Date:31 May 2012 Little justice for labour says HRCP

Lahore, May 31: The whole system of labour courts and tribunals needs to be reviewed if the goal of expeditious and fair adjudication of labour cases is to be realised. This is the main recommendation of the expert group comprising trade union representatives, lawyers specialising in labour cases and civil society organizations that met the other day and whose findings have been released here today by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) head office.

The meeting was of the view that the working of labour courts and tribunals could not be viewed in isolation from the state’s attitude towards the rights and problems of workers. As the government had little time for drawing up a labour policy or any programme for labour’s uplift it tended to ignore the need to make the forums for redress of labour’s grievances efficient and effective.

The experts’ group expressed concern that a large number of workers could not access labour courts. Either they had no documents to establish their employment by their employers or they did not fall in the legal definition of workmen. This problem needed to be resolved on priority basis.

The new provincial labour laws, except for the one adopted by Balochistan, did not explicitly provide for the high courts’ right to oversee the working of labour courts/tribunals, especially in the matter of appointment of their presiding officers. The supervisory role of the high courts needed to be explicitly defined.

The load of work at most of the labour forums was quite heavy and it was causing delays. The number of labour courts, or at least the number of judges at the existing courts, should be increased.

The group favoured the creation of a judicial service exclusively trained in labour laws but if that was not possible the training of labour courts’ judges in labour rights and disputes could not be delayed.

Another recommendation was that labour laws should be included as a compulsory subject in the curriculum of law schools/academies.

The group was concerned at the lack of attention to the urgency of revising labour laws and making them more just and equitable.

Finally the group called upon trade unions not to rely wholly on the government functionaries’ plans and policies and to train their members for effective advocacy in support of workers who were unlawfully dealt with by their employers.

(I. A. Rehman)
Secretary-General

HRCP condemns murder of Prof. Dr. Shabih ul Hasan, demands judicial inquiry

Lahore May 31: The Lahore members of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its monthly meeting on May 30, 2012 condemned the gruesome murder of Professor Dr. Shabih ul Hasan Hashmi in strongest terms and demanded that the Punjab government should hold a proper inquiry. Lahore members observed one minute silence for the departed soul. They paid rich tributes to the services of Prof. Dr. Shabih ul Hasan in the field of literature and education and stated that Pakistan has lost a great scholar and a teacher. They expressed the concern at the police failure to round up the culprits and called for the protection of Dr. Shabih ul Hasan Hashmi’s family.

Zaman Khan
Convener
HRCP Lahore members’ monthly meeting

Afridi deserves a fair trial: HRCP

Lahore, May 25: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed concern at denial of due process rights to Dr Shakil Afridi, the man accused of helping the US find Osama bin Laden who has been convicted to 33 years in prison, and demanded that irrespective of the charges against him he must get a fair trial.

A statement by HRCP on Friday said: “One is concerned about the security of the country, but that cannot be made the basis of denying rule of law to anyone. HRCP notes with concern that the trial of Dr Afridi falls well short of the due process standards on many counts, not least because the core principle of natural justice has been ignored and Afridi denied due legal assistance. The question of trying Dr. Afridi on charges of treason also remains controversial. His actions may well have been prompted by the declared policy of the State to fight all forms of terrorism in sincerity. Irrespective of the charge against him, there was no reason for trying Afridi in a tribal court, when the supposed offence had taken place in Abbotabad, nor for denying him a public trial or legal assistance of his choice. Such treatment has given rise to perceptions that the only reason he was tried by a tribal court was to deprive him of the rights guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. HRCP calls upon the government to ensure that Dr Afridi gets a fair trial and is afforded an opportunity to defend himself against the charge brought against him. That is every citizen’s right and there is no reason why Dr Afridi’s case should be an exception.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

Murder of missing person, attack on rally

Sindh plunging into Balochistan-style mayhem: HRCP

 Lahore, May 23: The killing of Sindhi nationalist leader Muzaffar Bhutto, one of the prominent victims of enforced disappearance in Sindh, and the brazen attack on a peaceful political rally in Karachi on Tuesday that claimed at least 16 lives appear to be the latest manifestations of violent suppression of political debate and in the absence of effective measures can plunge Sindh into Balochistan-style mayhem, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

HRCP said in a statement: “The body of Muzaffar Bhutto, secretary general of Jiye Sindh Muttahida Mahaz, who went missing in February 2011, was found near Hyderabad. He was shot in the head and in the upper torso and the body also bore torture marks. He had also been picked up in 2005 but was allowed to return home. The family alleged involvement of state agencies and insisted that Muzaffar was neither a terrorist nor a criminal, but only a political activist. Muzaffar was one of the many victims of enforced disappearance in Sindh in recent months. Several other activists, among them members of JSMM, remain untraced. HRCP has been able to verify at least 41 cases of enforced disappearance in interior Sindh since November 2010. Out of these 26 people have been traced or released, and another 14 remain missing. Fifteen of these missing individuals were mainly political activists from Badin, of which nine have been released and six remain missing. HRCP is alarmed at these Balochistan-style disappearances and now the dumping of bodies is expanding to Sindh. One hopes that the authorities have learned their lesson by now and would desist from relying on the illegal practice of picking up citizens and holding them in violation of law in Sindh or indeed anywhere in the country. The courts should also take note of the disappearances and order recording statements of those who have come back from captivity with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The attack on a political rally and the resulting loss of life marks a clear deterioration in the law and order situation in Karachi, where senseless violence and killings may have become the norm but a political rally had never been targeted in the manner it was on Tuesday evening.

