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Nepal urged to amend TRC bill

As the Parliament prepares to discuss the Bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances, the International Center for Transitional Justice has expressed its deep concern about the Bill retaining flaws that were rejected by the Supreme Court of Nepal in January.

A press release issued by the international rights body has said: In light of the Supreme Court ruling, a panel of experts has put forth revised language to correct these flaws, however, the Nepal government has not made the necessary changes in the Bill.

ICTJ, an international non-governmental organisation headquartered in New York, has urged the government of Nepal to amend the draft law ‘before it is too late.’
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India: Human Rights organisation demands withdrawal of UAPA

Criticising the Central government for framing the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a human rights organisation today demanded immediate withdrawal of the law on the ground that it violated basic human rights.

“We want immediate withdrawal of the UAPA. This is much more dangerous than POTA, TADA or the Rowlatt Act of the British colonial rule. It denies basic human rights and legal immunity to those who are tried under it,” Association for Protection of Human Rights president Sujato Bhadra said.

Bhadra said it was regrettable that the Congress, which claimed to be a believer in the ideals of Mahatama Gandhi who had once denounced the Rowlatt Act, should pass such a law which is much more draconian and anti-human.

Bhadra also took a swipe at the ruling Trinamool Congress and the previous Left regime for agreeing to put the law into effect. Read more »

Afghanistan: Suraia Perlika- “We cannot trust our statesmen”

Suraia Perlika is an activist for human and women’s rights. She founded the Democratic Women’s Organization with five other women in 1965. In 1978, she was held as a political prisoner and tortured for her activities related to women’s rights. After her release, she resumed the presidency of the Democratic Women’s Organization, became President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, and assisted in the establishment of the office of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Kabul. Today, Perlika is the Founder and President of the All Afghan Women’s Union, the successor to the Democratic Women’s Organization.

Can you tell us about a time when your human rights were violated, something which has influenced your life?

I was held in solitary confinement for 18 months in 1978 without a trial because of my political activities. I was subjected to torture during investigations by the intelligence service and then transferred to Pul-e Charkhi prison. After I was released, I organised an international conference on women in Afghanistan. Because of my role in organising this conference, I was a victim of an assassination attempt and hospitalised for six months. I needed medical treatment for a long time to recover from the shooting.

What do you see as some of the important achievements in Afghanistan?

I am very pleased about the introduction of a 25% quota for women in parliament, the establishment of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and President Karzai’s signing of the law prohibiting violence against women.

What gives you hope for the future?

There is increased attention in Afghanistan to the role of women and an expanded role for the civil society institutions in decision-making, for example, in the Independent Elections and the Elections Complaints Commissions. Read more »

Pakistan: Operation has done little to improve law and order, says HRCP

Ammar Shahbazi

Although the federal and provincial governments like to claim that the law and order situation of Karachi has improved since a targeted operation was launched in the city in September last year, the actual numbers paint a different picture.

Of the 153 people killed during the past month, 73 victims (48 percent) were “non-political persons”, according to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The number of dead bodies found in the city in the month of January alone is a staggering 44.

Human rights activists say that extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agencies are partly to blame, and the statistics speak for themselves – 27 of those 44 were killed in ‘police encounters’, a number that is officially accepted by LEAs. Read more »

Afghanistan: Candidates’ Positions on Rights in Spotlight – HRW

Presidential candidates’ positions on human rights should be a central focus in the run-up to the April 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing candidates’ responses to a new human rights questionnaire.

Four of the 11 candidates in Afghanistan’s scheduled April 5, 2014 presidential election responded to a Human Rights Watch questionnaire on the country’s key human rights challenges. Topics covered include accountability for war crimes, women’s rights, and torture.

“The four presidential candidates who responded to this survey deserve credit for sharing their views on these critically important issues,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Afghan voters need to know what commitments the prospective future presidents of Afghanistan are willing to make to address torture, women’s rights, militias, and accountability.  The responses to our questionnaire are part of that process.” Read more »

Pakistan: ‘16% of children aged 6-16 still remain out of school’

Despite the recent focus of the provincial government on enrolment drive, 16 percent of Punjab’s children aged 6-16 still remain out of school, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013.

The remaining 84% that are enrolled in the 6-16 age bracket are not learning much either.

Conducted by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) and Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), ASER 2013 was launched in the city on Monday.

Punjab Minister for Population Zakia Shahnawaz, Secretary School Education Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Pro-chancellor Syed Babar Ali, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General IA Rahman, Oxford University Press (OUP) Managing Director Ameena Saiyed, Director Programs Baila Raza Jamil and representatives of civil society and government officials were present on the occasion. The survey was conducted by 10,000 volunteers across Pakistan.

