At a time when Pakistan is facing international and regional isolation on multiple issues, Pakistan has once again missed an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights through the process of Universal Periodic Review and thus try to improve its image.
In an oral statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 37th session in Geneva on 19 March 2018 the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed “regret that the government of Pakistan missed yet another opportunity to show its commitment to address key human rights issues. Despite having accepted nearly 60% of the recommendations it received, it is apparent that the government lacks the political will to address the most serious human rights violations, such as enforced disappearances, the persecution of religious minorities, the use of the death penalty, and extrajudicial killings.”
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established in 2006. It is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR “is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.”
According to HRCP “The government’s blanket refusal to commit to end the death penalty, including for juveniles and for offenses that do not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’, is particularly disappointing because this practice is in clear violation of Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. Freedom of expression continues to be silenced through the harassment, arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance of voices critical of the government or Islam. In this context, it is concerning that the government did not accept any of the recommendations that called for the repeal or amendment of blasphemy laws.”
The HRCP welcomed “the government’s positive response to over 30 recommendations that called for the protection of women’s rights and the adoption of measures aimed at preventing discrimination and violence against women and ensuring punishment for all perpetrators of violence against them. We sincerely hope the authorities will translate this commitment into action.”
However, HRCP also expressed its disappointment at “the government’s failure to accept all recommendations that are meant to protect persons from violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. FIDH and HRCP further urge the Pakistani government to immediately begin the implementation of the recommendations that it did not accept and that are consistent with its obligations under human rights treaties to which Pakistan is a state party.”