The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today called on the Pakistan Senate to reject a Bill that would grant the military and law enforcement authorities sweeping powers to detain individuals, in contravention of international human rights standards.
The Bill requires Senate approval to become law after the National Assembly passed it on 7 April 2014.
In its briefing paper Protection of Pakistan Bill, 2014 – An affront to Human Rights, the ICJ analyzes provisions of the Bill in light of Pakistan’s international law obligations. The ICJ discusses how the Bill fails to comply with international human rights law and standards, among others, of the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial.
Furthermore, the ICJ expresses serious concern that the implementation of the Bill will facilitate numerous other human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, and further entrench impunity for those responsible.
“The Bill should be more accurately called the ‘Protection of Impunity’ Bill, because it seeks to authorize widespread human rights violations by security forces, including violations they perpetrated in the past,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “If passed, law enforcement and security agencies, on mere suspicion alone, will be authorized to detain individuals indefinitely, at undisclosed locations, without informing their families of their whereabouts or providing them access to lawyers.”
In addition, the offences defined in the Bill are so vague and overly broad that it can easily be used to clamp down on peaceful protesters, government opponents and political activists, Zarifi added.
The briefing paper says the Bill must be seen in the context of continuing enforced disappearances that remain unresolved and allegations of torture and extrajudicial executions that remain uninvestigated.
“The Pakistan Senate should reject this blatant attempt to undo strides made by civil society activists and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to highlight the practice of enforced disappearances and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Zarifi.
The ICJ condemns terrorism and recognizes that Pakistan is facing a very real and serious threat from armed extremists and insurgents. However, international human rights law gives governments enough flexibility to combat terrorism without contravening human rights obligations, and threats to national security can never be used as a justification to violate human rights and for the practice of secret detentions and enforced disappearance.
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