Pakistan’s human rights review: Internet censorship comes under scrutiny


Published: November 3, 2012

Netherlands asks Islamabad to remove restrictions on internet access. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access.

The recommendation is part of a draft report of the UN Human Rights Council working group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.

In the draft report, released on November 2, the working group has listed this demand along with 163 other recommendations on the country’s rights record.

The video sharing site, YouTube, has been suspended in Pakistan since September 17, 2012.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the ban over a blasphemous movie trailer that incited protests around the world.

It is the fourth time the site has been banned since 2008.

Second review

Pakistan presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, October 30. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar defended Pakistan’s progress since the last review in 2008. The Review, created in 2006, takes place every four years and is a state-driven process.

Pakistan will have to respond to the recommendations by March 2013 at the 22nd session of the Council. The response will then be included in the outcome report adopted by the Council in that session.

“It is a great opportunity as it is now part of UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the government and we can continue to build pressure on the government to do better on net freedom in the country,” said Shahzad Ahmad from Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan, a human rights organisation that focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social justice and development in the country.

Ahmad presented a shadow report along with two UN accredited international NGOs, Association for Progressive Communications and Freedom House.

“This is first time ever that a shadow report on internet rights in Pakistan was submitted and a UN member state picked it up and put it as a recommendation for the government to improve internet rights in the country,” he wrote to The Express Tribune in an email from Geneva.

Internet-based human rights

Netherlands made the recommendation that Pakistan “(r)emove restrictions on accessing internet in the country, which runs counter to the criteria of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the principle of proportionality.”

Internet-based human right issues were not part of Pakistan’s first review in 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the ICCPR in June 2010 and made Pakistan signatory to the law which commits it to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to a fair trial.

 

 

Save 20 year old Sudanese mother Sentenced To Death By Stoning


PLEASE SIGN ONLINE PETITION HERE SHARE WIDELY

 

Save 20 year old Sudanese mother Sentenced To Death By Stoning

 

 

Intisar Sharif Abdallah was sentenced by Judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo at Ombada criminal court in Omdurman on 22 April on charges of adultery, under article 146A of Sudan’s criminal code.

Intisar was accused of having a relationship and becoming pregnant by a man who was not her husband. She was found guilty after an “admission of guilt” following torture and brutal beatings by her brother who instigated the case. According to reports, Intisar did not have access to a lawyer during her trial, and her accused lover remains un-convicted and walks free.
Intisar, who has three children, is being detained with her newborn baby. She is suffering from psychological distress and does not fully understand the nature of her sentence. In addition, she has a limited knowledge of Arabic and was denied a translator in court, an Amnesty International report stated. It was first reported that she is a minor but latest reports from civil society groups in Sudan confirmed her age as 20.
Sudan is a State party to a number of international human rights instruments. It signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1986. It has also signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A military coup in 1989 which harkened in the rule of its long-term and current president Omar al-Bashir introduced shari’a as the foundation of the country’s jurisprudence and penal laws; a move widely perceived by many in Sudan as a pretext for the growth in stronghold by religious fundamentalist forces in the government.
The al-Bashir government passed the Sudanese Penal Code in 1991. A number of Articles in the Penal Code intended to curb women’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights were introduced. These Articles have become the major impediments to Sudan’s accession to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It is now one of the seven (7) remaining countries who have yet to sign and ratify the Convention. One of these Articles is 146A, which provides capital punishment for married men and women who are found guilty of engaging in sexual relationships outside marriage. The president must approve all death sentences before they are carried out.

On 1 August 2010, the Sudanese Parliament called for the punishment of stoning to death to “adulterers” or those accused of having extra-marital affairs.However, the Sudanese delegation during the Universal Period Review (UPR) of Sudan by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 stated that “the death penalty was practiced in the most restricted manner and imposed for the most serious crimes and it is associated with the right to practice religion as guaranteed by international human rights treaties”. They also claimed that there are strict legal safeguards in trials of cases punishable by the death penalty.
Sudanese women’s groups view the sentencing of Intisar as a demonstration of the scale of discrimination against women and girls in the country: “It is incredulous that the man with whom she has been accused is able to walk free showing explicitly the strong anti-woman sentiment and harsh management of family disputes that exists within both the Sudanese judicial system and in society”.
We view stoning as an egregious abuse of human rights and in violation of Sudan’s international human rights commitments under the ICCPR. It also constitutes a form of torture and is often accompanied by gender discrimination and unfair judicial processes. Although stoning is often justified in the name of Islam, the use of stoning today is wholly un-Islamic and religiously illegitimate. There is no mention of stoning in the Quran and many Muslim clerics, religious scholars, and political leaders have spoken out against the practice of stoning.
We demand that Intisar Sharif Abdallah be released immediately and unconditionally. We also call upon Sudanese authorities, including the Sudan Ministry of Justice and other relevant government bodies, to conduct an honest and thorough investigation into the case and correct all breeches in the judicial process.
The Sudanese government must reform the penal code and make it in line with its commitment to international human rights standards it has signed up to including the decriminalization of consensual sexual relations between adults and to ban capital punishment in all its forms. Stoning must never again be considered as a legitimate punishment for any crime.
The freedom of belief does not constitute the freedom to kill. No excuse—including in the name of ‘religion’, ‘culture’, or ‘tradition’—justifies any form of violence against women whether by the State or by private individuals or groups.

 

PLEASE SIGN ONLINE PETITION HERE SHARE WIDELY