HRCP demands recovery of missing journalist

 Lahore, May 31: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm at the disappearance of journalist Saleem Shahzad and reports that he might have been abducted by a state agency.

Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, had gone missing after he left his house in Islamabad on Sunday evening to participate in a television talk show. He never reached the office of the private TV channel.

A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said, “HRCP has serious concern at the disappearance of journalist Saleem Shahzad. Reports that a state agency might have been involved in his disappearance are exceedingly disturbing. It has been suggested that Shahzad’s reporting after a terrorist attack on a navy aviation base in Karachi might have something to do with his abduction. Unconfirmed reports suggest that his captors have informed Shahzad’s friends and family through anonymous calls that he would be released soon.

HRCP must remind the government of the numerous threats that journalists in Pakistan already have to contend with without having to worry about abduction by state agents as well. HRCP calls upon the government to ensure safe recovery of the journalist and demands that those who have detained him are identified and effectively prosecuted.
If members of any state agency are found involved they must be proceeded against in an open trial to deter future disregard of the law and the proceedings against them must reflect the indignation over their illegal actions and use of resources meant for protecting the people to indulge in crime against the people. Even if state agents are not involved, the government is expected to ensure that journalists are allowed to carry on their work in an atmosphere free from intimidation and threats to personal safety. Bringing Shahzad’s abductors to justice is crucial because perpetrators of crimes against journalists in the country have generally enjoyed impunity. The government must make sure that that does not happen yet again.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

15 May Movement Demands Access to Information Law in Spain

 Madrid 26th May – Last week the squares of Spanish cities were “taken” by the Spanish youth who are calling for “real democracy” and an end to corruption in the face of a system that they feel is failing them on the economy, welfare, and citizen representation. Citizens camped out in Madrid’s central square Puerta de Sol, fed up with the governments’ business-as-usual attitude to these problems, are taking matters into their own hands. The increasingly organised movement has this week formed a working group, “Transparency Law Now!” dedicated exclusively to campaigning for progress on the gridlocked Spanish access to information law. An access to information law was promised by the socialist government in their election manifestos of 2004 and 2008. In 2008-2009 a draft was produced which was leaked to Access Info Europe in September 2010. Access Info published this draft and held consultations with the public and experts who concluded that it fell short of international standards. When Access Info and the Spanish coalition for an access to information law, the Coalición Pro Acceso, met with minister of the presidency, Ramón Jaúregui, in March, he explained that due to the crisis the transparency law was not considered a priority. He promised however, to inform the groups within one month whether an access to information law would be presented before the end of the current mandate. Two months have now passed and a decision has not yet been taken.

Yemen: measures must be taken to prevent irrevocable escalation of violence

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC)
Sisters’ Arabic Forum for Human Rights (SAF)

Joint press release


Wednesday May 25th – FIDH member organisations in Yemen, HRITC and SAF warn about the risk of civil war. Armed clashes have erupted in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a between the army and followers of the tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar who joined the anti-government protests a few weeks ago. Between May 22 and 24, the clashes allegedly led to the death of at least 34 people including tribesmen, soldiers and civilians. The combat zone is densely populated and completely closed off. Rescue teams are prevented from reaching the wounded, including civilians. According to witnesses, the fighting erupted on May 24 in the heart of Sana’a with heavy gunfire.

Armed clashes escalated the day after the Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh warns about the threat of a civil war in his speech announcing his refusal to sign the political agreement initiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The armed conflict broke out  when the security forces transformed a school adjacent to the house of Sheikh Abdallah Al-Ahmar in Sana’a into a military site. According to the Office of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar followers of the tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar protested against these dealings, resulting in soldiers opening fire on the protesters.

In addition to these deadly clashes, Sanaa was again the scene of repression and violence over the past couple of days against demonstrators and civilians identified as anti-government protesters. Peaceful and popular protests demanding reforms are still taking place in several cities across Yemen even if protesters face ongoing harsh repression by the Yemeni security forces and members of the army. According to reliable sources, on May 22 groups of thugs and armed groups carrying weapons and sticks dispersed throughout  the city and attacked civilians. An elderly woman died as a consequence of such violent acts.

Over the past few days, power has been regularly cut in the main towns making communication very difficult. These power cuts, if seen as deliberate acts, could aim at restricting the freedom of expression and communication in order to prevent people from relaying the human rights violations committed in the country, or participating in peaceful demonstrations.

