Flood victims’ woes forgotten: HRCP

Lahore, February 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced concern that the problems of the flood-hit population all over Pakistan seem to have come off the priority list even though the difficulties facing the affected people remain as challenging as ever and in some areas have even aggravated.

HRCP has been conducting damage and needs assessment in 33 flood-affected districts across the country and monitoring relief efforts there. In January and February the Commission held consultations with its activists who had worked to collect information in the past six months about the situation in the flood-affected areas in order to assess the situation of the flood-affected people. The following findings emerged during the consultations:

Government policies to deal with the post-flood situation lacked consistency and did not take into account the dissimilar needs and the varying nature and extent of damage in different areas.

Absence of a disaster management plan aggravated the damages. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was formed around four years back but lacked preparedness to cope with the situation. Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) was not even in existence in Punjab when floods hit, and in other provinces also failed to address the problems of the people in a meaningful manner.

Lack of a representative local government system and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) made post-floods work more centralised and excluded the affected people from the decision-making process.

No early warning was issued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before the flood, leading to severe damages.
Serious allegations of corruption in distribution of material and financial assistance by the official and non-government organisations were reported from flood-hit areas across the country. Discrimination on various grounds, including political and official patronage, was also reported in provision of assistance and in reconstruction.

Work to restore the destroyed infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and health facilities, was exceptionally slow, which had grave implication not only for health and education of the people but also for revival of livelihoods. Infrastructure was particularly badly hit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which needed to be given more importance.

The pace of issuance of Watan Cards was very slow and complaints of bribery and favouritism and issuance of cards to ineligible persons abounded. In only a few affected areas more than 50 percent of those eligible had actually received the cards. The recipients had only been able to withdraw the first instalment of Rs. 20,000 and not the second instalment of Rs. 80,000.
Farmers and tenants who lacked influential patronage missed out on financial and material assistance, including seeds and fertilizer, building material or work for their subsistence.

The policy of building model villages and houses at a distance from the affected populations’ farmland was considered unworkable as the farmers were unlikely to move there.

Families living in rented houses faced problems because owners of the properties claimed aid meant for those living in the properties when the floods hit. Similar complaints have been made by tenants who were cultivating agriculture land on lease.
All these problems were extenuated for women who also faced problems in getting relief items in long queues, and on account of cultural norms found it difficult to communicate their problems to the predominantly male staff.

At many places in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa floodwater and sludge were still there nearly half a year after the floods, rendering resumption of farming and return to normal life impossible.

HRCP demands that these crucial areas must be given urgent attention to minimise the problems afflicting the affected populations more than six months after the floods began.
Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP urges govt to ensure Siddique Eido’s release

Lahore, February 10: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the Balochistan government to ensure safe recovery of HRCP activist Siddique Eido, who was abducted in Gwadar by men wearing official uniforms on December 21 last.
In a letter to the Balochistan chief minister, HRCP expressed concern that despite the lapse of 50 days no progress had been made in securing the release of Mr Eido. The Commission said: “At the very least, statements of the four policemen of Pasni Police Station accompanying Mr Eido at the time of his abduction must be recorded and they should be asked to provide as much information as they can about the identity of his abductors.”
HRCP expressed serious concern that Mr Eido may be tortured in custody and that his life was in grave danger. It called upon the government to ensure the safe and immediate recovery of Mr Eido and order that any personnel who had any role in abducting or illegally detaining Mr. Eido be brought to justice.
Dr Mehdi Hasan

Urgent call to stop repression and to guarantee for their protection

Subject: The Observatory: Joint Press Release: Egypt: Human rights defenders under siege

