UN rights chief sees ‘rule of law at serious risk’ in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has condemned Pakistan’s plans to prosecute civilians involved in May 9 protests under the Army Act.

“Pakistan’s plan to revive the use of military courts to try civilians is disturbing,” the UN official said while addressing a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

May 9 saw massive protests erupt across Pakistan after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan was manhandled and later arrested by paramilitary Rangers from the premises of the Islamabad High Court in a corruption case.

“One more situation that is of deep concern to me is that in Pakistan, hard-earned gains and the rule of law are at serious risk,” he said.

“I am alarmed by the recent escalation of violence, and by reports of mass arrests carried out under problematic laws – arrests that may amount to arbitrary detention,” Türk said.

“Particularly disturbing are reports that Pakistan intends to revive the use of military courts to try civilians – which would contravene its international human rights law obligations.”

He called on the authorities concerned to ensure prompt, impartial, transparent investigations into deaths and injuries that occurred during the 9 May protests.

“The only path to a safe, secure, prosperous Pakistan is one that is paved with respect for human rights, democratic processes, and the rule of law, with the meaningful and free participation of all sectors of society.”

Separately, the US has urged Pakistan to apply democratic principles and human rights to all citizens.

“We call for the respect and equal application of democratic principles, freedom of expression, and rule of law around the world, and of course in Pakistan,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

But he also clarified that the United States “did not have a position on one political candidate or another inside Pakistan”.

 

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