LMarking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a public lecture by its honorary spokesperson and veteran human rights defender, I A Rehman. Held at the Dorab Patel Auditorium in Lahore on 9 December 2018, the event was attended widely by civil society, including students, lawyers, human rights activists and media persons.
The theme of this lecture was to assess Pakistan’s performance during its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2017. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, all member states are given the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to meet their human rights obligations.
In a statement issued today, HRCP has said that it is ‘gravely concerned at the exponential rise in the number of recommendations Pakistan has received from its peers with respect to human rights concerns in the country. In 2008, it received 51 recommendations, of which it accepted 43 and rejected eight. At its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations, of which it accepted 126, “noted” 34 and rejected seven.
‘It is a matter of serious concern that, from 167 recommendations in 2012, Pakistan’s human rights barometer now stands at 289 recommendations received under the third UPR in 2017. Of these, it has “supported” 168, “noted” 121 and “rejected” four recommendations.
‘It is encouraging to note that many of the recommendations “supported” in principle under the third UPR relate, among others, to the reduction of poverty and inequality; to making enforced disappearance a criminal offence and ensuring that all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions are thoroughly investigated; to ensuring that all perpetrators of torture are brought to justice; to ensuring the right to a fair trial for all; and to preventing impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers.
‘However, what concerns HRCP is that Pakistan has chosen to “note”, rather than “support” key human rights principles such as reporting the investigation and prosecution of security forces that commit human rights violations and abuses; amending discriminatory laws against marginalised groups, including women and girls and ethnic and religious minorities; protecting the rights of the child more effectively, particularly during counter-terrorism activities; desisting from issuing death sentences and executing juveniles; and taking effective measures to prevent the abuse of blasphemy legislation and the use of violence against religious minorities.
‘HRCP strongly urges the state to commit to its willingness to continue cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanism, and to apply both in principle and practice the UPR recommendations it has “noted” as well as “supported”. By 2022, the country’s human rights record must be seen to improve substantially – not merely to uphold an international image, but because these principles are part of the state’s moral and responsibility to its citizens and residents under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory.’
Dr Mehdi Hasan
December 9, 2018