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Part 6 in a series by Marissa Goldfaden as she works her way through “Introduction to minority rights, regional human rights mechanisms, and minority rights advocacy,” a new online course offered to the public free of charge by Minority Rights Group International. The course’s stated objectives are to introduce concepts of minority rights and discrimination, develop awareness and understanding of international and regional mechanisms for minority rights, and improve practical skills in lobbying and advocacy.

By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

Asian human rights mechanisms

The workings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Founded in 1967, ASEAN is currently comprised of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Timor Leste has observer status. The purpose of ASEAN is to boost economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region; and promote regional peace and stability through respect for justice and the rule of law, and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. In 2007, ASEAN adopted its own charter.

Decision-making within ASEAN

Secretariat Implements policy decisions; draws up ‘plans of action’ in collaboration with Senior Officials
Ministerial meetings Amend and endorse plans of action drawn up by the Secretariat
ASEAN Summit The highest decision-making body: gives final approval to plans of action

 

In terms of rights, ASEAN Vision 2020 seeks to create an ASEAN Community by 2020 where “all people enjoy equitable access regardless of gender, race, religion, language or social and cultural background; where civil society is empowered and gives special attention to the disadvantaged, disabled and marginalized; where social justice and the rule of law reign.”

The ASEAN Community is composed of three pillars of cooperation:

  1. ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC)
  2. ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)
  3. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)

Asia-Pacific does not have a regional system of treaties, courts, commissions or other institutions to protect and promote human rights. As such, the organization has recently established the following three relevant mechanisms:

  • ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
    • Though it does not explicitly mention minorities, principle 2.2 of the AICHR’s Terms of Reference underlines respect for non-discrimination.
  • ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
  • Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of Migrant Workers (ACMW)

All ASEAN member states have ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

ASEAN has also adopted its own declarations relating to women:

  1. Declaration on the Advancement of Women in ASEAN (1988)
  2. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region (2004) 
  3. ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children (2004)

Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)’s main goal is to jointly promote social and economic development in Asia. Its current member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan.

Created in January 2004, the Technical Committee on Women, Youth and Children is concerned with issues such as the trafficking of women and children within and between countries in the region; increasing women’s participation in politics; and women’s health and education. SAARC adopted a regional Convention on Combating the Crime of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution in January 2002.

Established in 2004, the SAARC Social Charter “incorporates a broad range of goals in areas such as poverty eradication, population stabilization, women’s empowerment, promotion of health and nutrition, and child protection. It also requires member states to formulate a National Plan of Action, or modify any existing one, to implement the provisions of the Charter. It calls on states to enact any plan through a transparent and broad-based participatory process.”

The SAARC Charter does not list promotion of human rights as a goal. SAARC has not adopted any human rights convention or charter. It has not agreed to create any regional institution or mechanism to monitor adherence to, and implementation of, the various UN human rights conventions already signed by its member countries.

Image: therealsingapore.com

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Earlier this week, Genocide Watch and the Genocide Prevention Advisory Network (GPAN) put out a list and map of countries at risk of genocide, politicide, or mass atrocities in 2012. Categorized as current massacres, potential massacres, or polarization, a majority of the countries are in the Middle East and Africa. Current massacres are taking place in DR Congo, Sudan, Eastern Congo, Uganda, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Myanmar, and Ethiopia. According to GPAN, these countries are “at the mass killing stage. They have active genocides, recurring genocidal massacres, or ongoing politicides. They are erupting.” The groups and factions comprising the victims and killers include government supporters or protesters, militias, religious and ethnic groups, armies, and terrorist organizations. Which side they fall on varies by region.

* Today Majlis-e-Wehdat Muslameen (MWM) claimed that Pakistani government intelligence agencies were supporting terrorist organizations in an ongoing genocide of Shia Muslims in Balochistan Province, Pakistan. MWM is a coalition of Shia organizations created in April 2010 to advocate on behalf of the Pakistani Shia community vis-à-vis the government. MWM alleges that over 700 Shias have been killed between 1984 and 2011, and that government agencies have aided terrorist organizations in a genocidal plot against the Shia in Pakistan, citing the frequent acquittals of terrorists by the Lahore High Court. On October 17 hundreds of Shia Muslims staged a two-hour sit-in at Main Kachari Road Multan in Southern Punjab to condemn “the ongoing genocide,” and demanded that the Pakistani government recognize the links of the Lahore High Court to the terrorist organizations it is charged with trying. In an October 18 report documenting two more assassinations of Shia Muslims by Sunni terrorist organizations, Ahlul Bayt News Agency claimed that the United States was the mastermind behind these terrorist organizations, such as Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, in a “conspiracy to destabilize the country.”

