Thursday, August 3, 2017

UN calls for Pakistan to repeal or amend blasphemy laws

United Nations (UN) has taken note of human rights violations and controversial blasphemy laws after a think tank registered with Irish government had lodged a plea with the international body.

The United Nations has made the following observations:

The State party should:

(a) Repeal all blasphemy laws or amend them in compliance with the strict requirements of the Covenant, including as set forth in general comment No. 34, para. 48;

(b) Ensure that all those who incite or engage in violence against others based on allegations of blasphemy as well as those who falsely accuse others of blasphemy are brought to justice and duly punished;

(c) Take all measures necessary to ensure adequate protection of all judges, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses involved in blasphemy cases;

(d) Ensure that all cases of hate speech and hate crimes are thoroughly and promptly investigated and perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished;

(e) Review school textbooks and curricula with a view to removing all religiously biased content and incorporate human rights education therein, and continue to regulate madrassas;

(f) Fully implement the judgement of the Supreme Court on 19 June 2014.

United Nations stated that it is concerned at the blasphemy laws, including Sections 295 and 298 of the Criminal Code of Pakistan.


“It is also concerned at reports of the way in which that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) exercises its powers over the content of media outlets, including suspending over 20 programs in the past four years; and the lack of clarity on procedural safeguards and oversight mechanisms to ensure that PEMRA exercises its powers consistent with the principle of freedom of expression.”

The international body further stated: “The State party should decriminalize defamation, and ensure that imprisonment is never a punishment for defamation and that criminal laws are not improperly enforced journalists and dissenting voices.”

UN concerned over military courts

According to the observations, UN committee is concerned that the criteria for the cases over which cases are forwarded to military courts is not clear.

“It is also concerned that about 90 percent of convictions are based on confessions; that the criteria used for the selection of cases to be tried by these courts are not clear; that defendants are not given the right to appoint legal counsel of their own choosing in practice or an effective right to appeal in the civilian courts,” the report states.

The committee has called for conformity of proceedings of military courts with Article 14 and Article 15 of the Covenant to ensure a fair trial.

"The state party should review the legislation relating to the military courts with a view to abrogating their jurisdiction over civilians as well as their authority to impose the death penalty," the body writes.

UN on terrorism

According to the committee, Pakistan needs to align definition of terrorism in Article 6 of the anti-terror act in light of the international standards.

The UN is concerned with the broad definition of terrorism in Pakistani laws.

‘The Committee remains concerned at the very broad definition of terrorism provided for in the Anti-Terrorism Act.”

The ‘missing persons’

“The State party should criminalize enforced disappearance and put an end to the practice of enforced disappearance and secret detention.

It should also review the Actions (in aid of Civil Powers) Regulations 2011 with a view to repealing them or bringing them in conformity with international standards,” the UN committee noted.

The committee calls for measures and steps by the state for safety of the witnesses and families of the victims and ensure fair trials.
“It should further strengthen the authority and the capacity, financial and personnel, of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance to function effectively.

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