challenge their arrest or engage a lawyer. Normally their families remain oblivious of their arrests, location of prisons and the conditions there.

Cases come to public notice when prisoners’ families or friends are lucky to acquire information, take up the issue and notify the media. Engaging lawyers across the divide also adds to the woes of the incarcerated prisoners and their families. Such families often remain long ignorant of the arrest and whereabouts of their loved ones. Sometimes, even after prisoners are returned, they have nowhere to go if they have lost track of their families, or their families have disowned them.

Use of torture as well as negligence is rampant in prisons in both countries.  This has resulted in the loss of lives as well as leaving many prisoners on both sides physically and mentally scarred for life.

The two States must ensure that each other’s nationals are repatriated at the earliest and that they are not denied basic human rights in prisons merely on account of their nationality.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

Alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi recorded during the 1st quarter of 2009

Press Release, April 14, 2009

 

An alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi was recorded during the first quarter of 2009

 

Karachi: According to the statistics maintained by Sindh Chapter of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an increase of 13% (8.4% in cases of women and 4.9 in children) has been recorded in the killings and accidental deaths of citizens of Karachi during the first quarter of 2009.  This does not include deaths due to road accidents.

 

During the first quarter of 2008, a total of 387 deaths were recorded including that of 25 women and 18 children, while during the first quarter of 2009, it was 415 including that of 62 women and 40 innocent children.

 

Below are some comparative figures for the first quarters of 2009 & 2008:

 

·        54 persons died due to drinking of toxic wine (2009)

·        45 persons were killed due to personal enmity while last year it was 32

·        37 persons killed during robbery while last year it was 44

·        24 persons lost lives in target killing while last year it was 25.

·        19 persons kidnapped and killed while last year it was 53.

·        19 dead bodies were found while last year it was 21.

·        17 political activists were killed while last year it was 51.

·        15 persons killed in police encounter while last year it was 20.

·        12 labourers died at work while last year it was 12.

·        11 policemen were killed while last year it was 15.

·        07 persons were killed on railway track while last year it was 11.

·        07 persons were killed due to stray bullets while last year it was 9.

·        06 persons were killed due to overdose of drugs while last year it was 4.

·        06 persons were killed in Lyari gang war while last year it was 17.

·        05 persons were killed by police torture while last year it was 02.

·        04 persons died in jail while last year it was 02.

·        03 Security guards were killed while last year it was 07.

·        01 person was killed in bomb blast while last year it was 14.

·        05 persons dead due to negligence of different departments of government.

·        01 person was killed by relatives due to love marriage.

·        01 person was killed in ethnic riots.

 

Women            

 

·        23 women were killed by unknown persons while last year it was 11.

·        20 women died due to burn injuries.

·        14 women were killed by their relatives while last year it was 12.

·        07 women were killed on railway track.

·        03 women killed during robbery while last year it was 02.

 

Children

 

·      40 children died in different incidents while last year it was 18.  Among the 40 this quarter, 21 children died due to fire, 6 were kidnapped and killed, 5 drowned in open sewerage tanks, dead bodies of 2 infants were found, 2 were killed due to stray bullets, 01 was killed on railway track and 1 lost life in target killing.

 

Major incident causing death during the first quarter of 2009

 

At least 40 people were killed and around 25 injured when a fire ripped through dozens of shanty homes in North Karachi, in January 2009.

 

HRCP Sindh Office

Unit # 8, First Floor, State Life Building # 5,

Abdullah Haroon Road, Saddar, Karachi

Ph: (021) 5637131 – 32.

Adiala first prison to have church

Daily Times - Saturday, January 03, 2009

 

RAWALPINDI: Adiala Jail becomes the country’s first prison to have a church on its premises. The prison is likely to open the doors of the church to its over 250 Christian prisoners in a fortnight. A bishop will formally open the church, it’s learnt. The Adiala Jail authorities have provided two and a half kanals land and local Christian community Rs 1.2 million for the church’s creation, the jail sources said on Friday. They said a volunteer godfather had been appointed to the church. A Christian prisoner said he was very delighted that the jail authorities took Christian inmates to the district courts’ church on Xmas Day and the New Year eve. He said the prisoners were allowed to stay at the church for hours. He said the event was first of its kind. He said Christians donated money and distributed meal among other prisoners on Christmas Day and New Year eve. Another Christian inmate praised the prison authorities for allotting land for the church. He said work on the church continued unobstructed till its completion. He said Christians were very happy to have a proper place of worship inside the jail. Pervez Masih, a visitor to Adiala Jail, said Christians had planned creation of churches in the province’s other jails too. He said his community expected the government’s financial and administrative support in this respect.

HRCP welcomes withdrawal of cases against Pakistanis jailed in India

Press Release, December 24

 

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the recent withdrawal of cases by India against 51 Pakistani prisoners at a time of tensions between the two countries.

 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Commission said: “The decision by India to drop cases against 51 Pakistani prisoners in Jodhpur Prison and the order to release them can only be welcomed. The gesture is even more appreciable than usual since it comes at a time when sanity is at a heavy discount on both sides and jingoism and war hysteria is being whipped up.

 

The 51 people charged with visa irregularities have already suffered enough for their mistakes. The HRCP urges the governments of India and Pakistan to not defer co-operation in such cases of humanitarian nature. Extending goodwill to each country’s prisoners in the other’s jails could be critical to promoting peaceful bilateral relations.

 

Both countries must also take urgent steps to ensure that the travel agents responsible for furnishing improper or tampered visas to visitors between the two countries are brought to justice and the illegal practice stopped.”

 

Dr Mehdi Hassan

Vice-Chairperson