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced yesterday that substantive proceedings for the trial of four top former Khmer Rouge officials would start on November 21. The defendants are Nuon Chea, chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, head of state; Ieng Sary, foreign minister; and Ieng Thirith, minister for social affairs. Each faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. This announcement follows years of interference by the Cambodian government, resulting in only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, being convicted, despite the $100 million the trials have cost since being established in 2006. On October 11, German co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk resigned from the ECCC, citing interference by Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and other government officials. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, declared last week that further trials were “not allowed,” prompting Judge Blunk’s resignation. Following this setback, Patricia O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for legal affairs,  announced she would pay a visit this week to Phnom Penh to meet with government officials and others about the tribunal.

Photo: babulilmlibrary.com

Gunmen on motorcycles killed 14 Shia civilians on October 4 in Balochistan, Pakistan. This attack came on the heels of a September 19 massacre of Shia civilians by a Sunni militant group, also in Balochistan, which left 26 people dead. The Asia director of Human Rights Watch said, “The targeted killings of Shia are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.” Human Rights Watch claims that there have been 16 recorded attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan in 2011.

Shia protests broke out in the Pakistan port city of Karachi on September 23, over the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop attacks on Shia Muslims. Human Rights Watch said that Sunni militant groups act with impunity even in areas where government authority is well established. After the October 4 killings, opposition parties demanded the resignations of government officials they believe have failed to address the issue. Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, ignored their demand.

In response to mounting protests of government inaction, on October 5 Pakistani police said they had launched a crackdown on militants, detaining up to 100 suspects on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

Photo: ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com

* Extrajudicial killings and the massacre of 36 civilians in Burundi have human rights groups worried about a return to civil war. September 18, in the town of Gatumba, a group of gunmen dressed in police uniforms entered a bar and ordered everyone to lie on the ground before opening fire. The Guardian reports that the bar was known as a popular place for government supporters. This massacre comes on the heels of a report by the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a Burundian watchdog organization, which claimed it had evidence of 125 extrajudicial killings by the Burundian government between May and August, mostly targeting former Hutu rebels. The New York Times wrote that “an African diplomat in Nairobi” believed the killings in Gatumba were retribution against the government. “The government has been slaughtering them like rats,” the diplomat said. The attack on Sunday “was payback,” he said.

* Twenty-nine Shia civilians were killed in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan on September 20. Reports say the victims were Shia pilgrims, who were lined up in front of their bus before being shot. Amnesty International says the incident reveals the Pakistani government’s failure to address ongoing sectarian violence nationwide. Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an anti-Shia extremist group, claimed responsibility for the massacre. “These are not random killings but demonstrate the deliberate targeting of the Shia by armed groups,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “These attacks prove that without an urgent and comprehensive government response, no place is safe for the Shia.”

Photo: cbc.ca.com

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has found two Croatian generals guilty (Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač) and acquitted one (Ivan Čermak) of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war for acts committed by Croatian forces during Operation Storm between July and September 1995. The three officers were sentenced to 24 and 18 years’ imprisonment respectively. The court found the crimes were committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise whose objective was permanent removal of the Serb population by force or threat of force, which amounted to and involved deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution through the imposition of restrictive and discriminatory measures, unlawful attacks against civilians and civilian objects, deportation, and forcible transfer.

Rwandan Ambassador to the United States James Kimonyo, speaking to students and faculty of California Baptist University as part of the 17th commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, called for genocide denial to be fought internationally, AllAfrica.com reported. “Denial is the last stage of genocide and it could be the beginning of another cycle of genocide, if left unchecked or stopped,” Kimonyo told the audience.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a compromise bill (H.R.1473) to fund the government until the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Save Darfur reported that, unfortunately, the Complex Crises Fund, which has enabled the United States to more effectively respond to situations where mass atrocities are occurring or likely to occur, was reduced by 20 percent compared to last year’s level. The Civilian Stabilization Initiative, which runs programs to mitigate conflict, was also reduced, by more than 70 percent. Funding allocated to the Civilian Stabilization Initiative serves to prevent violent conflict in areas critical to U.S. interests, inlcuding Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Photo: un.org

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