The Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged President Asif Ali Zardari to not approve a bill creating a national human rights commission until it is “revised to authorise investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations”.
HRW said that the current bill would “prevent the commission from addressing or investigating human rights violations by members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies.”
Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW said:
The National Human Rights Commission if given teeth can play a critical role in improving Pakistan’s dire human rights situation.
The bill still requires presidential consent to go into effect.
The HRW said that the bill creating the National Human Rights Commission contains many positive elements to promote and protect human rights in Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” Adams said. “A primary reason to create a national human rights commission should be to address longstanding impunity for the army and intelligence services.”
The commission includes the chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women, as well as a member from minorities.
The panel, either on its own or after receiving a petition concerning violation of human rights, will be eligible to seek a report from the federal government.
Also, panel members or any other individual authorised by the body, will be entitled to visit the country’s jails as well as any other detainment centre falling under the authority of the government or the intelligence agencies.
The commission would have the legal authority to summon witnesses and obtain documents, including government documents.
“A strong and independent National Human Rights Commission can be a key institution in aiding Pakistan’s transition to a truly rights-respecting democracy,” Adams said. “But a commission that cannot take on cases involving the army and intelligence agencies would perpetuate a cruel joke on Pakistanis whose rights have been violated.”
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