September 17th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
A joint platform comprising human rights activists, students, advocacy groups, and victims’ groups should be established for developing a plan for fighting against the practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan.
The call for joint action was given in recommendations by participants of a provincial consultation meeting on enforced disappearances, organized by Defence of Human Rights and Public Service Trust (DHR), at a local hotel in the city on 15th September. The families of victims of enforced disappearances, journalists, activists, politicians, lawyers, and human rights experts participated in the consultation meeting.
The meeting, moderated by DHR chairperson Amina Masood Janjua, discussed ways on how to take the issue of enforced disappearances forward. Besides, participants also dilated on the role of the courts, legislative bodies and civil society concerning the safeguard of constitutional rights, accountability of state institutions, and rehabilitation and support to victims of enforced disappearances.
The participants of the meeting presented their recommendations for elimination of enforced disappearances in the province after the consultation.
Inept COIED must be dissolved
According to the recommendations, the government must dissolve the present Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) as it has failed to fulfil its mandate and has been unable to provide justice to the victims and end the impunity of the perpetrators of enforced disappearances in Pakistan.
In light of the poor performance of the COIED, the participants recommended that the Supreme Court and provincial high courts should resume hearing of cases of enforced disappearances as per its constitutional mandate, instead of relying on the Commission.
Release all missing persons
In its recommendations, the provincial consultation meeting also called on the government to must immediately release all persons who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in the province and have been kept in illegal detention.
“In the presence of these legal frameworks and institutions, there is absolutely no valid reason or justification for the state to abduct any citizen even if he is suspected of having committed or being involved in the commission of any offence under the laws of Pakistan,” according to the recommendations.
The State must end the heinous practice of maintaining secret detention centers and safe houses where the disappeared persons are illegally detained after their abduction. Furthermore, the government of Pakistan must investigate allegations of torture and killing of disappeared persons in these secret detention centers and must punish those who are responsible for such heinous crimes against the citizens of Pakistan.
Ensure press freedom
In other recommendations, the participants called on the State to ensure journalistic freedom for freely reporting on issues related to violations of human rights, particularly enforced disappearances in Pakistan. Besides, the government of Pakistan should provide the families of disappeared persons with a basic financial subsistence allowance. Furthermore, the families of disappeared persons and human rights defenders working for ending enforced disappearances should be provided with security and protection.
Parliament pass law against enforced disappearances
The participants recommended that Parliament immediately pass legislation against enforced disappearances in order to improve Pakistan’s track record in the Universal Periodic Review of 2023.
In addition, the Government of Pakistan should, without any further delay, sign and ratify the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).
The participants recommended that civil society, human rights defenders and students should develop mechanisms for documentation of cases of enforced disappearances and maintaining databases in accordance with international standards.