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07 November, 2007

Human Rights defenders in custody in Pakistan

Asma Jehangir

Hina Jilani

At least 55 human rights activists were detained in Pakistan following the Emergency declaration on November 3. Among them are Ms. Asma Jahangir, Mr. Iqbal Haider, Mr. I. A. Rehman, Brigadier (Rtd) Rao Abid Hameed, Ms. Shahtaj Qizilbash and Mr. Imran Qureshi

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have expressed concern over their safety and health and urged that appeals be sent to the Pakistani authorities for their immediate release.

Asma Jehangir is Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which has rendered yeomen service during the past many years facing heady odds. She was placed under house arrest following the state of emergency declaration and later the Government of Punjab served an order placing her under detention for 90 days. Aleading lawyer and human rights activist, Ms Jahangir is UN Special Rappateur on freedom of religion or belief.

A 90-day detention order has also been reportedly issued against Ms. Hina Jilani, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders. Her house has been surrounded by police and there is grave concern that she will be detained on her planned return to Pakistan.

According to media reports, a number of civil society activists were arrested on November 4 while attending a meeting held at the HRCP office in Lahore to discuss the situation in the country following the state of emergency.

Mr. Iqbal Hiader, HRCP Secretary General and former attorney general of Pakistan, and HRCP Director I A Rehman, were among those detained. They were subsequently placed under house arrest.

Acting in his capacity as army chief of staff, General Musharraf suspended the bulk of the Constitution, including the rights not to be arbitrarily deprived of life and to be guaranteed a fair trial. He assumed powers to amend the Constitution without any parliamentary procedure and proclaimed a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). This order prohibits any court issuing an order against the President, Prime Minister or any person exercising powers under their authority.

Under the order, existing members of the superior judiciary are effectively suspended until they take a new oath to uphold the PCO. Only five of 17 Supreme Court Justices have taken the oath. Many Supreme Court and Provincial High Court Justices are now effectively under house arrest.
By November 5, hundreds of lawyers, human rights activists and political workers had been arrested or arbitrarily detained across Pakistan. Independent TV and radio news channels have been prevented from broadcasting within the country since Saturday. New laws restricting freedom of print and electronic media were issued, breach of which attracts three to four years imprisonment and heavy fines.

Please send appeals to reach as quickly as possible:

-- expressing concern for the safety of human rights defenders and others who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained under the country's preventive detention orders;

-- urging the authorities to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or any other form of cruel inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment;

-- urging the authorities it immediate provide medical treatment to detainees who are suffering from ill health;

-- calling on the authorities to release immediately human rights defenders and others arrested under preventive detention measures, who are not charged with recognizably criminal offences, or are detained solely for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly;

-- urging the authorities to cease arbitrary arrests and detentions under the state of emergency;

-- calling on the authorities to protect and uphold the constitutional human rights guarantees, including safeguards on life and liberty.

APPEALS are to be sent to:

President Pervez Musharraf,
Pakistan Secretariat,
Fax: 011 92 51 9221422 E-mail: via website:
Salutation: Dear President Musharraf

Mr. Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao,
Minister for the Interior,
Ministry for the Interior,
Room 404, 4th Floor, Block R,
Federal Secretariat,
Fax: 011 92 51 9202624
E-mail: OR
Salutation: Dear Minister

Mr. Zahid Hamid,
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights,
Room 305, S-Block,
Pakistan Secretariat,
Fax: 011 92 51 9202628011 92 51 9201631
Salutation: Dear Minister

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