UN human rights experts have raised concerns about the scourge of enforced disappearances and torture in Pakistan, and called on the government to uphold its human rights obligations.
They also urged Pakistan to initiate prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into such acts, according to a press release issued by the UN.
The experts highlighted the government’s failure to fully investigate the case of human rights defender, Idris Khattak, who was taken into custody by Pakistani Military Intelligence on Nov.13, 2019 and held incommunicado for over seven months.
In June this year, authorities acknowledged his detention, but he has continued to be deprived of his most basic rights.
They also urged Pakistan, which was re-elected to the 47-member Human Rights Council in October, to lead by example by showing its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
“There is no question that Pakistan must conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khattak’s unlawful disappearance, and that those responsible must be held to account – impunity is not an option,” the experts said.
Khattak’s case is emblematic of a series of documented enforced disappearances in Pakistan, where many human rights defenders are similarly silenced for their legitimate work.
This includes monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights violations and attacks against minorities.
“We welcome the fact that proof of life was demonstrated recently, when Khattak was granted his first contact with the outside world in a short, supervised visit from a family member,” the experts said.
“However, additional steps must be taken without delay for Khattak’s most fundamental rights to be restored.
“These include including his right to an independent medical assessment, his right to unrestricted access to a lawyer, his right to a trial in full compliance with due process and his right not to be detained arbitrarily,” they said.
According to them, unacknowledged detention exposes both the victims and their loved ones to severe and prolonged suffering that may well amount to torture or to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in clear violation of Pakistan’s obligations under international law.
The UN experts stressed that victims and their families had the right to justice, truth and reparations.
Pakistani authorities have committed to actively engage with Special Procedures and in the case of Mr Khattak, experts have repeatedly raised their concerns directly with the Government and will continue to closely monitor the situation.
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