The government on Monday introduced a bill in the National Assembly, criminalising enforced disappearance with 10-year imprisonment for anyone found guilty of it.
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed proposed to amend the Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 with new sections pertaining to enforced disappearance.
On Monday, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari introduced the bill – the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021. The bill states that a new section 52-B (enforced disappearance) should be inserted into PPC after section 52-A.
The proposed section states that the “term enforced disappearance relates to the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by an agent of the state or by person or group of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
The bill also stipulates that there should be three requisite elements that define enforced disappearance. These elements include, an unlawful or illegal deprivation of liberty or a deprivation of liberty that was legal but no longer is; an act allegedly carried out by agents of the state or by person or group of persons acting with the support, authorization or acquiescence of the state; and refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.
The bill also seeks to insert new sections 512 and 513 in the PPC Penal Code, after section 511. It states that “whoever commits, orders, solicits or induces the commission of attempts to commit, is an accomplice to or participation in the forcible or involuntary disappearances of a person or group of persons is said to cause forcible or involuntary disappearances of that person” and falls within 512 (forcible or involuntary disappearances). Section 513 - punishment for forcible or involuntary disappearances - states that “whoever causes forcible or involuntary disappearance of any person from Pakistan or within Pakistan shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to a fine.”
“It is the rule of law, specifically adherence to Rule of Law that is the hallmark of any democratic society.”
It adds that the “practice of enforced disappearances is a particularly heinous crime not only because it removes human rights from the protection of the law but also due to the inherent cruelty inflicted upon families as a consequence of denial of information concerning the disappeared person.”
It further states that enforced disappearance is unconstitutional and is against international commitments made by Pakistan through ratification of the ICCPR.
Additionally, it continues, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolutions 477/133 of 18th December, 1992, has emphasised that enforced disappearances undermine the “deepest values of any society committed to respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”