HRCP hails Asma’s election

Lahore, October 28: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has hailed Asma Jahangir’s election as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) as a momentous event that will give a boost to the human rights movement in Pakistan.

In a statement issued on Thursday the Commission said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) felicitates Ms Asma Jahangir on her well-earned victory in election for the presidentship of the country’s highest bar association. The lawyers practicing at the apex court have obviously turned to her to guide them towards establishing the independence and integrity of the legal profession. HRCP joins them in hoping that as SCBA President Asma Jahangir will continue her struggle for the independence of the judiciary, the rights and dignity of lawyers, rule of law, and the defence of the underprivileged sections of society with the same fervour that she has displayed throughout her career. Her resignation from the chair of HRCP the moment she decided to contest for the bar office meant an irreparable loss for this organization for her contribution to the growth of the human rights movement in Pakistan, and specially to the founding and nourishing of HRCP, remains unmatched. Nor is it possible to ignore her part in promoting international human rights mechanisms as a Special Rapporteur on two themes, which also enhanced Pakistan’s prestige in world councils. While she will doubtless continue to contribute to HRCP’s work as an active member, we hope that her assumption of the leadership of the Bar will give a boost to the human rights movement in Pakistan and enable the Bar to play its role in defending and promoting human rights of all people, especially of those who do not enjoy easy access to justice.”
Dr. Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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THAILAND: concerns over legal proceedings against 10 human rights defenders

Paris-Geneva-Bangkok, October 25, 2010. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), together with the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)[1], express their deep concern over the legal proceedings against ten human rights defenders who were charged in January 2008 for their participation in the peaceful demonstration at the Parliament House in Bangkok on December 12, 2007[2]. The Criminal Court is scheduled to conduct the first hearing of the cases on November 2, 2010.
 
The ten defenders are Mr. Jon Ungphakorn, Chairperson of the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD); Mr. Pairoj Polpetch, UCL Secretary General; Mr. Sirichai Mai-ngarm, member of the Labour Union of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand; Mr. Sawit Kaewwan, leader of the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Union; Ms. Supinya Klang-narong, Secretary General of the Media Reform Campaign; Ms. Saree Ongsomwang, Chairperson of the Consumers’ Association; Mr. Amnat Palamee, leader of the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Union; Mr. Nutzer Yeehama, a member of the NGO Friend of People; Mr. Anirut Chaosanit, member of the Council of People’s Organizations Network in Thailand and, Mr. Pichit Chaimongkol, member of the Campaign for Popular Democracy. They have all denied the charges brought against them.
 
The Observatory and UCL note with concerns that in addition to the initial charges, the Public Prosecutor added two additional ones under Section 116 and Section 215(3) of the Criminal Code[3] which carry heavier penalties. Convictions under Section 116 and Section 215(3) could lead to imprisonment up to seven years and five years, respectively.
 
Our organisations recall that the demonstration in question was organised to protest against the attempts of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which was installed by the military after the 2006 coup, to pass a total of eight bills affecting civil liberties in Thailand in the final days before the general election of December 23, 2007. The demonstration was entirely peaceful and no damage was caused to government property. There were no exchange of blows, nor any injury, when Messrs. Jon Ungphakorn and Pairoj Polpetch, along with some other protesters, managed to cross the surrounding fence and gain access to the Parliament Building. Once inside, the protesters peacefully negotiated with the police and two members of Parliament and left the building after their demand was accepted by the Speaker of the Parliament.
 
Section 116 and Section 215(3) of the Criminal Code apply to acts of or incitement of violence or unrest with an intention to cause harm or public disorder, to detain or restrict other persons, and to enter into a property to disturb the peaceful possession of those who own the property.
 
These charges with heavy penalties against individuals who were exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly to raise legitimate concerns about imminent restrictions on civil liberties seem merely aimed at punishing their activities in defense of human rights.
 
