The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on Thursday levelled a series of allegations against Pakistan, including enforced disappearances,, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, blasphemy laws and cyber crackdown.
Enforced disappearances, seen in tribal areas and Baluchistan for the past 15 years, have become widespread across Pakistan, UNHRC member Olivier de Frouville told reporters. "This is an admitted fact even within the country that this is carried out by agents of the state," he said, adding that the government's own investigations were insufficient. A high number of people were allegedly in secret detention in military internment centres, the committee's report said. Killings were allegedly perpetrated by the police, military and security forces but there was no law explicitly against such practices.
The Geneva-based UNHRC is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its State parties. It’s report on Pakistan followed the country’s first ever review after the south Asian nation ratified the Covenant.
Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael defended Pakistan's record before the committee earlier this month, but the Committee said his delegation had given few responses to their questions and very general answers.
UNHRC also denounced Pakistan's widespread use of hanging since it lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014, following an attack on a school in which more than 150 people, mainly children, were killed. Death sentences were passed on mentally disabled people and suspects who were minors at the time of the crime, and the method of execution amounted to torture. Pakistan has executed 468 prisoners since 2014 and has 1,500 people on death row, the report said.
According to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, the penalty for contempt of the Prophet Mohammed is death, and offence against the Koran results in imprisonment for life. Saying that the blasphemy laws often led to false accusations and "mob vengeance", the committee called on Pakistan to repeal the laws or amend them in compliance with the requirements of the Covenant. It has asked the government to 'ensure that all those who incite or engage in violence against others based on allegations of blasphemy as well as those who falsely accuse others of blasphemy are brought to justice and duly punished'.
UNHRC called for adequate protection of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses involved in blasphemy cases; review of school textbooks and curricula with a view to removing all religiously biased content and incorporation of human rights education and regulation of affairs of madrassas.
The UNHRC also urged that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016 be revised in compliance with ICCPR. The Act was widely promoted as a tool to punish internet activity by banned militant groups and curb online sexual harassment. But in recent months it has increasingly been used to crack down on those who have gone online with criticism of the government, particularly the military and intelligence agencies. Civil rights advocates, as well as people directly targeted by the authorities, have described actions that included harassment, intimidation, and detention without access to lawyers or family members. In a few cases, physical abuse of those in custody was reported.