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Rights defenders demand Pakistan to immediately criminalize practice of enforced disappearances in the country

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations

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Representational Image (Lawyers Movement in Pakistan). Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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ISLAMABAD, August 31, 2016: Rights defenders in Pakistan demand the Government to immediately criminalize the practice of enforced disappearances in the country which have caused years of agony to thousands of families across the nation.

Pakistani security forces have been battling extremist and militant groups since the country joined the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001. Critics allege the anti-terrorism operations have resulted in thousands of Pakistanis being detained by state security institutions, without their whereabouts and health conditions being made available to family members or attorneys.

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“In Pakistan, the practice of enforced disappearance has in recent years become a nationwide problem. … To date, not a single perpetrator has been held to account,” said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations.

Protesters demanded the Pakistan government immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Without signing the document, they say, the country would not feel the pressure to criminalize the practice of illegal detentions by making laws to protect constitutional rights of Pakistani citizens.

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A rally organizer, Tahira Abdullah, said human rights defenders in Pakistan recognize the threat of terrorism and extremism facing the country.

Call for openness

“If you want to arrest someone whom you suspect of being a terrorist, an extremist, a militant, a jihadi, anything, arrest them,” Abdullah said. “But the laws of Pakistan, the constitution of Pakistan must be upheld and the case must be produced in an open court so that we know what the charges against them are.

“You can’t keep people disappeared and in internment camps like Guantanamo Bay. We have Pakistani Guantanamo Bays. This is unconstitutional, it is illegal and it must not be allowed to continue,” she said.

Pakistani security agencies have repeatedly denied they have forcibly sequestered, tortured and killed people in the name of counterterrorism.

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Despite the official denials, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acknowledged, and human rights groups have documented, evidence of the involvement of state institutions in the abuses in the name of counterterrorism.

A government-appointed inquiry commission has been investigating the complaints since March 2011.

Of the more than 3,500 cases it had received as of July this year, around 2,100 have been disposed of. The remaining nearly 1,400 include 500 cases the commission has received in the past seven months, according to officials.

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But critics question the independence and autonomy of the state panel, saying it does not disclose details about where those people were during the period they could not be traced by their families.

Rights activists also allege those who have returned to their families remain under pressure from security agencies not to discuss what happened to them. (VOA)

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Facebook Accused of Protecting Far-Right Activists Who Broke the Sites Rules

Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant, the media reported.

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Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the community rules. Pixabay

Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant, the media reported.

The process called “shielded review” was uncovered by Channel 4 Dispatches – a documentary series that sent an undercover reporter to work as a content moderator in a Dublin-based Facebook contractor.

“In the documentary, a moderator tells the ‘Dispatches’ reporter that Britain First’s pages were left up, even though they repeatedly broke Facebook’s rules, because ‘they have a lot of followers so they’re generating a lot of revenue for Facebook’,” the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Similarly, popular pages, including those of activists like Tommy Robinson, are protected from Facebook rules.

Robinson is currently in jail, serving a 13-month sentence for contempt of court.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, was quoted as saying in the documentary that the company’s rules are based on revenue.

“If the content is indeed violating it will go,” Allan said.

Facebook, however, said it will remove Robinson’s page if he repeatedly violated the site’s community standards.ABritain First’s Facebook page was eventually banned in March 2018.

“It’s clear that some of what is shown in the programme does not reflect Facebook’s policies or values, and falls short of the high standards we expect.

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Facebook, social media.Pixabay

“We take these mistakes in some of our training processes and enforcement incredibly seriously and are grateful to the journalists who brought them to our attention,” Allan said.

The documentary also showed that Facebook moderators have turned blind eye to under-age accounts.

“Moderators are told they can only take action to close down the account of a child who clearly looks 10-years-old if the child actually admits in posts they are under-aged,” The Telegraph reported, citing the documentary.

“We have to have an admission that the person is under-age. If not, we just pretend that we are blind and we don’t know what underage looks like,” a trainer told the undercover reporter.

Facebook is also facing the flak for launching Messenger Kids that encourages children under age 13 to join social media.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December warned the social media giant to stay away from his children.

Also read-Facebook Joins Skill India Mission to Train Empower Youth

Early this year, more than 100 child health experts have urged Facebook to withdraw the app.

Despite call for withdrawal by experts, Facebook has decided to expand the reach of Messenger Kids by introducing the video calling and messaging app designed for children under 13 to families in Canada and Peru.

Facebook said it will also introduce Spanish and French versions of the app. (IANS)