“Thailand should refrain from sanctioning critics through legal proceedings, as such acts are  inconsistent with Thailand’s obligations as a State Party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and they denigrate Thailand’s credibility as a democracy who is currently also a Chair of the Human Rights Council”, FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today.
 
“We more generally call upon the authorities of Thailand to conform in all circumstances with the 1998 United Nations Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” OMCT Secretary General Eric Sottas added.
 
For more information, please contact :

• FIDH : Karine Appy : + 33 1 43 55 25 18
• OMCT : Seynabou Benga : + 41 22 809 49 39
• UCL : Danthong Breen: +66 275 4230

URL: www.hrcp-web.org

HRCP shocked by siege of Sherry’s house

Lahore, October 25: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed outrage at hundreds of armed protesters laying siege of the Karachi residence of leading journalist and politician Sherry Rehman, threatening her and harassing her family.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said, “HRCP protests in the strongest possible terms the demonstration of violence outside the house of Sherry Rehman and harassment of her family. Armed protestors had descended on her house apparently after she had appeared on a TV channel boycotted by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Official complicity in the siege, if not downright connivance, was evident from the fact that the police stood by as armed protesters blocked the roads leading to Ms Rehman’s residence and blocked the entrance to her house. The protestors also called her a traitor to the PPP and the country.

This is an unfortunate trend in a country where one does not have to look far for methods of intimidation and harassment. It is also a bad omen for Pakistan’s beleaguered democracy if the political parties are this intolerant of a political leader not blindly towing the party line.

The government must ensure that such hooliganism does not go uninvestigated and uncondemned at the highest level to send a clear message that it will not allow such things to go unpunished. It must also find out why the police did not intervene.”
 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Threat to the life of Mr. Akram Hussain, A school Head Clerk falsely implicated in a blasphemy case

HRCP
 
URGENT APPEAL 
 
 Human Rights Commission of Pakistan requests your urgent intervention in the following situation
 
Description of the situation:
 
HRCP has been informed by S. N. Shorida about the registration of a blasphemy FIR against Mr. Akram Hussain Shah at Police Station, Sehnsa, District Kotli, Azad Jummu & Kashmir, Pakistan.
 
Mr. Akram Hussain Shah is serving as a head clerk at Government Boys College, Sehnsa, Kotli, Azad Kashmir He was trapped to teach Islamic Studies to 1st year class. He was instigated to utter such words which were supposed to be against the current religious thought. A protest rally was organized and later on it turned out to be public protest against him. The police was pressurized to register an FIR against him U/S 295/C and 298. The local electronic media was also used to fan hatred against him, his family members and his religious sect. The whereabouts of Mr. Akram Hussain Shah is not known. It is presumed that he has been in the custody of law enforcement agencies. He might be subjected to torture. His life is in danger.
 

HRCP apprehends ‘torture and ill-treatment’ and threat to life of the arrested person.

“HRCP fears the religious elements may exploit the situation and create law and order problem in the area.
 
Action requested
 
Please write to the authorities in Pakistan:

1. To disclose his whereabouts.
2. To provide him, his family and members of his sect full protection.
4. To protect him from torture and other ill-treatment while he is in detention.
 
Sample
 
We express deep concern on the illegal detention and false implication of of Mr. Akram Hussain Shah in a blasphemy case
We demand that he should not be tortured.
We urge that Mr. Akram Hussain Shah, his family and members of his religious sect be provided security.
 
It would be appreciated if you send a copy of your mail to HRCP/Urgent Appeal
 
 
Address:
 
1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President’s Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see: http://www.presiden tofpakistan. gov.pk/WTPreside ntMessage. aspx)
 
2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: secretary@cabinet. gov.pk
 
Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Minister of Foreign Affair
Government of Pakistan
Islamabad

3. Mr. Rehman Malik
Minister for Interior
R Block Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 51 9212026
Fax: +92 51 9202624
E-mail: MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from “us.mc656.mail.yahoo.com” claiming to be ministry.interior@ gmail.com or MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from “us.mc656.mail.yahoo.com” claiming to be interior.complaintc ell@gmail. com
 
