Lahore, April 28, 2010: HRCP condemns the target killing of Nazima Talib, a university teacher in Quetta, and calls upon the government to provide adequate security to vulnerable academic staff across Balochistan and bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. Most of the victims are so-called settlers in the province who have been providing valuable services to people of Balochistan for the last several decades. Unfortunately, some Baloch militant organizations often claim responsibility for such murders and try to justify their acts as revenge for the excesses committed by the law-enforcing agencies against the Baloch political activists. HRCP is of the view that the excesses committed by the security agencies should not be visited on innocent non-Baloch people who served the Baloch society without any discrimination of race or language. The killing of innocent people on ethnic basis serves no purpose for otherwise a legitimate struggle for political rights of the Baloch population. It is unfortunate that most of senior Baloch leaders have not condemned these ruthless killings strongly enough, some of them present conspiracy theories to divert the blame from the Baloch organisations which hardly makes any sense. As the target killings have led to migration of the settlers, mostly engaged in the services sector where the Baloch people do not have or have little indigenous expertise, out of Balochistan, the Baloch people have suffered owing to increasing shortage of necessary services. As a result, the education system in the province has been destroyed besides the unavailability of other essential services such as healthcare. The government, despite the heavy presence of paramilitary forces and all sorts of intelligence agencies in the province, has failed in checking the crime. So far, no criminal has been brought to justice in any incident of target killing which emboldens the perpetrators of the crime. The discontent among the Baloch youth could not be assuaged though several months passed since the government made commitments to take measures to win over the Baloch nationalists, especially the young Baloch, under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan Package. The murder of the woman teacher at the Balochistan University should serve as a reminder to the powers that be that they need to act immediately and decisively to make things improve in the Balochistan province.
SAARC forum can, and should ensure the process of democracy in the region is not hijacked by short-sighted interests. STATEMENT ADDRESSED TO THE SAARC HEADS OF STATE BY MEMBERS OF SOUTH ASIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE OCCASION OF THE SAARC SUMMIT MEETING AT THIMPHU – BHUTAN 28™ – 29™ APRIL 2010 On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a democratic regional network of human rights defenders committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at both national and regional levels, we welcome the convening of the Summit of Heads of State of SAARC countries in Thimphu from 28th – 29th April 2010. South Asians share a common history and culture of tolerance and pluralism. Our ideals represent the principles of peace, democracy, secularism and human security as the basis of our diverse nationhoods. But our region remains backward and one of the poorest because of our divisiveness and intolerance of differences. The original purpose for which SAARC was formed – i.e. peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity through poverty alleviation and promotion of democracy as a basis for citizen-state relationship – can be best achieved in the South Asian region by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful cooperation among member states. 2010 marks 25 years of SAARC, and we believe that this is a good opportunity for all SAARC member countries to recall the goals and purposes for which SAARC was created in order to live in peace and amity. With the commencement of the SAARC summit in Bhutan, SAHR would like to highlight and bring to the attention of the Heads of Spates of the member countries several grave situations in the region:
• Today, Terrorism is a serious threat to peace in South Asia. Most terrorist movements are political and SAHR reiterates that military means should not be the main method of countering this threat. A meaningful dialogue between governments of the region and free exchange of views amongst citizens is essential to build blocks of peace. While SAHR applauds the initiatives taken by the governments of India and Pakistan for dialogue we respectfully urge that these talks are continued so as to realize the vision of a peaceful and just South Asia.
• The region is one of the poorest and a large number of citizens are faced with extreme poverty. SAHR believes that poverty is a violation of human rights and it is not an inevitable condition but the most evident indicator of bad governance. Recalling that SAARC countries continue to affirm the universal principles and values of human rights in previous summit declarations, SAHR notes that the governments are obliged to respect the principles of right to health, education, food security, water and development.
• South Asians share many bonds of family, kinship, religion and geographical proximity. Yet it is a region where restrictions on our freedom of movement across borders divide us. The formation of SAARC had raised hopes amongst the people of the region that it would lead to greater unity of the people, loosening of artificial boundaries and freedom of movement. On the contrary the governments are increasing restriction on people to people contacts and dialogues. SAHR believes that interaction across countries and regions would open possibilities to explore for a more just, peaceful, sustainable and equitable paths for development in the region and thus urge governments to work towards a visa free South Asia.
• SAHR also notes that the marginalized in the region, the women and children have suffered more. SAARC countries must ensure that the rights of the child are secured and that governments legislate for equal rights to eliminate gender discrimination, work towards their social acceptance and deter violence against women, including trafficking.
• South Asia is in need of alternate regional trade arrangements and an economic framework which will ensure a democratic alternative to neo-liberal trade instruments. SAHR believes that fair trade relations within South Asia could also lead to peace and harmony in the region as well as act as a precondition for fair trade relations with the rest of the world and request the member states to take measures for fair regional trade.
• Water sharing between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal has also risen to a level which requires immediate response. Cooperation on river waters could significantly improve the lives of millions of people and SAHR urges the governments of SAARC member countries to address this issue collectively.
• Bhutanese refugees in India and Nepal, IDPs In Sri Lanka and Baluchistan, and foreign prisoners and detained fisher folk in various South Asian prisons continue to impose a challenge to the region. SAHR believes that solutions should be sought at a regional level and speedy measures be taken by the relevant authorities to address these situations.
• In all South Asian countries Human Rights are not adequately promoted or protected because international human rights and humanitarian law is not implemented, even if treaties are ratified. Across the region extra judicial killings, torture and threats to human rights defenders and media personnel are increasing. SAHR urges the governments of SAARC to collectively take action to stop human rights abuses and endorse human rights conventions into domestic legislation so as to ensure fundamental freedoms to life and liberty. In light of the above issues we call upon the SAARC governments to seriously address these concerns of the region. SAHR believes that the SAARC forum can and should ensure that the progress and process of democracy in the South Asian region is not hijacked by short¬sighted political or economic interests and urges ail member states to guarantee social justice by ensuring the promotion and protection of people’s fundamental rights.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights, Dr. Hameeda Hossain Co – Chairperson
15th Annual Workshop on the Framework of Regional Cooperation for Human Rights Promotion and Protection in the Asia-Pacific Region Bangkok, Thailand, 21-23 April 2010 We, the civil society organizations present on the occasion of this 15th Workshop, would like to take this opportunity to share our views and recommendations related to the progress of implementation of the four pillars of the Teheran Framework. National Human Rights Action Plans We welcome the initiative of countries that have adopted national human rights action plans and the commitment of others to do the same. We believe that these NHRAPs should be in accordance with international human rights norms, standards and principles. Moreover, we recommend consultations with civil society organizations and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to ensure their meaningful inputs into and participation in the implementation of these plans. Governments have in place various national development and sectoral or issue specific plans, and we recognize the challenges especially in coordination that this poses among the different state bodies concerned which can hamper implementation and furtherance of the NHRAPs. We urge governments to adopt such measures to enhance the coherence and complementation among different bodies involved, for instance through the creation of consultative and coordination mechanisms. We urge governments and National Human Rights Institutions to ensure that the NHRAPs address the Human Rights of all peoples within their territory regardless of status and other factors. National Human Rights Institutions As more NHRIs are being set up in the region, we would like to call for the strict observance of the Paris Principles in this regard. The appointment of commissioners to these institutions should be based on the competence of the candidate in the field of human rights and done in an accountable and transparent manner. We moreover would like to see efforts to promote gender balance in particular among the commissioners and personnel at all levels within these institutions. We especially would like to underline the importance of full participation of independent civil society organizations in the work of NHRIs in order to ensure effective promotion and protection of human rights. We call upon governments and NHRIs in the protection and promotion of human rights to recognize, respect and protect the individual and collective rights of all peoples within their territory regardless of status and other factors.. Human Rights Education We urge that the governments to maintain Human Rights education as a priority, with emphasis on broadening the scope to include Human Rights education as part of the school curriculum and Human Rights education for state organs (executive, legislative and judicial) and other state institutions at all levels. We believe that the proper and effective human rights education of all those involved in the administration of justice is key to combating impunity and establishing the rule of law. Human Rights education programs should include among others the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, persons with different sexual orientation and gender identities, indigenous people, as guaranteed in the UDHR. The programs should be compliant with international human rights standards, international humanitarian law and core labour standards. We urge governments to provide adequate financial resources to the National Human Rights education in their annual budgets. Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Right to Development While there have been claims of widespread economic growth, we are concerned by the growing economic disparity and increasing poverty in many of the countries in the region. We believe that ESC rights cannot be realized only through economic development. Governments should adopt human rights-based approach in all areas such as economic and social development planning, and trade and finance policy. Further, we urge governments to enhance transparency and accountability and public participation in economic policy decisions, including on bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. We urge states parties to the ICESCR to strengthen implementation of the same and for governments to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Covenant. Noting that rights stipulated in the ICESCR are detailed out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), we urge Governments that have voted in favor of the UNDRIP to also ensure the full implementation of this international instrument. Finally, we recommend inclusion of ESC rights and the right to development as constitutional rights at par with civil and political rights and take all apprpriate measures to ensure that these rights are justiciable. Bangkok, 20 April 2010 Endorsed by: 1. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network 2. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development 3. Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact 4. Asylum Access 5. Disabled Persons International Asia Pacific 6. Informal Sector Service Center 7. Oxfam International 8. Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism 9. US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Lahore, April 13, 2010: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is grieved at the loss of life and denounces the brutal suppression of public protests in the Hazara region by the police on April 12. HRCP demands an immediate judicial inquiry into the killings of protesters as well as the circumstances in which people’s passions were aroused, apparently for political manipulation. While any excess or disproportionate use of force cannot be condoned, it is also necessary to expose and punish all those elements that have chosen the path of violence in order to subvert any movement towards building of a national consensus. HRCP urges the provincial government to bring to accountability those members of the law-enforcement who resorted to violence. It must also use all peaceful and political means to assuage the hurt caused to the people of the region. HRCP believes that the issue of renaming NWFP has been deliberately used to polarise society, at a time when the nation is confronted with extremely grave issues of humanitarian crisis, unemployment, violence and power and gas shortages. This controversy has been escalated on the eve of constitutional amendments, which are likely to make important structural changes in the polity. Asma Jahangir (Chairperson)
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan vehemently condemns the act of banning the photo exhibition of extrajudicial killings in Dhaka called “Crossfire”. This is a step that will further stifle the citizens’ right to freedom of expression and it must, hence, be reversed.
On the Monday, 22nd March 2010, Police closed down the Drik Picture Library where the exhibition was to open in a few hours and officers have been stationed at the gates since to put a stop to an exhibition that the state says will “create anarchy”. The event was to feature Shahid Alum’s photographs based on Drik’s case studies about the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh. The police stated that the reason behind closure was the lack of an official permission to hold the exhibition.
Ever since the establishment of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in 2004, there have been more than hundreds of extra-judicial killings. Despite government’s claims of taking strict action against such despicable violation of human rights, no legal action has been taken against those who are responsible.
HRCP requests the Government of Bangladesh to acknowledge RAB’s involvement in these crimes and to address the wrongs it has committed against Bangladesh’s citizens. The act of closing down the exhibition is in the spirit of curbing public debate and opinion regarding the issue and should not be tolerated at all.
The government of Bangladesh is respectfully urged to lift the ban and exhibit a commitment to people’s right to freedom of expression.
SAHR reiterates the citizens’ right to freedom of expression
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) vehemently condemn the action taken by the Government of Bangladesh to ban the photo exhibition of extra judicial killings in Dhaka. This is a violation of a citizen’s right to freedom of expression.
Hours before the exhibition was due to open at a special ceremony in Dhaka, Police dosed down the Drink’s Picture Library on Monday, 22nd March 2010. The exhibition, “Crossfire,” by Shahidul Alam, features photographs based on Drink’s case studies relating to the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh. The reason for the closure of this exhibition, as stated by the police, was that the exhibition had no official permission to open and that it would “create anarchy”. From this day onwards police officers have been stationed at the gates every day to stop people from entering the exhibition.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Bangladesh since 2004 when the special police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), was established. SAHR reiterates that even though the government officials have repeatedly stated their commitment to put an end to extra judicial executions by the security forces and have said that those responsible for such killings will be held to account, no legal action has been taken nor has any investigation been held against perpetrators for such incidents of “crossfire” killings.
SAHR believes that the government should address RAB’s involvement in such incidents instead of trying to silence those who are promoting public debate and raising awareness peacefully about alleged extra judicial executions.
SAHR respectfully urges the government to lift the police ban on this exhibition and protect the people’s right to freedom of expression whilst also implementing its commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental democratic principles.
On behalf of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr Hameeda Hossain