LAHORE: As the world observed the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday held a sit-in in front of the Lahore Press Club to highlight the issue.
Six families of the persons, three from Balochistan, who have reportedly disappeared also participated in the rally along with many rights activists in the city. Carrying placards and demanding return of those who went missing without a trace, the participants regretted that trend of enforced disappearances was still going on.
The placards demanded that ‘enforced disappearance’ be declared a crime, the missing persons should be recovered, those responsible (individual or institutions) be held accountable and due process of the law must be respected.
According to the HRCP literature distributed in the rally, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) – a constitutional body mandated to hear such cases – had received 6,277 complaints and was able to address 4,020 out of them. Between January and July of 2019, 239 missing persons returned home. Those fortunate enough to return home were unwilling to divulge details of their disappearance, said commission.
Earlier, in a press release, the HRCP said: “Our thoughts are also with those Kashmiris who have been forcibly disappeared as part of the state crackdown in India-held Kashmir”.
The HRCP called on the Pakistan government to carry through its long overdue promise to criminalise enforced disappearances under the Pakistan Penal Code. The state must also acknowledge allegations that the official data sorely underreports the number of forcibly disappeared persons – something that many victims’ groups and human rights organisations have consistently pointed out, it added.
The commission called for the findings of the 2010 judicial commission on enforced disappearances to be made public.
The HRCP drew urgent attention to the need for Pakistan to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
“Internal political instability or any other public emergency are no grounds for justifying enforced disappearances. Equally, the internment centres to which numerous forcibly disappeared persons have been traced must be declared unconstitutional. As such, these centres are black holes and have no place in a democratic structure that entitles a detained person to know what they have been charged with, the right to a fair trial and the right to remain in contact with their families and with legal counsel,” the HRCP statement said.
Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019