Noutati / Stiri

17 Martie 2009

Pakistan: The UIA alarmed by human rights violations in the Swat region

On Monday, February 16, 2009, the provincial authorities and the Islamists signed an agreement on the re-establishment of the Sharia or Islamic Law in Swat Valley and the Malakand district in North-West Pakistan.  

According to the agreement, justice in the region shall henceforth be rendered only by Islamic religious tribunals. "All laws that are contrary to the Sharia shall be abolished and justice shall be dispensed by virtue of the Sharia", affirmed Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial Minister of Information.

UIA is concerned about infringements of human rights, particularly women's rights, as a consequence of this agreement.

In fact, as noted by Sam Zarifi, Director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Programme, the Pakistani government "has renounced its duty to protect the human rights of the Swat Valley's inhabitants by surrendering these rights to Taliban insurgents".

Among other serious human rights violations, the UIA has been closely following the Taliban's campaign over the last eighteen months against girls' schooling, especially the destruction of over 170 schools in Swat District, including about a hundred girls' schools. The local religious leader has gone as far as threatening to kill any girls who try to defy the ban on going to school. 

UIA would like to remind the State of Pakistan of its obligations by virtue of international law to protect the human rights of all Pakistani people and to institute measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

First and foremost, UIA recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is binding upon Pakistan  since it ratified it on November 12, 1990.


As a State Party to this Convention, Pakistan "recognizes the right of the child to education and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity," it shall, in particular "make primary education compulsory and available free to all (…)"[1].

The UIA recalled that the State of Pakistan has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women[2] without any reservations, and that it had followed up on it by submitting a report[3]. It reminds the State of Pakistan that it is bound by the Convention's provisions which should be applied systematically and enduringly, and should also abide by the recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which had invited it recently to:

"place high priority on the reduction of the illiteracy rate of women, in particular those who are from rural areas",

"enhance its compliance with Article 10 of the Convention[4] and to raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and a basis for the empowerment of women"

and to "take steps to overcome traditional attitudes that constitute obstacles to girls' and women's education."

The State of Pakistan must also implement the necessary measures in order to ensure "equal access of girls and women [as compared to men] to all levels of education and the retaining of girls in school."[5]

Likewise, the UIA recalls that Pakistan is party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), a text that it ratified on April 17, 2008. As a State Party, Pakistan acknowledges "the right of everyone to education", a right that should "enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society (…)". By ratifying the ICESCR, the State of Pakistan recognised that with a view to achieving the full realization of this right to education, "primary education shall be compulsory and free to all (…), secondary education (…)shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means (…), [and that] higher education shall be made equally accessible to all"[6].

Considering that cultural specificities should no longer be proffered as a reason to justify the abuse of women's rights, the UIA appeals to the Pakistani government to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Gender-based discrimination is contrary to international human rights instruments , including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in particular its Articles 1, 2, 3 and 26[7]), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in particular its Articles 6 and 7[8]) signed by Pakistan on April 17, 2008, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women[9], the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action[10], the texts stemming from the United Nations General Assembly's (GA) 23rd Extraordinary Session, entitled "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century"[11], the Declaration adopted at the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and very recently, the Resolution recently adopted by the GA on strengthening actions aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women[12].

In response to the above-mentioned agreement, the UIA requests the Pakistani authorities to take all necessary measures with immediate effect in order to guarantee that the application of the Sharia and the use of power by the Islamist authorities in the Swat Valley does not infringe on fundamental human rights, in particular women's rights, for which Pakistan stands liable vis-à-vis its people, in particular by virtue of its international obligations.

The UIA recalls, in fact, that the Pakistani Government alone is fully responsible for the respect of these obligations, whatever the agreements concluded with local entities and the powers granted to them.

Finally, the UIA calls upon the Pakistan Government to take all necessary measures to conduct impartial and effective investigations on the destruction of schools and to prosecute and try the persons responsible for those acts.

 

Paris, March 12, 2009

  


[1] Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

[2] General Assembly Resolution 34/180 of December 18, 1979.

[3] Single report from Pakistan considered as the initial report as well as second and third periodic reports, CEDAW/C/PAK/1-3.

[4] By virtue of Article 10 of the Convention, Pakistan, as a State Party to this standard, undertook to take "all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies and for the achievement of diplomas in educational establishments of all categories in rural as well as in urban areas; this equality shall be ensured in pre-school, general, technical, professional and higher technical education, as well as in all types of vocational training (…)".

[5]  Final observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Pakistan, 38th session, 14 May -1st June 2007; see CEDAW/C/SR .783 and 784, CEDAW/C/PAK/Q/3 and CEDAW/C/PAK/Q/3/Add.1.

[6] Article 13 of the ICESCR.

[7] UDHR, Article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights (…)"; Article 2 "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms (…)without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status"; Article 3 "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person"; Article 5 "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"; Article 26 "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory (…)".

[8] ICCPR, Article 6: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life;" Article 7: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation". 

[9] General Assembly Resolution 48/104 of December 20, 1993; Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, Article 3: "Women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. These rights include, inter alia: The right to life; The right to equality; The right to liberty and security of person; The right to equal protection under the law; The right to be free from all forms of discrimination; The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health; The right to just and favourable conditions of work; The right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."; Article 4: "States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women (…)."

[10] Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995. Pakistan adopted the declaration and platform for action for women, and through these norms it has committed to, respect and promote women's rights, to incorporate the dimension of gender equality in all its laws, actions or public policies, fight against factors of marginalisation, including the lack of access to education, provide all women access to elementary services, including education, and eliminate violence and all forms of social, economic and sexual exploitation.

[11] Resolution S-23/2, Annexe, and Resolution S-23/3, Annexe.

[12] General Assembly Resolution 63/155 of January 30, 2009.