Raja Zuliqarnain
President
Azad Jummu & Kashimir
President Houses
Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir
Email: midhatak@yahoo.com
0092-51-9214692-3
Fax. 0092—51-9210540
 
 
Sardar Atique Ahmed Khan
Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir
P. M. House
Azad Jummu & Kashimir
President House
Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir
Email: sardarattique@hotmail.com
pm@pmajk.gov.pk
Fax: 0092-582-921697/920410
0092-51-9211993
 
Chief Secretary
Government of Azad Kashmir
Kashmir Secretariat
Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir
0092-51-9223595
Fax: 0092-51-9211993

HRCP demands urgent focus on real issues

Lahore, October 17: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern over accelerating deterioration in the state of affairs in the country and urged the government to return to the task of governance and address the problems of the people.

A statement issued at the conclusion of the HRCP Council on Sunday said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expresses serious concern at the aggravation of the crisis of the state, caused primarily by a confrontation between institutions driven by insecurity or by self-righteousness. The entire government seems to have suffered a paralysis at a time when it faces the challenge of rehabilitating millions of people affected by floods, of saving the economy from collapse, and of guaranteeing the citizens security of life and liberty.

The tasks that demand immediate attention include the revival of the local government system, the lack of which contributed to the increased loss of life and property in floods, evaluation of the effect the measures aimed at ending a sense of alienation in Balochistan have had so far, addressing the needs of the internally displaced persons and the tribal people, efforts to curb extremism and intolerance and protection of religious minorities.

Target killings in Balochistan remain a cause of serious concern, as does the fact that the creation of a commission on enforced disappearances does not seem to have satisfied the legitimate desire by families of the disappeared for early resolution of the matter, necessitating a review of the whole system. HRCP is alarmed at the continued political violence in Karachi, the complete inability of the state to hold anyone responsible for repeated waves of target killings in the city, and the increasing difficulty in holding any election in Karachi.

HRCP warns that disappearances have increased in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that in Balochistan at least 11 dead bodies of missing persons have been recovered in the last six months. HRCP regrets that the case of enforced disappearances in the Supreme Court has not been given the priority it deserves.

2010 has been a difficult year for religious minorities in Pakistan. The government must take meaningful measures to curb promotion of faith-based hatred and violence, and afford adequate protection to communities that face specific threats.

HRCP expresses serious concern at the continuing militarisation of society and glut of weapons in the country. It urges across the board de-weaponisation and demands that efforts to counter the extremist militancy in the country must desist from outsourcing law and order responsibilities to the local communities. HRCP also demands an end to impunity for perpetrators of the so-called political violence across the country, a euphemism for intermittent waves of killings of people.

The unprecedented wave of terrorism sweeping across the country not only highlights the need for efficient policing by civilian security forces but also for promotion of counter-narratives to intolerance and preaching of hatred and bigotry in society.
It is high time that the government put in place a consistent and well thought out plan on internal displacement after open consultation, in order to ensure that the catastrophe visited on the dislocated population is not aggravated by official negligence or exclusion of the affected communities from the decisions that affect their lives.

HRCP also calls upon all state institutions to respect their responsibilities and limits within the basic law and cooperate in pulling the country from the brink, or else they will have nothing left to fight over.

Finally, HRCP calls upon the NGOs and civil society in general to accept their responsibility, discard their state of indifference and passivity and mobilise people to save their rights because there can be no order without constant vigilance.”
 
Dr. Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson
On behalf of HRCP Council members

HRCP moot demands more accessible, robust parliament

Lahore, October 15: Parliament should find ways to increase its contacts with the people and must have a greater say in approval of official policies and in signing and ratification of international agreements by Pakistan, a consultation organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded on Friday.

Participants of the consultation, entitled ‘Parliament’s Functions and its Supremacy’, included parliamentarians, representatives of political parties and members of the civil society.

