UN urges Pakistan to act on missing persons
21 September, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Thursday urged Pakistan to take action to tackle the apparent impunity enjoyed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies in "enforced disappearance" cases.
The group recommended that suspected perpetrators of human rights violations, including army personnel, be suspended from official duties during investigation and tried only by ordinary courts and not by any other special tribunal.
The group made it clear that as stated in Article 6(1) of the declaration for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1992: "No order or instruction of any public authority, civilian, military or other, may be invoked to justify an enforced disappearance. Any person receiving such an order or instruction shall have the right and duty not to obey it."
At the end of a 10-day mission, the UN delegation said that while the government acknowledged such disappearances took place, there was no evidence any state agent had even been convicted over them.
It also said that perpetrators should be punished with appropriate penalties, with the clear exclusion of the death penalty.
Addressing a press conference, Olivier de Frouville, chair of the group, recommended that as a rule, the families of missing persons should be heard in confidential meetings before the Commission of Inquiry "without the presence of representatives of law enforcement and intelligence agencies".
"A new and autonomous crime of enforced disappearances should be included in the Criminal Code following the definition given in the 2006 Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances, and with all the legal consequences flowing from this qualification," the UN mission said.
It recommended that as a preventive measure against enforced disappearance, any person deprived of liberty shall be held in an officially recognised place of detention and be brought promptly before a judicial authority.
"The Commission of Inquiry should be reinforced. The courts and the Commission of Inquiry should use all powers they have to ensure compliance with their orders, including the request of sworn affidavits and writs of contempt of courts. Investigations should be initiated whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an enforced disappearance has been committed, even if there has been no formal complaint. Clear rules and dedicated institutions should be created in order to ensure the oversight and the accountability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies."
It also recommended appropriate training for members of law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the field of human rights, with particular focus on enforced disappearances. It said financial aid should be provided to the relatives of the disappeared persons, particularly women and children, in order to help them cope with the difficulties generated by the absence of their relatives.
It welcomed moves by the Supreme Court to investigate disappearances in Balochistan. But the delegation said more should be done, including the creation of a new criminal offence relating to enforced disappearances, and urged authorities to investigate cases even when no official complaint has been made.
During its visit, the working group received information on cases of enforced disappearances and studied the measures adopted by the state to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for the victims of enforced disappearances.