                                                                                                                    EGYPT: Human rights defenders under siege
Urgent call to stop repression and to guarantee for their protection
Paris-Geneva-Copenhagen, February 3, 2011. While acts of intimidation and attacks against protesters are on the increase, 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, and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), deplore acts of intimidation and fear for the safety of human rights defenders.
Today, February 3, 2011, in the early afternoon, several lawyers and members of NGOs, including human rights NGOs, who had gathered at the offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center were arrested by the military police and driven to an unknown location. The Hisham Mubarak Law Center was also surrounded by supporters of the current administration bearing weapons who threatened people gathered inside the Center’s premises. In addition, some thugs entered the Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, which provide legal assistance to victims of torture and threatened the personnel of the organisation.
The offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights were searched by the military police and their equipment was confiscated. The mobile phones of several staff were also confiscated.
According to the latest information, approximately 29 people working for Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International would have been arrested, including Mr. Ahmed Seif, Ms. Nada Sadek, Mr. Mohamed El Taher, Ms. Mona El Masry, Mr. Khaled Ali and four others.
These acts of intimidation and harassment are due to the support provided by several lawyers and human rights organisations, including the provision of food and medical equipment, to demonstrators who have gathered on Tahrir Square.
Human rights NGOs have been very vocal denouncing human rights abuses committed by the current administration and are particularly vulnerable and threatened in the current climate of repression operated by police forces and supporters of the current administration which took over Cairo on February 3, 2011. According to our information, several journalists have also been arrested.
Considering the raising tension and the current acts of violence, the Observatory and EMHRN are deeply concerned for the security of members of civil society, particularly journalists and members of human rights NGOs. Our organisations urge the authorities to release all human rights defenders, refrain from any attack, arrest or act of intimidation against them and guarantee their security.
The authorities should also order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.
For further information, please contact:
·    OMCT: Seynabou Benga, + 41 22 809 49 39
·    FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet, + 33 1 43 55 14 12
·    FEMHRN: Marc Schade-Poulsen: +45 32 64 17 15

Egypt : Bloody Wednesday on Tahrir Square

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Press release

Egypt : Bloody Wednesday on Tahrir Square

Egyptian authorities demonstrate responsibility for unrest and chaos in ongoing uprising

Paris, Cairo, February 2nd 2011 – The peaceful protests taking place in downtown Cairo have suddenly turned into a bloodshed on Wednesday February 2, 2011, as Pro-Mubarak counter-demonstrations, allegedly organized by the regime, started to throw Molotov cocktails on the people gathered on Tahrir Square, asking for President Mubarak to step down.

The protesters on Tahrir square are being trapped on the square as attackers are coming from all sides. A large number of people are injured and are being carried away, without the possibility of reaching nearby hospitals.

The absence of police or army protection against the violent thugs, and the obstruction of access to health care are further evidence of the Egyptian authorities direct responsibility in bringing about chaos in response to the pacific demonstration, which The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) had witnessed, that took place on the evening of Saturday 29th. (see http://www.fidh.org/EGYPT-authorities-bare-responsibility-for-unrest)

The latest bloodshed adds to the heavy death toll of more than 300 individuals, reported by the  United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) urges the Egyptian authorities to prevent groups of thugs from attacking peaceful protesters and to ensure protection of peaceful demonstrators as well as their access to health care following the attacks. FIDH further calls upon the international community to intervene immediately upon the Egyptian authorities to guarantee such protection.

« Responsibilities shall be determined in these violent attacks, including the authorities’ responsibility in failing to prevent the violence, as it occurred under their own eyes, if not their direct involvement in their instigation. They should be prosecuted for this » said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Press contact : Karine Appy + 33 6 48 05 91 57

Karine Appy
Chargée des relations presse
Press Officer
17 passage de la main d’or
75011 Paris
Tél : 00 33 1 43 55 14 12 / 00 33 6 48 05 91 57
Fax : 00 33 1 43 55 18 80

HRCP urges probe into alleged honour killing

Lahore, February 2: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the Punjab government to ensure an early and transparent investigation of an alleged incident of honour killing of a young woman in a village of Bahawalpur district.
The young woman, Saima, left her parents house in November and went away to Karachi with a man named Dilawar she wanted to marry as her family wanted her to marry someone else. Saima’s family had took Dilawar’s father to Karachi with them and brought Saima back to Bahawalpur three days later and assured her that she would be married to Dilawar. However, she was confined in her house for the next two months, where she died in unexplained circumstances early on January 22.

In a letter to the Punjab government, HRCP said: ”The family claims that Saima had committed suicide by consuming a poisonous substance and for obvious reasons wants that version to be accepted. No report is yet available to determine the cause of death but the doctor who had conducted the post mortem examination says that there were visible marks of torture on her body and that the cause of death could be determined only from findings of a chemical laboratory test report.
HRCP expressed concern over reports that the police were not taking interest in the investigating and one of the rich accused was being pampered by police.
“HRCP apprehends that crucial evidence in the case may be destroyed unless prompt action is taken to investigate the matter properly. We also fear for the safety of the persons who had highlighted the case. They should be afforded adequate protection and an assurance of safety given to any witnesses who may want to come forward. Justice demands that inquiry must be fair and no favour should be shown to the accused,” HRCP said.
Dr Mehdi Hasan