Pakistan: Stop attacks on human rights advocates and NGO workers

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Date: 
14 Jan 2013
Update Date: 
6 Feb 2013
Update: 

FEBRUARY 6, 2013 UPDATE: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government has pledged monetary compensation (300,000 PKR) and one government job to each of the seven victims’ families in Swabi.  While this falls short of our demands, it will be a great benefit to the families, as the victims’ NGO jobs were often the families’ main source of income.  Additionally, the fact that the government responded to the civil society organizations at all, which is fairly uncommon, is encouraging. In response to the government, local groups are calling for increased compensation to all of the murdered human rights advocates and NGO worker’s families (2,000,000 PKR), and re-iterated that all such cases be properly investigated and the perpetrators be brought to justice. Equality Now has also sent our Urgent Alert to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Geneva.

Please continue to mount pressure on the Pakistani government to protect human rights defenders, ensure justice for targeted activists, prevent future violence and end the culture of impunity for crimes against women.


 

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Equality Now and our partners in Pakistan are deeply concerned about the continuing attacks and threats against activists and NGO workers in Pakistan. Women, and those working to promote the rights of women and girls, have been particularly targeted by some of the attacks.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

In August 2012, Equality Now issued an urgent alert urging the Pakistan government to protect human rights defenders. Since then, the situation has deteriorated:

  • January 2013 - gunmen shot dead six women and a man working for a health, education and water sanitation NGO in the Swabi district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. According to media reports, five of the women were teachers, while the sixth woman and the man were health workers.
  • January 2013 – gunmen shot dead two charity workers in Charsadda working for an organization involved with education and welfare work in the district. That same weekend, the director of a well-known NGO in KP was targeted by a bomb.  
  • December 2012 - nine polio field workers – mostly women – were shot dead in a string of attacks in Karachi, Charsadda and Peshawar, prompting UN agencies to temporarily suspend their polio vaccination campaigns throughout Pakistan.
  • December 2012 - a female Swedish NGO worker was shot dead in Lahore, a male British Muslim Red Cross worker was kidnapped and beheaded in Quetta and a U.S. development worker has been missing since being kidnapped from his home in Lahore in August 2011.
  • October 2012 - 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an activist advocating for access to education for girls, was shot and seriously injured by Pakistani Taliban gunmen in the Swat district of KP. According to local NGOs, threats against schools, especially girls’ schools, and NGOs are continuing and several government schools have been bombed in recent months. Girl students at a school renamed after Malala to honor her bravery of are said to have demonstrated to reinstate the original name for fear of the school being attacked by Taliban militants.

Despite the increasing attacks, neither the provincial nor federal governments appear to have taken any steps to prevent or punish these murders and attacks, although security is now reportedly being provided to safeguard those renewing the vaccination program. Civil Society organizations working in the KP province and FATA region, including the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) and Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC) coalitions, as well as End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA, have condemned the recent attacks and reiterated their call for the protection of human rights defenders and justice for those who have been murdered.

These groups are demanding that the government:

  • amend the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to make it a specific criminal offence to intimidate, harass, threaten, attack or injure any individual because of their human rights or NGO work;
  • take immediate measures to end the culture of impunity for crimes against women, including by:
    • repealing or revising laws, policies and practices – both written and unwritten – that deny women’s equality and rights;
    • bringing to justice perpetrators of violence and discrimination against women and those who collude with them; and
    • taking legislative, educational and other appropriate measures to address the culture of silence and victim-blaming that increases the vulnerability of women to violence, results in the violation of their rights and impedes their enjoyment of full and equal citizenship.

This would be in compliance with Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights standards. As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, noted in her August 2010 report, ‘Fighting impunity for violations committed against defenders is crucial in order to enable defenders to work in a safe and conducive environment.’

What You Can Do: 

Please join Equality Now and our partners and ask the Pakistani government to heed the call of Pakistani civil society groups to protect human rights defenders, ensure justice for targeted activists, and prevent future violence, including by guaranteeing and promoting women’s right to equality.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Alert with your friends.

Letters should go to:

Mr. Raja Pervez Ashraf
Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Email: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

Mr. Amir Haider Hoti
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Chief Minister House
Fort Road
Peshawar Cantt
Pakistan
Tel: +92 91 9213574, +92 91 9211719
Fax: +92 91 9210718, +92 91 9210743
Email: javedkhaki@gmail.com

Barrister Syed Masood Kausar
Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Governor House Abdul Qayum Road
Peshawar
Pakistan
Fax: +92 91 9210751

Letters: 

Dear Prime Minister/Chief Minister/Governor:

I am deeply concerned about the recent attacks and threats upon human rights defenders and NGO workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and FATA, including the attack on Malala Yousafzai last October, and the numerous fatal shootings of health, education and other local and foreign NGO workers between December 2012 and January 2013. 

According to NGOs in the area, threats to the lives of human rights defenders, and NGO workers in general, are common in KP province and FATA and I am troubled by the lack of effective measures to protect human rights activists in the region.  As many local and foreign NGOs are working particularly to improve the situation of women and girls, the continued threats and attacks against them are slowing down progress to protect and promote the rights of women and girls in Pakistan. 

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders specifies the obligations of States to guarantee and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Pakistan also has a duty to protect all human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) among others committed to by Pakistan. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, have both taken note of violations against human rights defenders working on women’s rights in Pakistan and have highlighted the government’s responsibility to investigate and promptly ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. Additionally, in the June 2008 report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan, Pakistan was called upon to “combat impunity for attacks on human rights defenders by effectively investigating allegations and by prosecuting those responsible.”

I support civil society organizations working in KP and FATA, including the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) and Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC) coalitions, as well as End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA, and join them in urging you to:

  • amend the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to make it a specific criminal offence to intimidate, harass, threaten, attack or injure any individual because of their human rights or NGO work;
  • take immediate measures to end the culture of impunity for crimes against women, including by:
    • repealing or revising laws, policies and practices – both written and unwritten – that deny women’s equality and rights;
    • bringing to justice perpetrators of violence and discrimination against women and those who collude with them; and
    • taking legislative, educational and other appropriate measures to address the culture of silence and victim-blaming that increases the vulnerability of women to violence, results in the violation of their rights and impedes their enjoyment of full and equal citizenship. 

Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely,