ISLAMABAD: Pointing that no nature of national emergency could be used to justify enforced disappearances, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Thursday pressed the government and the judiciary to fulfill their duty to thoroughly investigate the enforced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The group, addressing a press conference on concluding its 10-day trip said that there was a “declared will” of government in Pakistan to tackle issue of enforced disappearances but what it termed, “serious challenges remain.”
The Working Group’s head Olivier de Frouville, and Member, Osman El-Hajj acknowledged security challenges being faced by Pakistan.
However, the experts said according to the 1992 Declaration for Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances, no circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.
Frouville pointed out that there is acknowledgement that enforced disappearances have occurred and still occur in the country. He said during the visit, the Group received information on cases of enforced disappearances and studied the measures adopted by State to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for the victims of enforced disappearances.
“We note that cases continue to be reported to national authorities, but there are controversies both on figures and on the nature of practice of enforced disappearances,” he observed. To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket in the entire Pakistan. They added that some sources in Balochistan gave them a figure of 14000, while the government maintains the figure of missing persons is below hundred. They noted that the number of officially registered allegations may not be reflective of the real situation, rather is an indication of the existence of the phenomenon.
Frouville though welcomed the role played by the judiciary to shed light on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan and to trace missing persons. He said the relatives of disappeared persons have right to know the truth about fate and whereabouts of their loved ones and added it is responsibility and duty of the State to thoroughly investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The US Expert underlined the need to reinforce the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, as well as to ensure the oversight and accountability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and to provide protection for victims and witnesses.
Suggesting a solution, Frouville said that one important challenge that Pakistan needs to overcome is the absence of a provision qualifying enforced disappearances as an autonomous crime, and lack of subsequent reparation measures and social assistance programmes for relatives of the disappeared.
The two members of the Working Group had held meetings with state authorities, civil society organisations and relatives of disappeared persons in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar during their ten day visit. However, a number of Pakistan officials refused to meet them including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the IG FC in Balochistan.
He said Working Group also welcomes the ratification by Pakistan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the Convention against Torture. It calls on the government to ratify the Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances.
Answering a question, he said the Group undertook its visits in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation which aims at formulating constructive recommendations.
The UN Expert said the analysis of the information received during and prior to the visit will be considered in the preparation of the report which will be presented to Human Rights Council at a session in 2013.
View full text of the UN report here.
More in PakistanNo stereotypical roles for Inescapable bad guy