HRCP urges Pakistan, India to resume prisoner swap, stop arrests for minor violations

Press Release, 5 August 2009

Lahore: As the Pakistani and Indian governments exhibit a welcome resolve to resume dialogue, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urges them to also reconsider the plight of each other’s nationals incarcerated in prisons across the border, institute long-term policies to de-criminalise minor visa or border-crossing violations and stop violating Article 73 (Enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal State) of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that prohibits the arrest of fishermen crossing a maritime border.

HRCP urges an early resumption of the process of reciprocal exchange of prisoners, halted since the Mumbai attacks.

HRCP endorses the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s demand for a permanent solution that includes a policy in which Pakistan and India stop arresting each other’s fishermen for maritime boundary violations. Such detentions routinely violate Article 73 of UNCLOS, according to which penalties for violations “may not include imprisonment, in the absence of agreements to the contrary by the States concerned, or any other form of corporal punishment”.

When making such arrests, the security agencies also seize boats, equipment and catch worth lakhs of rupees. Dozens of such boats, representing the hard work and sweat of the poor, lie rotting in harbours on either side.

Pakistan and India allow each other’s arrested citizens no access to consular services until after they have served their prison terms. Many languish for years in brutal conditions. They have no legal rights or the ability to challenge their arrest or engage a lawyer. Normally their families remain oblivious of their arrests, location of prisons and the conditions there.

Cases come to public notice when prisoners’ families or friends are lucky to acquire information, take up the issue and notify the media. Engaging lawyers across the divide also adds to the woes of the incarcerated prisoners and their families. Such families often remain long ignorant of the arrest and whereabouts of their loved ones. Sometimes, even after prisoners are returned, they have nowhere to go if they have lost track of their families, or their families have disowned them.

Use of torture as well as negligence is rampant in prisons in both countries.  This has resulted in the loss of lives as well as leaving many prisoners on both sides physically and mentally scarred for life.

The two States must ensure that each other’s nationals are repatriated at the earliest and that they are not denied basic human rights in prisons merely on account of their nationality.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

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HRCP consultation calls for a crash plan to secure workers rights

Press Release, May 16

Karachi: Legislation necessary for the implementation of the recently, ratified International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, immediate convening of tripartite labor conference to remove the impediments to the enforcement of the workers’ rights, adoption of a plan for land reform, so as to protect the rights of the tenants and cultivators, and speedy acceptance of the charter of labor rights adopted by workers representatives on March 30, are the main recommendations of a broad based consultation with representatives of workers and fisher folk organizations, sponsored by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Karachi today.

The meeting attended by nearly one hundred representatives of trade unions, fisher folk forum and human rights activists, welcomed the government decision to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and demanded speedy adoption of legislation so that the people of Pakistan could realize the rights recognized in the covenant. The participants specially emphasized the need to recognize the right to work, which includes the right to work of one’s choice, the rights of workers to their economic development, the right to safe and healthy working conditions, the right to form trade unions, women’s right to equal wages for equal work, and the right to social security.

The meeting endorsed the labor charter adopted by labor organizations in March this year and suggested that priority should be given to withdrawal of all restraints on the right to form unions, extension of social security network, consolidation of labor laws as recommended by the Shafi-ur-Rehman commission, implementation of ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor and revision of ILO 2002 to bring this law in harmony with workers’ inalienable rights. In the opinion of the participants the implementation of the Bonded Labor System Abolition Act needed to be reviewed. It was necessary to provide for the settlement of liberated haris. They had a right to be allotted land so that they could utilize their skills.

The meeting strongly urged the government to immediately convene a tripartite labor conference to resolve issues concerning the country’s work force.

The meeting regretted that little was being said about the plight of agricultural workers, tenants and landless peasants. The meeting called for a new land utilization policy, fixation of a fair ceiling on land holdings and distribution of land among men and women who till the land. The government was also asked to ensure implementation of the ILO convention on the agricultural workers right to form union.

The government was also urged to pay serious attention to the continued exploitation of Pakistan’s fisher folk. The policy of handing over sea-shore to so called developers was severely criticized along with the policy of favoring foreign fishing organizations at the cost of the country’s fishing community.

Secretary General HRCP

HRCP strongly condemns the death of Indian Fisherman in the Hospital of District Malir Jail and wants unimpeded investigation into this tragic incident

Press Release, March 27, 2008 

Karachi: In a statement issued to the press, Zohra Yusuf, Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sindh Chapter has strongly condemned the death of an Indian Fisherman in the Hospital of District Malir Jail, Karachi and demanded unimpeded investigation into this tragic incident.  

One out of the 431 Indian fishermen, who were arrested and imprisoned for illegal fishing, died on March 20, 2008 during treatment in Malir Jail’s hospital.  Deceased Lakshman, 40, son of Kanji, was arrested by the Marine Security Agency for entering into Pakistani waters and imprisoned in Malir Jail on February 10, 2006, the statement said. 

HRCP demands immediate and impartial investigation into this tragic incident and urges the Government of Sindh to order a high level inquiry into the case and to take measures to prevent similar recurrences.  

HRCP also urged the Government of Pakistan to complete the legal formalities and co-ordinate efforts with the High Commission of India for the release and transportation of Indian Fishermen in the Malir District Jail, back to their hometowns in India  

Zohra Yusuf, Vice Chairperson

HRCP: invitation to participate in a Consultation on Workers’ Rights

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan cordially invites you to participate in a Consultation on Workers’ Rights

On Friday, December 28, 2007, at 09:30 am

At Crown B, Regent Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, Karachi

RSVP

HRCP Karachi Chapter

Ph: (021) 5637131 / 32

Fax: (021) 5637133

E-mail: hrcp@cyber.net.pk Continue reading