HRCP wants GCU-students row resolved quickly

Press Release, November 3, 2008

  

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged immediate resolution of the current dispute between the Government College University (GCU) administration and protesting students, against two of whom cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) had been lodged.

 

In a statement issued on Monday, the HRCP said: “While the HRCP wishes that the disagreement between the GCU authorities and the students had not taken the turn it did assume, it finds there is much to be said on both sides. The action taken by the administration was clearly not the only one available, nor was it the most appropriate choice. However, this in no way suggests that truancy and indiscipline among students should be tolerated or the academic tradition of any institution violated.

 

HRCP is relieved to note that the matter is moving towards a resolution now and emphasises that it should be resolved forthwith.”

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chair, HRCP

HRCP urges moving Dr. Sarki closer to home

Press release – 8 February 2008                                                     

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the federal law ministry to move Dr. Safdar Sarki, the detained General Secretary of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), from Zhob to a prison in Sindh and provide him urgently needed medical treatment.  

In a letter, the commission expressed concern at the risks to the life and health of Dr. Sarki, on account of his medical condition and his detention in a jail in far-flung and very cold Zhob district of Balochistan. Dr. Sarki is suffering from retinal degeneration (losing eyesight) on account of consistent blindfolding, as well as arthritis and hernia. HRCP urged the government to shift Dr. Sarki to his native Sindh province, where the weather would be less harsh. The organization demanded that Dr. Sarki should also be given regular access to his relatives and colleagues and provided necessary medicines immediately. 

Dr. Sarki was taken away by security personnel from a relative’s flat in Karachi on February 24, 2006. For a year and a half he remained missing and on the HRCP list of “disappeared” persons before the Supreme Court. 

After denying his custody for a long time, the security agencies finally produced Dr. Sarki in court in October 2007, along with two other missing Sindhi nationalist. Police then officially “arrested” all three. Dr. Sarki was charged with possessing explosives. He was granted bail on November 02, 2007, but was never released.  

Iqbal Haider

General Secretary

NYTimes: Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan

Article published in The New York Times titled Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan. By CARLOTTA GALL, Published: December 19, 2007

The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say.

Those released, they say, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington’s fight against terrorism since 2001.

No official reason has been given for the releases, but as pressure has mounted to bring the cases into the courts, the government has decided to jettison some suspects and spare itself the embarrassment of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in the secret system, its opponents say.

Interviews with lawyers and human rights officials here, a review of cases by The New York Times and court records made available by the lawyers show how scraps of information have accumulated over recent months into a body of evidence of the detention system.

In one case, a suspect tied to, but not charged with the 2002 killing of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, was dumped on a garbage heap, so thin and ill he died 20 days later. He, like one other detainee, was arrested in South Africa several years ago and released in Pakistan this year.

The Pakistani government denies detaining people illegally and says that many of the missing are actually in regular jails on criminal charges, while other cases have been fabricated.

In at least two instances, detainees were handed over to the United States without any legal extradition proceedings, Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups say. American officials here and in Washington refused to comment on the cases.

“They are releasing them because these cases are being made public,” said Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a lawyer working at the Supreme Court who has taken many cases of the missing. “They want to avoid the publicity.”

In addition, human rights groups and lawyers here contend, the government has swept up at least 4,000 other Pakistanis, most of them Baluchi and Sindhi nationalists seeking ethnic or regional autonomy who have nothing to do with the United States campaign against terrorism.

Human rights groups and lawyers describe the disappearances as one of the grimmest aspects of Pervez Musharraf’s presidency, and one that shows no sign of slowing.

Under previous governments, “there were one or two cases, but not the systematic disappearances by the intelligence agencies under Musharraf,” said Iqbal Haider, secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent nonprofit organization. Continue reading

UPDATE-Night vigil & human shield to prevent forcible eviction of Justice Shahid Siddiqui

Update of post “Night vigil & human shield to prevent forcible eviction of Justice Shahid Siddiqui”

Govt to withdraw case against LUMS students

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to withdraw a case against 10 students of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), including two girls and eight boys, who were arrested by the police while protesting in front of Justice (r) MA Shahid Siddiqi’s house in the Race Course police precinct. According to a handout issued by the Directorate General of Public Relations, the government had decided to release the students who were arrested on December 6 from GOR-I, just outside Justice Shahid Siddiqi’s residence. The police detained the students in the Race Course police station after lodging a case against them under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Ordinance. President Pervez Musharraf on Monday asked the government to withdraw the case. The president expressed concern over the registration of cases against civil society activists, teachers and the LUMS students. He said that a lenient view should be taken on such cases. Daily Times staff report

