Changes in anti-terror law must not undermine rights: HRCP

Lahore, July 28: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern that some of the changes proposed in the anti-terrorism law are not only contrary to due process they will also cause derogation of human rights, and called upon parliament to ensure adequate safeguards to prevent abuse by law enforcement agencies. A statement issued by HRCP on Wednesday said: “While the bill introduced in the Senate to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 is largely a reproduction of the 2009 ordinance on the subject, it has several new provisions that will cause anxiety to defenders of rule of law. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan understands the need to strengthen the law to deal with terrorist activities and terrorist groups, particularly continued operation of proscribed groups under new names. However, we are seriously concerned at the enlargement of powers of police and other law enforcement agencies, particularly in view of their persistent disregard of human rights and their inability to deal with crime in a scientific, non-violent manner. We have serious concerns regarding the provision of detention for 90 days for inquiry and the downgrading of the investigation officers—sub-inspectors are proposed to be tasked with such inquiries now, instead of inspectors under the prevailing law. HRCP has serious objections to the move to grant sweeping powers to police to tap phones and access personal information in absence of any safeguards for privacy and without adequate oversight. The Commission calls upon all members of parliament to make every effort to ensure that human rights are not the first casualty in the state’s questionable efforts to curb terrorism. They must also make certain that adequate safeguards are provided so that inefficiency and abuse of authority by police do not lead to denial of rights to the people.” Dr Mehdi Hasan Chairperson

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