NEW YORK: The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Human Rights Watch Thursday urged the Pakistan government to affirm its commitment for ending enforced disappearances by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The third annual United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is set to be observed on August 30.
“Ratifying the convention against disappearances is a key test for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s new government,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government would send a clear political message that it’s serious about ending ‘disappearances’. And it would show its commitment to ensuring justice for serious human rights violations,” said Hasan.
Despite repeated denials by Pakistan’s security agencies, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acknowledged and human rights groups have documented evidence of the involvement of intelligence and security agencies in enforced disappearances particularly in the troubled Balochistan province.
In July, Pakistan’s attorney general admitted that more than 500 “disappeared” persons are in custody of the security agencies.
“Pakistan’s failure to hold even a single perpetrator of enforced disappearances to account perpetuates the culture of impunity in Pakistan,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific regional director of ICJ.
“The prevalence of gross violations of human rights in the country today is partly a legacy of this impunity.”
“In Balochistan and beyond, Pakistani security forces have forcibly disappeared, tortured, and unlawfully killed people in the name of counterterrorism,” Hasan said.
“Pakistan has a responsibility to arrest and prosecute militants acting outside the law, but abuses against suspects cannot be explained away as a way to end terrorism,” he added.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in its 2012 report on Pakistan found that the country’s counterterrorism laws, in particular the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, and the FATA/PATA Action (in aid of civil powers) Regulations 2011, allowed arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which has enabled enforced disappearances.
The ICJ and Human Rights Watch called on the Pakistani government to carry out a full review of security-related legislation and ensure that all laws conform to Pakistan’s international law obligations to prevent such violations.
“All disappeared persons must be released or, if charged with recognizable crimes, brought without further delay before a court to see if their continuing detention is legal,” Zarifi said.
“The government should also fully investigate and prosecute those who are responsible for ordering, participating, or carrying out enforced disappearances.”