Talking it out: Sindh’s human rights defenders need funds

SHRC wants to establish an office, hire staff to help the people

Our Correspondent October 20, 2016

KARACHI: If approved, the proposed Sindh Commission of Human Rights Fund will enable the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to extend its protection to a greater number of citizens.

The establishment of this fund was proposed at the SHRC’s launch of its annual report at Avari hotel on Thursday.

Members of civil society, lawyers and judges participated in a consultation session in which they also discussed amendments in the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act, 2011.

Established in 2013, the commission is a statutory body empowered with the mandate to protect fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Its powers and functions include inquiry into cases of human rights violations, recommending remedial measures to the government, formulating and updating policies regarding the protection of human rights, undertaking human rights research and promoting awareness of laws.

SHRC chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi said that during the last three years, the commission has continuously been working towards protecting the rights of citizens across Sindh. The commission has worked closely with government departments, non-governmental organisations and civil society to host several workshops on the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children, she said.

She added that the commission now requires a budgetary allocation and additional trained employees. Justice Rizvi also said that office space must be secured as well as staff in order for the SHRC to function.

Special assistant to the chief minister for human rights, Rehana Leghari, lauded Justice Rizvi and her team for their untiring efforts in providing rights to the people of Sindh. She added that people rarely witness the kind of professionalism that Justice Rizvi possesses in a government institution but since its establishment, the SHRC has made remarkable progress, considering the limited resources the team has to work with. Leghari told participants of the discussion that during cabinet meetings, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also lauded the commission’s efforts.

Seconding the proposal of the establishment of formal offices, legal expert Maliha Zia Lari said that the office must include technical staff to increase the efficiency of their work. She also said that it will be appreciated if the commission could set up offices at district level.

Justice Shaiq Usmani said that instead of using the services of the inspector-general of the police, the SHRC should seek the services of deputy inspector generals, as they are easy to approach. Justice Usmani also said that, along with this, the investigation team should also work under the same DIG.

Talking about the annual report, Justice Rizvi said that it serves the purpose of transparency as the commission wishes to share its work with the public. She explained that in 2014, the SHRC dealt with 82 cases of human rights violations, including suo motu cases. In 2015, the number rose to 125. Apart from a series of awareness sessions, workshops and seminars, the commission also undertook visits to jails, hospitals and shelter homes in Khairpur, Sukkur, Larkana and Dadu in 2015. The details of these visits as well as all other activities and cases have been documented in the annual report.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.


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