HRCP report demands long-term strategy on IDPs

Lahore, November 5: Pakistan needs to shun the practice of dealing with internal displacement crises in a piecemeal and largely reactive manner and must urgently devise a long-term strategy for protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

Launching a report entitled ‘Internal Displacement in Pakistan: Contemporary Challenges’, HRCP said that all indicators suggested that internal displacement will remain a key issue of concern in Pakistan at least in the medium term, yet a framework for assistance to and protection of the displaced as well as for safeguarding their rights was still not in sight.

The Commission said that Pakistan urgently needed to learn lessons from the recent displacement crises in the country and ensure that they inform responses in similar crises in the future, not only with respect to protection and humanitarian assistance during displacement, but also to advocate a comprehensive approach to preventing and avoiding conditions that might lead to involuntary displacement in the first place.
The report can be accessed at:
 http://www.hrcp-web.org/pdf/Internal%20Displacement%20in%20Pakistan.pdf
 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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HRCP urges Pakistan to vote against death penalty

Lahore, November 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government of Pakistan to vote in favour of a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) demanding a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution is to be considered at the 65th session of the UNGA later this month.

In a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, the Commission welcomed the informal moratorium on executions in place in Pakistan since November 2008 and added, “We believe that the forthcoming resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the 65th session of the UNGA shares the commitment shown by the government of Pakistan in suspending executions. In sync with HRCP’s long-standing demand, the resolution also urges to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.” Copies of the letter were also sent to the prime minister and the federal ministers of law and foreign affairs.

Calling upon Islamabad to vote in favour of the resolution, HRCP urged the president: “If it is impossible to consider a positive vote on this resolution, we encourage you to abstain at the vote and not to sign any statement of disassociation from the resolution. Such a stance by Pakistan will reaffirm the country’s commitment to a moratorium on executions and to eventual abolition of the death penalty.”

Two previous UNGA resolutions on moratorium on the use of the death penalty—resolution 62/149 adopted in 2007 and resolution 63/168 in 2008—reaffirmed the commitment of the UN towards the abolition of capital punishment, calling upon states that still retained the death penalty to, inter alia, respect international safeguards guaranteeing the rights of those facing the death penalty, reduce the number of offences for which this punishment may be imposed and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. HRCP hoped that the adoption of a third UNGA resolution on a moratorium on executions by an increased majority of UN Member States will demonstrate that the trend towards abolition was steadily increasing.

Pakistan has one of the highest rates of conviction to capital punishment in the world. HRCP has consistently opposed the application of the death penalty in Pakistan, mainly on account of the critical deficiencies of the law itself, of the administration of justice, police investigation methods, chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities. The Commission has highlighted that the safeguards against miscarriage of justice are weak or non-existent, and possibility of innocents being executed remains frighteningly high. As a first step, HRCP has urged the government to restrict the number of offences carrying the death penalty to the most serious crimes only, and refrain from adopting new crimes entailing capital punishment.
 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Syria: Muhannad Al-Hasani, ICJ Commissioner and Martin Ennals Laureate physically assaulted in jail

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE – COMUNICADO DE PRENSA

For immediate release Geneva, 1stNovember 2010
Syria: Muhannad Al-Hasani, ICJ Commissioner and Martin Ennals Laureate physically assaulted in jail

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today deplored the failure of the Syrian authorities to protect the physical integrity ICJ Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani, an internationally renowned lawyer and human rights defender currently serving a three-year sentence in Adra Prison, Damascus. Muhannad Al-Hasani was physically assaulted in prison on 28 October, only two weeks after he had been awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

Muhannad Al-Hasani was severely beaten by a prisoner who accused him of working against the interests of the Syrian nation. The prisoner is believed to have been acting at the behest of the Syrian security services. Mr. Al-Hasani is suffering from hematoma and bleeding from his eye and forehead as a result of the assault.

“The attack on Muhannad Al-Hasani is an attack on human rights defenders everywhere who strive to protect rights under the rule of law. The Syrian authorities have brazenly rebuffed the international community by allowing this assault in the immediate aftermath of his receiving the Martin Ennals award” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General. “It is the responsibility of the Syrian authorities to protect Mr. Al-Hasani from any form of ill-treatment and they must be held accountable for these attacks,” added Wilder Tayler.

 In accepting the Martin Ennals award in absentia on 15 October, Muhannad Al-Hasani emphasized the risks that human rights defenders face in Syria, including attacks on their rights to security and to life. This assault intensifies a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Mr. Al-Hasani, because of his work as a lawyer and as a human rights defender. His present prison sentence comes after his conviction by the second criminal court of Damascus for “weakening national sentiments” following an unfair trial. Prior to this he was permanently disbarred from practicing law by the nonindependent Syrian Bar Association. “The Syrian authorities must release Muhannad Al-Hasani immediately and unconditionally”, said Wilder Tayler.

 “As long as he remains in prison, the authorities must fully respect his rights to access to his lawyers, family members and independent medical personnel.”

 For more information, please contact Saīd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Legal Advisor, at + 41229793817

ICJ congratulates Asma Jahangir on her election as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan

Geneva, 28 October 2010

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) wishes to congratulate Ms. Asma Jahangir on her election as President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on 27 October 2010.  After a tightly contested campaign, Ms. Jahangir emerged victorious by consolidating support from all regions of the country and advocating a principled, progressive agenda for the Bar.

“The election of ICJ Commissioner Asma Jahangir is a fantastic development for the rule of law in Pakistan.  Ms. Jahangir has always been a stalwart defender of human rights and a consistent advocate for the marginalized and voiceless.  With her as President of the SCBA, the ICJ expects Ms. Jahangir to continue her tireless efforts to ensure that the institutions of Pakistan function in accordance with the Constitution and applicable principles of international law,” says Mr. Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General.

The news of Ms. Jahangir’s victory is particularly heartening as it represents a rejection by Pakistan’s lawyers of the negative and divisive tactics that were used in an attempt to discredit her candidacy. At a critical juncture in Pakistan’s democratic development, Ms. Jahangir’s election is an affirmation that justice and the rule of law should be a central priority for the country.

“It is encouraging that the SCBA has selected a President who can help navigate Pakistan through a challenging period in its legal development,” says Mr. Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director.  “With significant questions of constitutional law and judicial independence before the Supreme Court’s consideration, Ms. Jahangir is the ideal person to lead and represent Supreme Court advocates”.
For further information please contact:

In Bangkok, Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director: +66 84 524 1133