FIDH, HRITC and SAF express their utmost concern regarding the escalation of violence in Yemen. The organisations are particularly worried since they have also been informed about the distribution of arms to civilians in several parts of the country, by representatives of the authorities arguing the threat of a civil war over the past days. They urge all parties to refrain from using violence and to guarantee the protection of civilians.

These developments demonstrate the inability of the international community, notably under the authority of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to prevent the increase in violence.

FIDH, HRITC and SAF call upon the United Nations Human Rights Council, in session from Monday May 30th, to respond to the escalating violence in application of its protection mandate. This can be accomplished through a resolution denouncing the violations and deploying an urgent fact finding mission to the area.


Listen to the interview of Ezzedine El-Asbahi, President of the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC – Yemen) : click here.

Press contacts:
Arthur Manet : +33 1 43 55 90 19 / +33 6 72 28 42 94
Karine Appy: +33 1 43 55 14 12 / +33 6 48 05 91 57

Gender equality in the Arab world: « Today the tide is turning »

20 May 2011 – Civil society organisations from across the Arab region met in Kuwait, from 4 to 5 May, within the framework of the Forum for the Future 2011, and unanimously adopted a declaration calling for the governments of the region to take urgent measures to eliminate discrimination against women, says an FIDH press release.

The « Kuwait Declaration » was adopted as the winds of change have been sweeping through the region, as populations demonstrate forcefully their thirst for democracy, dignity and respect for universal human rights. Based on universal standards and international law, the declaration calls on governments to abolish all discriminatory legislation within the next two years ; to adopt laws to fight discrimination, violence and trafficking of women ; and to withdraw all the reservations they have entered to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW Convention).

« The tide has turned : women of all backgrounds and beliefs, have been participating, side-by-side with men, in the revolutions and uprisings that have been shaking the region, in the streets and on the web, to claim liberty, equality, dignity and democracy. Today it is no longer possible to deny women full access to the public sphere or to ignore their essential role in the democratic process », declared Khadija Cherif, FIDH Secretary General, who participated in the Forum. « With the unanimous adoption of this text, the NGOs of the region have affirmed that there can be no democracy without equal rights for women and men », she concluded.


Statement of HRCP Mission to Balochistan

Quetta, 7 May 2011

Statement of HRCP Mission to Balochistan

Deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating situation in Balochistan, the Human Rights Commission organised a fact-finding mission to the province between 4 & 7 May. The teams visited Khuzdar, Turbat and Quetta, meeting a wide cross-section of people, including government representatives.

At the outset, HRCP would like to express its deep anger and sadness at the killing of two of its activists, Siddique Eido and Naeem Sabir. Siddique Eido went missing in December 2010; his body was recovered from Ormara on 28 April. HRCP had thrice brought the case of his disappearance to the authorities’ attention. Naeem Sabir was shot dead in Khuzdar in March this year.

The key findings of the HRCP mission are:

1.       Enforced disappearances continue to be a matter of great concern. The Commission set up to investigate the case of missing persons has been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration

2.       It has been noted that dead bodies recovered have had signs of extreme torture. 33 bodies have been found in Khuzdar; at a rate of 1 body every 3 days

3.       All authority seems to vest with the security forces. The civil administration, elected by the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers

4.       There is strong evidence of the complicity of security forces in killings which are found to be deliberate. One specific instance: on 1 Dec, 2010, in Kech, the FC started attacking a house at 4 a.m. & continued the attack till 2 p.m the next day, despite the civil administration’s request to the FC Colonel that the family members were willing to get all those present in the house to surrender. They killed 5 members of the family, including a boy. This represents a case of deliberate extra-judicial killings. In some cases, FIRs were registered in Turbat. The FC local commander in Kech agreed to talk only after permission was received from IG FC which was not ultimately received.

5.       There was widespread complaint against the attitude of the FC personnel at checkpoints

6.       The sectarian attack of 6 May in Quetta is highly condemnable. It happened while the HRCP Mission was present in the city. Six people died and many were injured in spite of the presence of the police nearby and the FC check posts. It is regrettable that findings of inquiry commissions into sectarian killings have not been released. No effort has been made at reconciliation of the communities, either

7.       Members of the minority communities narrated the heightened sense of insecurity they are living in. There have been targeted killings, as well as kidnappings for ransom. In some cases, victims were killed in spite of ransom being paid. In some instances, children have been taken out of school.

