UK: Today: Day of Action for Pakistan - 15 November 2007

Amnesty International
Amnesty International's call for a Day of Action for Pakistan.
"Dear friends we would like to invite you to join us either as individuals or organisations on the 15 November for a day of action on Pakistan.
We want to create a strong international call for the restoration of fundamental rights and justice in Pakistan. Through visible global protests we want to call on governments and the international community to exert real influence on the Pakistan authorities. We have urged our sections to maximise media coverage of the day of action. Some suggestions for the day of action are outlined below.

Outside the High Commission of Pakistan or Pakistan Embassies. If your town or city does not have these, organise your event in busy or symbolic public areas, which will act as a suitable backdrop. Ideas may include outside relevant government buildings, courts, famous historic sites, main squares or main shopping districts.

The primary target of this action is the government of Pakistan, as the institution primarily responsible for the human rights violations committed in the current state of emergency. We are calling on the Pakistani authorities to:

1. Restore fundamental human rights
General Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule and his suspension of fundamental human rights is a blatant breach of international law and Pakistan's Constitution. All measures imposed the state of emergency must be immediately revoked and fundamental rights including freedom of expression, association and assembly fully restored.

2. Release the prisoners
All those arbitrarily detained under emergency rule, including human rights activists, judges, lawyers, journalists and political activists, many of whom are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, must be immediately and unconditionally released.

3. Reinstate the independent judiciary
An independent judiciary is critical for the protection human rights and the rule of law. The Chief Justice and all other judges who have been dismissed must be immediately re-instated.

4. Call on the UN to despatch urgently a mission to Pakistan
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should send a fact-finding mission right away to Pakistan to investigate the human rights situation and in particular, the condition of detainees at risk of torture. The UN Secretary General should offer his good offices to the governments and the UN Security Council should put the situation of Pakistan on its agenda as a threat to international peace and security. (We intend to refine our call to the UN with more specific, targeted asks in the coming week).

5. Urge governments to exert their influence on Pakistan to restore fundamental human rights
All governments which have influence on Pakistan must call for the immediate restoration of fundamental human rights. The US government has pressed for early elections, but without fundamental rights, a free media and an independent judiciary, elections will be a sham.

6. No to military tribunals for civilians
Amnesty International condemns the amendment to the Pakistan Army Act 1952 which allows the trial of civilians by the military authorities. In trial by military authorities the accused does not have full legal representation. A counsel can only represent an accused in the capacity of a friend while ordinary rules of evidence do not apply. This is a violation of international standards for fair trial.

General Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule came on the eve of a Supreme Court hearing to rule on petitions contesting his eligibility to contest presidential elections held on 6 October. Lawyers who were counsels in the petitions, including President of the Supreme Court bar association Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Munir A. Malik and retired Justice Tariq Mahmood, were immediately arrested. These lawyers had been leading a movement to uphold the independence of the judiciary since President Musharraf suspended the former Chief Justice of Pakistan on 9 March.

Hundreds of lawyers, human rights activists, and political workers have been arrested or arbitrarily detained across Pakistan. Many have been charged with unlawful assembly under public order provisions, or detained without charge under preventive detention laws. A number of journalists were arrested and subsequently charged and two newspapers have been ordered to limit the content of their coverage.

Independent TV and Radio news channels have been prevented from broadcasting within the country since Saturday 3 November. New laws restricting freedom of print and electronic media were issued, breach of which attracts three to four years imprisonment and heavy fines.

In a disturbing development, the government also amended the Army Act to allow the trial of civilians by military courts on charges including treason, sedition and “statements conducive to public mischief. The amended Act poses a serious threat to print and electronic media, civil society activists, and to those accused of terrorist offences.

Amnesty International fears that the assault on key institutions of accountability, combined with sweeping emergency powers, will exacerbate further existing patterns of human rights abuse, including torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and the use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent."

Cintia Lavandera
Coordinator Human Rights Defenders Program
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 0DW
Tel: +44 (0)20 7413 5981
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7956 1157