LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday held a demonstration to observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

Office-bearers of the HRCP held a protest outside the press club and demanded all social activists, journalists and political prisoners of the country be released.

The protesters were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans for the recovery of disappeared persons. They also chanted slogans against the authorities for not taking measures for their recovery. They said they had shared data regarding cases of disappearances before the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED); they received 4,113 cases till July 31 of which 2,857 were disposed of till the date and 1,256 were still missing.

In a statement issued on the occasion, the commission said: “International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Aug 30, holds particular relevance to Pakistan since the phenomenon euphemistically called the missing persons issue is well entrenched in the country.

Demands release of activists, journalists, political prisoners

The day serves to remind us that despite a large number of ‘disappearances’ coming to light, not a single person has been held accountable for perpetrating such heinous actions. It is a matter of equally grave concern that disappearances continued in Pakistan, as is apparent from the information released by the officially constituted CIED.”

It further stated that in Sindh, those campaigning against disappearances were now themselves becoming victims. In Punjab, Zeenat Shahzadi, a journalist, who raised her voice for disappearance victims, became one herself. She remained missing two years after being picked up from near her house in Lahore in Aug 2015.

The HRCP regretted the government had not implemented the recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) after its visit to Pakistan in 2012 and subsequently as well. In its second Universal Periodic Review, the government did accept a recommendation to specifically criminalise disappearances. However, no concrete steps were taken to make them a crime.

“We call upon the government to implement, without any further delay, all the WGEID recommendations and the promises Pakistan made during the UPR process, particularly with respect to disappearances.”

It further urged the government to order all state agencies to cooperate in the recovery of all missing persons and desist from abducting citizens, keeping them in secret detention or killing them and dumping their bodies. End the widespread impunity for disappearance. The earliest possible start of proceedings against any state functionaries involved would contribute to giving the people some hope of getting justice. Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Arrange payment of compensation for families of the missing persons that had been suffering for years. Ensure the government desisted from making laws that could end up legalising forms of secret, unacknowledged, and incommunicado detention.

“Enforced disappearances are an affront to the universally held principles of the rule of law, have no place in a civilised society, have brought a bad name to the country and must be discontinued at once,” the statement concluded.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2017

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