8.       There is migration of some communities, including Hindus, Hazara/Shias, who are being targeted

9.       Targeted killings are rampant – these include professionals such as teachers & doctors, as well as traders

While a detailed report will be issued later by HRCP, the following are some main recommendations:

  • ·         The system of enforced disappearances must end; it is a total negation of rule of law that mutilated bodies are found of missing people – instead of their production before courts of law
  • ·         Any operation conducted by law enforcement agencies must be within the framework of rule of law, and under civilian oversight. The provincial government must meet its obligation of ensuring law & order
  • ·         The Frontier Corps should act only in aid of the civilian forces & under civilian control. There should be an immediate end to the complete impunity from the process of law the FC currently enjoys in Balochistan
  • ·         The provincial government, representing all political parties of the province, needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of the people that brought it to power
  • ·         The higher judiciary must instruct the subordinate judiciary to actively pursue cases of human rights violations
  • ·         The police must exercise its responsibility of recording FIRs & actively investigating cases of enforced disappearances, targeted killings and discovery of mutilated bodies, as well as of kidnappings
  • ·         Places of worship of minorities must be protected and freedom of worship be ensured. Members of minority communities should be assured of their safety
  • ·         It should be noted that internal security can never be guaranteed by violation of rights
  • ·         Victims of violence must be compensated immediately
  • ·         The government must ensure protection of all teaching staff and that educational institutions function properly in a peaceful manner

Agencies’ role in JSMM activists’ murder must be probed: HRCP

Lahore, May 5: Endorsing the observations of its fact-finding mission that probed the murder of four political activists in Sanghar district a fortnight ago, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed shock and disgust at police callousness and called upon the Sindh government to immediately hold a judicial probe into the brutal murders and bring the killers to justice. On April 21, three activists of the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) were killed when more than a dozen armed men ambushed their vehicle in Sanghar. The attackers, some of them in security agencies’ uniform, later on set the JSMM activists’ car on fire. A fourth activist in the car received serious burn injuries and died in a hospital in Karachi on April 30. The HRCP mission found reason to believe that the four political activists were killed in a premeditated manner, either by security forces personnel or in collusion with them.

The mission received reports of police failure to help the only JSMM activist who had survived the initial attack, as he pleaded to be rescued from the burning car. In fact, policemen had allegedly tried to prevent the local people from rescuing the activist by telling them that he was a terrorist. The fact finding mission reported that at least some of the attackers were in official security agencies’ uniforms, police had taken their time to get to the attack site, little had been done to prevent the escape of the attackers and the half-hearted attempts at investigating the horrendous crime needed to be probed in a transparent judicial inquiry. It noted that the assailants had attacked the activists’ car without provocation and targeted them in such a manner so as to ensure that none of them survived.

The car was later torched to ensure that evidence of the grisly killings was destroyed. HRCP said that the apathetic and callous attitude of the police on the day of the attack and afterwards was nothing short of scandalous and merited closer scrutiny. It shared the mission’s concern that the Sanghar carnage had the potential, and might well be an attempt, to create tensions between the native Sindhi and settler population in the province. HRCP expressed serious alarm at the lack of urgency shown in holding a credible and thorough probe into the matter. The Commission said that serious measures were all the more crucial amid fears that this may be the beginning of Balochistan-style killings in Sindh. HRCP said that Pakistan must learn lessons from past experience about the price it has had to pay for actions of trigger-happy security personnel and for countering political dissent with unlawful use of force. It demanded that the provincial government must hold an independent and expeditious judicial probe into the brutal murders and make the findings of the probe public. HRCP called upon the government to do everything within its power to bring the killers to justice to prevent recurrence of such brazen attacks on political activists.

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

Souhayr Belhassen receives the Takreem 2011 Arab Woman Award for

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Press release

Souhayr Belhassen receives the Takreem 2011 Arab Woman Award for
her human rights work

 http://www.fidh.org/Souhayr-Belhassen-FIDH-President-is-Arab-Woman-of

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, Souhayr Belhassen, the Tunisian President of FIDH, received the Takreem Arab Woman of the Year Award, during a ceremony held at the Katara cultural village in Qatar.

“I dedicate this award to the women and men who have brought about the Tunisian revolution. I dedicate this award to all the revolutions that are taking place in the Arab world”, declared Souhayr Belhassen during the award ceremony.

The Takreem Achievement Awards aim to reward the great personalities of the Arab world who have distinguished themselves through their remarkable work and success in different fields. The “Woman of the Year” category pays homage to women who, through their activities, contribute to the repute of the Arab region worldwide.
The ceremony presented the laureates of the second edition of the “TAKREEM Arab Achievement” awards in various categories.

The jury included Mohamed El Baradei, winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize; Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian parliamentarian; and Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Under-Secretary-General.

Further information : http://www.takreemawards.com/