By Our Staff Reporter
Islamabad: UN human rights experts have raised questions about the scourge of enforced disappearances and torture in Pakistan, calling on the Government to fulfil its human rights responsibilities by conducting timely, comprehensive and unbiased investigations into such actions.
The experts highlighted the government’s inability to thoroughly investigate the case of human rights defender Idris Khattak, who was taken into custody on 13 November 2019 and held incommunicado for more than seven months.
The authorities recognised his detention in June of this year but he appears to be stripped of his most fundamental rights. They urged Pakistan, which was re-elected to the 47-member Human Rights Council in October, to lead by example by demonstrating its contribution to the promotion and defence of human rights.
“There is no question that Pakistan must conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khattak’s unlawful disappearance, and that those responsible must be held to account – impunity is not an option,” the experts said.
Khattak’s case is emblematic of a series of documented enforced disappearances in Pakistan, where many human rights defenders are similarly silenced for their legitimate work of monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights violations and attacks against minorities.
“We welcome the fact that proof of life was demonstrated recently when Mr. Khattak was granted his first contact with the outside world in a short, supervised visit from a family member,” the experts said.
“However, additional steps must be taken without delay in order for Mr Khattak’s most fundamental rights to be restored, including his right to an independent medical assessment, his right to unrestricted access to a lawyer, his right to a trial in full compliance with due process and his right not to be detained arbitrarily.”
“Unacknowledged detention exposes both the victims and their loved ones to severe and prolonged suffering that may well amount to torture or to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in clear violation of Pakistan’s obligations under international law,” the experts said.
“All victims and their families have the right to justice, truth and reparations,” said a press release issued by the United Nations.
Pakistani authorities have committed to actively engage with Special Procedures. In the case of Mr Khattak, experts have repeatedly raised their concerns directly with the Government and will continue to closely monitor the situation.