KARACHI: The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has denounced the promulgation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Actions (in aid of civil power) Ordinance, 2019, by the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Aug 5 and expressed the apprehension that it could lead to serious human rights violations and miscarriage of justice, contrary to the purported aims of the measures.
“The ordinance is yet another example of Pakistan’s resort to ‘exceptional’ measures that are grossly incompatible with human rights protections, ostensibly to combat terrorism and other serious crime,” said ICJ’s Asia Director Frederick Rawski, according to a press release issued on Friday.
“Pakistan must reject this dangerous, oppressive, and counterproductive strategy and instead strengthen its judicial process and law enforcement in line with its domestic law and international human rights law obligations,” he added.
Says legislation may lead to serious rights violations and miscarriage of justice
The ICJ urged the Pakistan government to immediately revoke the ordinance and to review all national security legislation to ensure it is fully compatible with international human rights law and standards.
The press release said the ordinance gave sweeping powers to members of the armed forces including the power to detain people without charge or trial on a number of vaguely defined grounds where it appeared that such “internment” would be expedient for peace. Individuals might be detained for an unspecified period without any right to be brought before a court of law or to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court, it added.
The ordinance is incompatible with “fundamental rights” guaranteed by the Constitution, as well as Pakistan’s international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the ICJ noted.
Article 9(4) of the ICCPR guarantees the right of all detainees to take proceedings before a court to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, and to be released if the court finds such detention unlawful.
Earlier in their review of Pakistan’s implementation of the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture had expressed concern about the Actions (in aid of civil power) Regulations in 2011, which were applicable in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, and recommended that Pakistan “review the Actions (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011 with a view to repealing it or bringing it into conformity with international standards”.
Mr Rawski said: “It is regrettable that not only did Pakistan flout these recommendations of the UN Committees, but that it extended the scope of the regulations.” He added this step also called into question Pakistan’s pledge for election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, where Pakistan had “firmly resolved to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2019