ISLAMABAD: A delegation of the European Parliament has called for concrete actions on human rights issues, legislation against torture and enforced disappearances and reforming procedures for mercy petitions, according to a press release issued by the European Commission.

The three-member subcommittee on human rights concluded its visit to Pakistan on Friday as the European Union’s monitoring of the country’s preferential trade access to its market under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme enters into the final round.

The subcommittee comprising members of the European Parliament (MEP) Maria Arena, Peter van Dalen and Petras Austrevevicius emphasised the need for timely reforms and legislative changes on human rights issues and translating them into concrete improvements.

The committee called for swift adoption of laws against torture and enforced disappearances, steps to reduce number of crimes carrying the death penalty and to apply to new procedures for mercy petitions, the statement added.

“Laws protecting journalists, eliminating obstacles to the work of civil society organisations and media, and the rights to collective bargaining and unionisation should be implemented,” it said.

According to the statement, Senate members have committed to writing a letter to Supreme Court judges for speedy trials of blasphemy cases.

The MEPs also called for ‘decisive actions’ to prevent domestic violence, child labour and child marriage.

During their visit, the MEPs met the speaker and members of the National Assembly, as well as the chairman and members of the Senate. They also held meetings with the ministers for human rights and law, members of civil society, women human rights activists and media persons.

The discussions covered a wide array of issues, including the criminal justice system, torture and death penalty, economic and social rights, prevention of domestic violence, and freedom of religion and belief and of expression.

Maria Arena, a member from Belgium, said: “Our visit allowed us to get an overall picture of the challenges faced by Pakistan when it comes to human rights. Significant progress and renewed commitment to genuinely change the situation on the ground are essential for Pakistan to succeed in its application process for post-2023 GSP+.”

She emphasised that “significant progress and renewed commitment” to change the situation on the ground are essential for Pakistan to succeed in the application process for renewing the GSP+ status.

The statement added that as a major GSP+ country, Pakistan has committed to ratifying and complying with 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, sustainable development and good governance.

On behalf of the European Parliament, the committee members also expressed their condolences over the loss of lives due to recent floods and rainfall.

The members were also briefed on the response and relief activities and the country’s vulnerability to climate disasters.

The international community must increase its efforts to reduce global carbon emissions and help the countries suffering the most from climate change, the members emphasised.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2022

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