HRCP Interns 2006 – First 2 Reports Released

JJSO Counter Terrorism

We have decided to publish, in the form of monographs, studies and reports prepared by interns during their stay with us. Two such studies have just been issued as monographs

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  1. Jon Sherman, Columbia Law School, HRCP Intern 2006 – Trying Terrorism, Protecting Rights: Counter Terrorism and Human Rights in Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System since 9/11’
  2. Emilie Paquin-Holmested, McGill University, HRCP Intern 2006 – Juvenile Justice In Pakistan’

A copy is available at each Chapter Office. Anyone wishing to secure a copy may kindly contact the chapter offices and get requisite copies on payment of photocopy charges.

The offices will issue copies to members, non-members and research scholars similarly on payment of cost.

Excerpts of the reports can be found on the HRCP Interns 2006 link and soon on the HRCP website

Chief Justice Case Verdict – your opinion

Pictures courtesy Dawn 

Pictures courtesy Dawn

In what has been billed as a defining moment in the country’s otherwise chequered judicial history, the Supreme Court on Friday struck down the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and restored him to the seat of Pakistan’s top adjudicator.”

                                                                                                          Dawn, July 21, 2007

 “Pakistan might have been able to avoid quite a few disasters and the stigma of an unstable state if the Constitution and the law had received due respect from those who had the power to make or break a democratic polity. If the present case can bring home to the establishment the hazards of absolute rule and the need to revert to governance by people’s consent, consensus and concurrence, the trial the people have gone through for many weeks will not have been in vain” 

                                                                                       I. A. Rehman, Dawn, July 21, 2007  

Reviewing the current situation, regarding the SC decision on the CJ case, many people are celebrating and hailing this as a monumental decision in the history of the judiciary. Yet a hint of doubt lingers – should we have to wait for another analogous situation to transpire to see if this judgment really did make a difference.

This post invites comments, recommendations, debate and speculation on what you think this verdict means in the immediate and long-term duration of justice, politics and popular consensus in Pakistan.

Probe into Lal Masjid bungling must

LAHORE: A high-level, independent inquiry into the Lal Masjid operation, the clumsy manner in which it was carried and the deaths of an as yet undisclosed number of persons is essential. 

HRCP is appalled by the killing of so many, by the disproportionate use of brute force and the arbitrary action taken to deal with the situation. 

The question of the long delay in the conduct of the Lal Masjid operation, the confusion over the game plan under which ulema and government members conducted negotiations with Lal Masjid clerics and the lack of a clear-cut strategy regarding those who voluntary surrendered must also be probed. The absence of a coordinated plan in this regard hampered the operation and added to the confusion prevailing amongst people across the country.  The homage paid by government members and others over the last many years to clerics such as those running the Lal Masjid and the obsequious manner in approaching them has also quite obviously emboldened them.  

The situation at the Lal Masjid did not crop up overnight. The build-up of arms and the training in their use imparted to students had obviously continued for years, with the help and connivance of authorities. It also defies belief that the authorities learnt of the presence of alleged militants within the masjid only hours before the operation. The whereabouts of these individuals should not have been unknown to the vast intelligence network based in Islamabad.

Even now other seminaries exist, where militants are trained and arsenals of arms stocked. The existence and location of these seminaries are well known to authorities Indeed, the violent events seen at the Lal Masjid are an outcome of the collusion between the military and militants backed by the clergy that has continued for decades. 

The allegation that women and children were used as a human shield by militants at the Lal Masjid is appalling. Such exploitation of children by seminaries must end and an investigation made into the exemption granted to the seminary from regulating and monitoring its pupils. 

The government, with its ham-handed handling of the situation, has in fact created the potential for further problems ahead. The deaths of so many at the hands of State forces may act only to pave the way for greater extremism in society and support for the violent cause militants espouse.   

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

Free Kian

Free Kian

The Free Kian campaign has been started by friends and associates of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh. Kian is a distinguished scholar, teacher, and international expert on urban planning. He has worked tirelessly to aid the people of Iran and build bridges between them and the international community. 

Kian was arrested at his home in Tehran by the Iranian security services on May 11th, and has been detained in the notorious Evin prison since then. Kian has not seen a lawyer and has not been permitted visitors. We are shocked and saddened by his detention and the charges against him, which are wholly without merit. 

We believe Kian’s arrest was a terrible mistake, and are deeply concerned for his well-being. We call for the immediate release of Kian, Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, and other Iranian-American scholars detained in Iran.

Please visit the Free Kian website and sign the petition.

Anti-terror cases infringe human rights: HRCP

LAHORE, July 02: Pakistan’s preference for dealing with individuals suspected of terrorist and sectarian offences outside the domain of regular criminal law is leading to violation of their human rights.

This is the key finding in a new report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Entitled ‘Terrorist unless proven otherwise’, which has now been released to the public. The report peruses laws and extra-legal practices by government agencies in fighting terrorism and sectarian violence in the country. It tracks a string of ‘special’ laws introduced in Pakistan and concludes that in the last 32 years every time the government has been dissatisfied with the pace or outcome of prosecution of terrorist / sectarian offences, it has invariably dealt with them outside the regular criminal law regime by introducing ‘special’ laws or included new offences in existing ‘special’ laws.

The report explains how anyone accused of such offences under these ‘special’ laws is deprived of many universal human rights guarantees taken for granted in Pakistan’s criminal legal system.

It says that the latest ‘special’ legal instrument in a long line, the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), falls foul of international human rights laws and national constitutional guarantees on many counts.

These include presumption of guilt of the accused, an adequate defence of the accused being compromised on account of undue haste in trial (within seven days) and on appeal (seven days), allowing extra-judicial confessions, and trial in absence of the accused. According to the report, ATA also infringes numerous juvenile rights and is in express violation of Pakistan’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. HRCP has evaluated the outcome of cases under ATA and finds that despite the ‘special’ provisions of the law, justice is often neither speedy nor effective. It found faulty convictions based on patchy evidence and frequent overturning of trial courts’ verdicts on appeal.

The HRCP report also covers practices such as detention under preventive laws, ‘enforced’ disappearances within and outside the ambit of the so-called war on terror, unlawful surrender of individuals to other countries, and complicity in torture and refoulement.

HRCP says that existing laws and practices effectively sentence the accused first and deliver the verdict afterwards. The HRCP report acknowledges that governments have a legitimate interest in prosecuting those charged with any criminal act. But such actions must be legal and must not come at the expense of individual’s rights.