The consultation unanimously concluded that the parliament derived its powers from the constitution and represents the will of the people and as such its authority to amend the constitution to meet the challenges of a dynamic society must not be taken away on the basis of any contentious theory such as basic features of the constitution.

They expressed concern that the crucial role of parliamentary standing committees in pushing the legislation forward, and in vigilance and oversight on behalf of parliament has been compromised on account of nomination of standing committees’ heads on the basis of party affiliation alone or as a means to reward allies, rather than on the basis of ability or relevant experience. They said that there could be many advantages in increasing interactions between the standing committees in the National Assembly and the Senate and that joint discussion of issues could prevent duplication of efforts.
The need for building capacity of parliamentarians by sensitising them on rules of procedure with a view to effective representation was also stressed.

The participants said that one way of asserting parliament’s supremacy in legislation is by abandoning the preference of ruling through ordinances.
They expressed concern over lack of parliament’s say in official policies and in signing and ratification of international agreements by Pakistan.

They emphasised the urgent need for legislation to provide a mechanism for Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral agreements to be ratified by parliament, with a view to ensuring effective representation of the people.

It was argued that the scope of bills introduced by private members needs to be expanded and once private members bills are admitted they should be treated in the same manner as bills introduced by the government.
The participants emphasised that contacts between parliament and people need to be improved from both sides and emphasised the role that timely publication and publicisation of parliament’s proceedings and those of parliamentary committees could play.

They highlighted the importance for political parties to introduce more democratic and decentralised approaches in their internal affairs and added that many flaws in the parliamentary system could be addressed by a more robust and interactive role of the political parties.
 
Dr. Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: PAKISTAN: US & Pakistani Governments Must Help Civilians Caught in Conflict

PRESS RELEASE NO RELEASE BEFORE OCTOBER 13, 2010, 12am EDT, 9am

PKT PAKISTAN: US & Pakistani Governments Must Help Civilians Caught in Conflict New on-the-ground report finds conflict victims overlooked, angry and in need

WASHINGTON DC, October 13, 2010, 12am EDT – Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) issued a report today detailing civilian conflict losses in northwest Pakistan, the views of victims, and warring parties’ efforts to address their losses. CIVIC’s Christopher Rogers spent a year on-the-ground in Pakistan interviewing over 160 civilian survivors, most of whom received little or no help.

 “I hold the army responsible,” one man who lost both arms to a Pakistani tank shell told CIVIC. “For two or three militants they crush the whole village, and so we are against the army. I am the only member of the family that can support, but I am unable to work… I do not know how we will manage to live.”

CIVIC found that civilian casualties in Pakistan are significant, and in 2009, were even greater than those in Afghanistan. CIVIC’s report also found that civilian casualties in US drone strikes are almost certainly higher than the US admits. A father in North Waziristan, who lost 11 family members to a drone strike, told CIVIC: “Yes, the drone strikes hurt the Taliban… but sometimes innocent people also become the victim of such attacks. Take my case… I blame the government of Pakistan and the USA—they are responsible for destroying my family.

We were living a happy life and I didn’t have any links with the Taliban. My family members were innocent. I wonder, why was I victimized?”

Civilians in Pakistan suffer from militant attacks and terrorism, Pakistani military operations and US drone strikes. CIVIC found that efforts do exist to compensate and assist victims, but deficiencies and gaps mean most victims receive no help and many are losing hope.

“I heard over and over from victims that they expected help, but most never even got an apology for what happened to them,” said Rogers. “The US and Pakistan should take note that denying or overlooking their losses is provoking anger and undermining the Pakistani government’s legitimacy.”

Download a full PDF of the report here:
http://www.civicworldwide.org/pakistan_report_2010

About CIVIC
 Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict works on behalf of war victims by advocating that warring parties recognize and help the civilians they harm. CIVIC supports the principle that it is never acceptable for a warring party to ignore civilian suffering. 

For Additional Information: Press inquiries or to schedule an interview with Christopher Rogers: Marla Keenan +1 917 353 7076
marlab@civicworldwide.org