Students’ protest against fellows’ detention

LAHORE: Students from across the city and members of civil society on Monday protested at the Cantonment Court against the “imposition of marital law” and the suspension of bails of the arrested students. Ten people including some students were detained on Thursday from outside the deposed Judge Shahid Siddiqui’s residence in GOR-I. Two FAST students, Hassan and Amanullah were also Continue reading

Observe Dec 10 as ‘black day’: HRCP urges civil society

DEC 10 – BLACK DAY
pco burning - nytimes

Lahore 05 December 2007: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan calls upon all members of civil society to observe the Universal Human Rights Day as a “black day”. The worst human rights abuses, in the history of the country, were recorded in 2007. The rights of ordinary people have been violated by the government with impunity. More than 400 people have been picked up by security forces and many remain missing. The Musharraf regime obstructed the Supreme Court in providing justice to those who remain disappeared, as well as those who recorded their statements of having suffered extreme forms of torture at the hands of the security forces. Reports of torture, threats, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests run into thousands. Incidents of extra judicial killings continue to be reported but never investigated.

The situation has now reached alarming proportions. The coercive apparatus of the State are being blatantly used against all sections of civil society. The media is chained and free expression censured. Thousands of lawyers, journalists, students, teachers and human rights activists were arrested. A number of them remain incarcerated under deplorable conditions. Lawyers and others have been accused of offences falling under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Thirty-five judges of superior courts have been put under house arrest. The family of the Chief Justice of Pakistan is also confined to their residence. This is unprecedented.

The rights of the people are being usurped on the pretext of curbing terrorism. It is the people who are suffering terrorism; both at the hands of non-state militants and state agents. The government has failed to bring militants to justice or to disarm them. On the contrary, at several occasions, the government and its agents have patronized or in the least, ignored criminal acts carried out by militants acting in the name of Islam.

HRCP warns that the claim made by Musharraf of moving towards a transition to democracy is a total farce. The assertion is yet another smack on the face of the people of Pakistan. Amendments to the Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Act as well as the Army Act are only a few examples of the government’s grand plan to subjugate the spirit of peaceful members of civil society. Much more is to follow.

HRCP, along with other civil society groups, will organize a black day on the 10th of December. Black flags and bands should be displayed on this unworthy occasion. In order to record the laudable struggle of the legal fraternity of Pakistan HRCP will award the best documentary film made on this movement. All entries are to be submitted by 30 June 2008.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Anti-terror cases infringe human rights: HRCP

LAHORE, July 02: Pakistan’s preference for dealing with individuals suspected of terrorist and sectarian offences outside the domain of regular criminal law is leading to violation of their human rights.

This is the key finding in a new report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Entitled ‘Terrorist unless proven otherwise’, which has now been released to the public. The report peruses laws and extra-legal practices by government agencies in fighting terrorism and sectarian violence in the country. It tracks a string of ‘special’ laws introduced in Pakistan and concludes that in the last 32 years every time the government has been dissatisfied with the pace or outcome of prosecution of terrorist / sectarian offences, it has invariably dealt with them outside the regular criminal law regime by introducing ‘special’ laws or included new offences in existing ‘special’ laws.

The report explains how anyone accused of such offences under these ‘special’ laws is deprived of many universal human rights guarantees taken for granted in Pakistan’s criminal legal system.

It says that the latest ‘special’ legal instrument in a long line, the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), falls foul of international human rights laws and national constitutional guarantees on many counts.

These include presumption of guilt of the accused, an adequate defence of the accused being compromised on account of undue haste in trial (within seven days) and on appeal (seven days), allowing extra-judicial confessions, and trial in absence of the accused. According to the report, ATA also infringes numerous juvenile rights and is in express violation of Pakistan’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. HRCP has evaluated the outcome of cases under ATA and finds that despite the ‘special’ provisions of the law, justice is often neither speedy nor effective. It found faulty convictions based on patchy evidence and frequent overturning of trial courts’ verdicts on appeal.

The HRCP report also covers practices such as detention under preventive laws, ‘enforced’ disappearances within and outside the ambit of the so-called war on terror, unlawful surrender of individuals to other countries, and complicity in torture and refoulement.

HRCP says that existing laws and practices effectively sentence the accused first and deliver the verdict afterwards. The HRCP report acknowledges that governments have a legitimate interest in prosecuting those charged with any criminal act. But such actions must be legal and must not come at the expense of individual’s rights.