The ASER survey findings for Punjab is based on the testing of 59,092 children (including 44 percent girls) by thousands of volunteer citizens, who personally visited 21,365 households in 1,074 villages as well as 3,542 children (including 47 percent girls) 1,339 households in 67 blocks in urban areas of four districts across Punjab.
For the year 2013, the ASER rural survey has been conducted in 36 rural districts in Punjab, wherein 5-16 year age cohort children were tested for English, Language (Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto), and Arithmetic competencies. Read more »

Collective goals of governance in Nepal

Dev Raj Dahal

Head FES Nepal Office

Good Governance:

In an “age of governance (usually understood as the multi-actor and multi-level configuration of policy actors), it is hard to see who exactly is to blame for negative results and how to locate a responsible actor” (Offe, 2011:457). A correct disposition of political power requires coordinated capacity of national state to make all constitutional bodies, public institutions, private sectors and civil society orient to collective goals of governance—national security, rule of law, voice of citizens, civic participation, social welfare benefits and peaceful resolution of multi-level conflicts. The implementation of these measures requires coherence in constitutional bodies at horizontal level and line agencies, DDCs, municipalities, VDCs and wards at the vertical level. The ideological crisis in Nepal has narrowed the political landscape of leadership and enabled them to cooperate on common grounds on ethical and realistic public policies. It has also allowed feedback loops where people and leaders can engage in dialogues to address interrelated ecological, social, economic and political problems. In this context, strengthening of democratic processes and institutions, rule of law and government’s accountability in effective service delivery can improve the conditions of human rights of Nepali citizens. The democratic framework for people’s participation can make the governance accountable for its action, inaction in its duties and even outright failure. It can also make its functions transparent, broaden partnership and exchange experiences and ideas.

Nepal has adopted three measures so far: stakeholders’ participation in development policy making, public engagement and participation in constitutional dialogue and inclusion of the right to information in the constitution. Intermediary institutions have a role here to play in policy mediation. Citizens’ right to information embedded in the Interim Constitution is instrumental for controlling corruption and ensuring transparency of decision making about public affairs. The six pillars of second Three-Year Interim Plan of National Planning Commission are: a) Achieve pro-poor and employment-generating, sustainable, and broad-based economic growth with the concerted effort of all sectors-the state, cooperatives, private sectors and civil society; b) Infrastructural development with due consideration to federal structure of the country and provincial economic growth; c) Social inclusion and social justice-oriented development for sustainable peace; d) Socio-economic transformation of the country by strengthening financial and social services so that fair pay, decent work, social and physical security and social mobility of workers and peasant can be guaranteed; e) Result oriented development works to support good governance and effective service delivery; and f) Strengthen economic growth and its sustainability by streamlining development of private and civil society sectors, industrialization, business, and other service areas in the national development. Read more »

Nepal: Respect Supreme Court Ruling – HRW

The Parliament of Nepal should reject the Ordinance on Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearances tabled this week and enact a new transitional justice mechanism which complies with international human rights law, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said in a joint statement today.

The Ordinance on Disappearances, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, signed by the President on March 14, 2013, was declared unconstitutional and in violation of international human rights law by the Nepali Supreme Court on January 2, 2014. In a directive, the Supreme Court ordered the Ordinance be repealed or amended significantly to bring it in line with Nepal’s obligations under national and international law.

However, on January 27, the Government reintroduced the Ordinance with no amendments in the meeting of the Legislative-Parliament – in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s orders.

‘Tabling a rejected version of the Ordinance after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on transitional justice is contemptuous, and raises serious concerns over the government’s respect for the rule of law in Nepal,” said Ben Schonveld, South Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists. Read more »

Pakistan: The politics of the dead

Afiya Shehrbano

Several human rights activists in Pakistan have observed the ‘double jeopardy’ that enables the systematic mass murders of the Hazara community in Balochistan. Their ethnic facial features make them identifiable and easy targets to be punished for the crime of being Shia. Urban ghettoisation helps to corner them. Internal prejudices assist in building a narrative that suggests that all Muslims are not equal anyway.

Several well-meaning, troubled citizens despair in disbelief and attempt to deflect the cause of such faith-based hate and terrorism. Some pretend this is all to do with America, India, Israel and the war on terror, thus erasing three decades of hate literature, preaching and internal competitiveness and/or the nexus of organised religious groups vying for the title of ‘Best Good Muslim’. Others argue that this is all due to madressahs, Arab funding, Wahabist/Salafist influence and Iran’s interference.

Pakistanis just don’t like to take ownership of either the cause or effects of the theocratisation of the state, so how can one expect them to be clear about the required response to crimes inspired by faith? They also like to believe that secular resistance is no antidote to a religious state that is committed to the hegemony of the majoritarian religion and sect.

It is only the Hazara community, perhaps, that recognises the failure of the state, religious leaders and sympathetic fellow-Pakistanis to guarantee equal rights to any minority. This explains their powerful, creepily peaceful yet utterly subversive response to the systematic killings and efforts to cleanse them off the map of the country. The politics of not burying their dead is not a demand for attention or security, nor is it about recognition of their grief. Read more »

Pakistan: FIDH-HRCP workshop seeks urgent steps to end faith-based violence

A two-day workshop organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded with demands for urgent measures to end violence, discrimination and marginalisation faced by the citizens on account of their religious beliefs.

Members of religious minority groups and minority Muslim sects from different parts of Pakistan participated in the workshop in Karachi, describing the gradual worsening of their respective situations. The role of authorities in the perpetration of institutionalised discrimination on grounds of religion was largely evidenced. The participants stated that the authorities — through their failure to adequately intervene despite Pakistan’s obligation under UN treaties stressing equality, dignity, rule of law and protection of human rights of all Pakistanis — rendered themselves responsible for serious violations of international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The absence of or inadequate and inappropriate intervention were highlighted in several sectors:

  • The urgent need to ensure respect, protection and promotion of equality of human rights of all Pakistanis irrespective of their faith and religion was emphasised. The blatant impunity of the perpetrators of violations on account of religious belief was noted, which unfortunately fuels the perpetration of further crimes. The absence of adequate protection to the judges and lawyers involved in the prosecution of these crimes was also highlighted. Read more »

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