ISLAMABAD: The United Nations working group on enforced disappearances delivered its initial findings Thursday as it concluded its 10-day visit to Pakistan.
The group has pressed the Pakistani government and judiciary to do more to tackle the problem of thousands of people who have allegedly been detained by law enforcement and intelligence agencies and remain missing.
Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad to mark the end of their visit, members of the working group acknowledged the government had taken steps to tackle the issue of enforced disappearances, but added that “serious challenges remain.”
“We note that cases continue to be reported to national authorities, but there are controversies both on figures and on the nature of practice of enforced disappearances,” observed Olivier de Frouville, chair of the working group.
To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket concerning the whole country, the UN expert added.
The UN experts said that, according to sources, there were 14,000 cases of ‘missing persons’ in Balochistan. However, they added, the government claims there are less than 100 such cases.
Olivier de Frouville, and member, Osman El-Hajj said they acknowledged the security challenges being faced by Pakistan. However, the experts said that, according to the 1992 Declaration for Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances, no circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.
Olivier de Frouville said there is acknowledgement that enforced disappearances have occurred and still occur in the country. He added that the group was invited by the Pakistani government.
At one point during the press conference, the working group also welcomed the role played by the judiciary to shed light on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan and to trace missing persons.
The UN experts further added that the analysis of the information received during and prior to the visit will be considered in the preparation of the report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council at a session in 2013.
The UN working group’s visit was clouded by complaints from Pakistan’s parliament members who claimed the group’s presence was a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Several key institutions in Pakistan – including the Supreme Court, the military and the intelligence agency – refused to meet with the group. Their lack of cooperation raises questions about how much impact the group’s visit will have.