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Pak rights group voices concern about enforced disappearances bill

ANI | Updated: Oct 26, 2022 15:00 IST

Lahore [Pakistan], October 26 (ANI): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed reservations concerning the recently passed Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2022, which deals with widespread enforced disappearances in the country.
The bill, passed in Pak Senate last week, seeks to further amend the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the anti-dumping duties bill and the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Bill, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"While the amendment acknowledges the crime of enforced disappearance and defines this as the 'unlawful or illegal deprivation of liberty by an agent of the state', it does not address the need for a new legal architecture extending civilian oversight to these very agents," the HRCP said in a statement.
Such a provision is central to any effective legislation to curb enforced disappearances, given the thousands of allegations and testimonies that hold state agencies responsible for this practice, HRCP said.
"Legislation to determine the mandate of state agencies such as the ISI is also necessary, given that it has claimed in front of the superior courts to have had 'lawful' authority to arrest persons accused of 'anti-state activities," the Lahore-based group said.

Additionally, the group argued that the bill does not address the question of reparations to victims and their families nor does it address the accountability of perpetrators.
"Enforced disappearances must be treated as a separate, autonomous crime. Any legislation to curb this practice must provide guarantees that anyone deprived of their liberty is kept in a fully authorised place of detention and victims, their families and witnesses provided protection in case of reprisals. Pakistan must also sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance," it added.
The group further contended that laws allowing the military to investigate and try civilians should be amended.
"It is no mere coincidence that human rights defender Idris Khattak--who was disappeared for eight months and then acknowledged by security agencies to be in their custody--was convicted under the Army Act 1952," HRCP said.
Earlier, a group of UN experts called on Pakistan to halt the approval of an amendment to a bill criminalizing enforced disappearances that would harshly penalize families and other sources for reporting alleged cases.
"Relatives of victims of enforced disappearance are already often reluctant to report cases or exchange information with Government officials, either for fear of reprisals or lack of trust," the UN experts had said. (ANI)