HRCP urges end to endemic torture

Press Release, 25 June 2009

LAHORE: The use of torture by state agents continues to be endemic despite Islamabad’s signing of the Convention Against Torture and this situation must end, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

In a statement issued on the eve of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26), HRCP said, “While signing the Convention Against Torture in April last year, Pakistan had expressed its commitment to ensure that torture would become a thing of the past. Yet torture remains endemic in Pakistan and has in fact increased as a result of the so-called war on terror, even though international human rights law explicitly states that neither higher orders nor exceptional circumstances can justify torture.

Also, in the absence of proper investigation techniques in the country, those tasked with investigation of crime rely almost exclusively on torture to extract confessions.

Pakistan must take meaningful steps to guarantee due respect for human person by outlawing torture. Those guilty of it must be prosecuted and punished. As first steps in this direction the Convention Against Torture should be ratified forthwith and domestic legislation necessary for its implementation must be undertaken on priority basis.”

I. A. Rehman

Secretary General

HRCP questions voluntary nature of refugees’ repatriation

Press release, 24 June 2009

Lahore: The repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan does not meet the required standard of voluntarism deemed mandatory by international refugee law, a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

The report entitled ‘Push Comes to Shove’ – whose publication coincided with the World Refugee Day, June 20 – studies the trends and patterns of repatriation of Afghan refugees through 2007 and 2008 to determine whether the process was voluntary.

The study conducted by HRCP’s Peshawar chapter says that even though many Afghan refugees in Pakistan signed up for repatriation, large numbers did so not because they thought that it was safe to return, but because they believed they had no choice in the matter.

Refugees interviewed from camps slated for closure spoke of harassment by police, lack of security, basic infrastructure, education, health and livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan as the main reason for their hesitation to return.

All Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan were required to leave by the end of 2009. Those living in camps slated for closure could opt to relocate to another camp. An overwhelming majority of refugees declined relocation to another camp, not because they were keen to return to Afghanistan but said they would not want to be uprooted again when the December 2009 deadline arrived. That deadline has now been extended to 2012.

According to the report, outside the camps slated for closure, “an environment of persecution and intimidation was created by checking movement of refugees and harassment at the hands of police. In camps, houses were razed and businesses locked, often resulting in confrontation between the authorities and the refugees.”

Repatriation may be the preferred solution for all concerned but adhering to the principle of voluntarism must not be ignored and the needs of refugees with additional vulnerabilities must be considered, the report said.

“Any attempt to repatriate Afghan refugees must take into account their willingness to return and the conditions back home, especially security and shelter,” it added.

I.A. Rehman

Secretary General

Killing of noted religions scholar Dr. Sarfaraz Naeemi

Press Release, June 12

Dr. Sarfaraz NaeemiLahore: Ms. Asma Jahangir, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed deep pain and anguish at the continuing suicide bombings that persist in causing heavy loss of human lives.

The latest incident of target bombing took the life of noted religions scholar Dr. Sarfaraz Naeemi, Head of the Jamia Naeemia, in Lahore and several faithfuls in a Nowshera mosque besides injuring several persons who came to offer Juma prayers.

HRCP chairperson has urged upon the federal and provincial governments and the law enforcement bodies to take strong preventive measures to bring to halt further loss of human life. Ms Asma Jahangir urged upon the political leadership of the country, members of the legislative bodies and social activists to undertake the task of mobilizing the public against the elements who desire to enforce their agenda through use of brute force.

She has urged upon the followers of Dr. Naeemi to remain peaceful while expressing their grief over the cowardly act of killing of their religious divine in the suicide bombing that killed and injured other innocent persons who had participated in the Juma prayers at the Jamia Naeemia mosque

Issued by: Husain Naqi

For Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Targeted Killings in Karachi

Press Release, 9 June 2009

Karachi: In a statement issued on Tuesday 09th June 2009, HRCP Vice-chairperson (Sindh) Ghazi Salahuddin has expressed deep concern over the alarming rise of violence in Sindh that is highlighted by the latest spate of targeted killings in Karachi. Following is the text of the statement:

At a time when the nation’s attention is focused on the counter-insurgency operation of the armed forces in northern areas and on the massive humanitarian crisis that it has spawned, a virtual breakdown of law or order in Sindh, particularly in Karachi, is a matter of deep concern for all law-abiding citizens. An environment of fear and insecurity that this situation has caused is generating lack of respect for basic human and democratic rights of the people.

Karachi has always had a potential for violence and disorder, a potential that has been expanded by poor governance and political expediencies. The present situation has been in the making for some time and it is disquieting to see that parties that are together in the ruling coalition have also been engaged in bitter rivalries that have exacerbated tensions and emboldened armed political/criminal factions.

The inability of the provincial administration to enforce rule of law and protect life and property of the citizens has raised the level of anxiety and uncertainty to an extent that the entire social equilibrium of the society is threatened. As for targeted killings in Karachi, apparently old rivalries and some new developments are involved. The complexity of this situation demands a combined effort on the part of all political and ethnic and linguistic factions to protect peace and social harmony in the city.

One measure of the gravity of the law and order situation in Karachi is that the number of political activists killed in the first week of this month has exceeded 35. It is extremely worrying that killers, who tend to appear suddenly, riding motorbikes, in often congested localities, are not apprehended by law enforcement agencies. This failure calls for a new strategy to reverse the rising tide of violence, with the sincere involvement of the political as well as the administrative arms of the provincial government.

Ghazi Salahuddin

Co-Chairperson

HRCP Sindh Chapter

HRCP grieved over death of Lourdes Joseph

Press Release, 8 June 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission has condoled the death of Ms Lourdes Joseph, who passed away in Dubai on Monday morning.

Ms. Joseph served for many years at HRCP’s Karachi office and was one of the earliest members of the HRCP Secretariat. She had suffered a stroke a few years ago, but recovered sufficiently to continue working and retired last year. Her contribution toward the cause of human rights will be remembered.

I. A. Rehman

Secretary-General