The belated response from police on Tuesday was nothing less than what the people have come to expect of police, opening fire as political activists protested the killings. The authorities must launch a transparent investigation into the attack to identify and bring to justice the killers.

The government must realise that the law and order agencies’ inability to protect the rally and the people in general, or to apprehend the perpetrators of violence is prompting not only charge of incompetence but also complicity. There is an urgent need to revive the people’s trust in the law enforcement agencies, and that cannot come about by mere rhetoric. The authorities must ensure that government agencies are reined in and dissent and struggle for political rights are not countered by violence or strong-arm tactics. The civil society and political parties must also play their role in addressing the very tense situation.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

HRCP for stay of execution, abolition of death penalty

Lahore, May 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with alarm that, despite an informal moratorium on executions, a man on death row is scheduled to be hanged in a Karachi prison on May 23. HRCP has called upon the government to stay the hanging and announce a formal moratorium on executions.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “HRCP has received with serious concern and dismay reports that Behram Khan, a death row prisoner in Karachi, is set to be hanged on May 23. The last execution of a death row prisoner in the country had taken place in late 2008. Executions have since been suspended. HRCP has welcomed the suspension of executions in the country and has on numerous occasions called upon the government to keep the promise it had made in 2008 to convert almost all death sentences into life imprisonment. HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that had caused the stay of executions in 2008 have not changed. These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption and on account of these factors a very high probability of miscarriage of justice prevails. Capital punishment remains on the statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award death sentences.

Against this backdrop, the report of Behram’s planned execution on May 23 is a regressive step and raises concerns at several levels. HRCP calls upon the government to immediately halt this and any other executions that might be under consideration and make the informal suspension of executions formal forthwith. Such a decision would do away with the need for the president to issue orders staying executions every six months or so. We also urge the president to favourably consider mercy petitions and convert capital punishment to life imprisonment.

HRCP demands that the government takes urgent measures towards abolition of capital punishment inPakistan, including deletion of the death penalty from the statute books, at least for all but the most serious offences.

HRCP also urges the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. The Commission calls upon parliamentarians, political parties and the civil society to join the campaign for abolition of the death penalty in Pakistan and enhance respect for the right to life in Pakistan.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

UN high commissioner hears civil society’s concerns

A larger group of civil society representatives later joined her for tea. All these meetings took place at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Lahore, June 5: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday met with members of the religious minority communities and exchanged views with a gathering of civil society organisations’ representatives, lawyers and journalists here.

A larger group of civil society representatives later joined her for tea. All these meetings took place at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The high commissioner briefly explained her mission to the civil society representatives but reserved her comments until the end of her visit to Pakistan when she will offer a more comprehensive response.

Representatives of minority communities raised the issues of discrimination, problems faced on account of the blasphemy law and discrimination in services and education. The civil society organisations raised issues of militancy, shrinking writ of the state, lack of security for journalists and human rights defenders, the freedom allowed to militants, the state of education, rise of extremism and intolerance among young people and children and the civil society’s concerns over the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had begun her four-day mission to Pakistan on 4 June at the invitation of the government.

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

HRCP slams torture on detained activists in Gilgit

Lahore, May 4: Reports of alleged torture on at least five political activists in the Gilgit Jail are exceedingly worrying and hint at the authorities’ stubborn refusal to learn from past mistake, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement on Friday.

“HRCP notes with concern that the five activists who have been in prison for several months continue to face very harsh treatment for protesting against the poor quality of food and delay in hearing of cases of prisoners at the jail. They have been incarcerated for protesting on behalf of the victims of forced displacement on account of the Attabad landslide in January 2010. On April 28, the five activists were reportedly visited in the jail by police and security agencies and tortured on the dubious charge of leading the protest in prison. One of the activists, Baba Jan, is said to have suffered two broken fingers and injuries to his head and other parts of his body. It is a matter of concern that despite a local court’s order he and other activists have not been examined by a doctor and have not been hospitalized in violation of the court’s order. Attempts to lodge cases against the security personnel who tortured them have also not been successful. HRCP strongly protest maltreatment of the activists in official custody. It was briefly hoped that the authorities must surely have known the futility of such tactics as well as of creating an aura of impunity for excesses by agents of the state. However, it appears that that has not been the case. HRCP demands that the basic rights and due process must not be denied to the five political activists. Those accused of torturing them must be suspended pending investigation and those found guilty punished under the law. Last but not the least the government must desist from making a terrible situation in Gilgit even worse by stubbornly sticking to its strong-arm tactics.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson