Pakistan: ANNI welcomes the bill passed by the Senate for establishing the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) 16 May 2012
18 May 2012 2:48 pm
The Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) expresses its appreciation for the passage of the National Commission for Human Rights Bill in Pakistan recently. Earlier passed by the National Assembly in December last year, the draft was further amended after its passage through the Senate. Now it requires only the formal signature of consent of the President to become a law.
The bill envisages a nine-member National Commission on Human Rights with the power to inquire into violation of human rights or abetment, negligence of the public servants to prevent such violations, act on complaints, intervene in court proceedings on violations by seeking to become a party to the case, visit jails or other places of detention, review factors that jeopardise human rights, undertake research on human rights issues, spread human rights literacy, promote awareness on human rights using appropriate means, submit independent report to the Government on the state of human rights in Pakistan etc.
It is encouraging to see that the bill has also mandated the National Commission for Human Rights to develop a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights, something not very common for such institutions in the region. It should be noted that, In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted in June 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights recommended to States to consider the desirability of drawing up a national action plan identifying steps whereby States would improve the promotion and protection of human rights. Only few countries have so far developed such national plan of action for human rights where only Nepal and Sri Lanka stands in South Asia.
While taking note on some of the positive aspects of the bill like, the broad definition of human rights, provision of the membership of at least two women and one from the minority community in the nine member commission to ensure the pluralism, consultative selection procedure through public notice inviting suggestive names and including the opposition leader as well as opposition parliament members in the selection process, rendering the powers of a civil court in respect to conducting inquiries, allow the process to discuss on the Annual Report and the Special Reports of the NCHR in the National Parliament and be placed on the website of the NCHR for the information of general public, we believe that the draft bill is silent on the explicit role of the civil society to contribute in the selection procedure as manifested in the UN Paris Principles, therefore, we recommend amendment in the draft bill in order to incorporate a purposeful role of the civil society. We also wish to highlight that certain sections of the bill may impede full independence of the NCHR. our first comment. ing than rewardingre concenred rights issues of NCHR. inSection 9 (j) for example, requires the commission to submit human rights status reports to the government “for incorporation in reports to United Nations bodies or committees”. We believe, the intention of the human rights status report, prepared by the NCHR should be to draw the Government’s attention to the human rights concerns and to address those concerns, not for incorporating in the several state reports that the Government is obliged to submit.
Further, the bill contains certain sections that seem to have been included to limit the role of NCHR e.g. it does not allow dealing with complaints involving law enforcement apparatus of the country.
Section 15, for instance, states that “the functions of the commission do not include inquiring into the act of practice of intelligence agencies” and complaints shall be referred to the competent authority concerned. This will leave the legislation to be viewed as a ‘halfway measure’.
We observed in many instances that the Governments intend to make use of such steps to overcome some immediate scrutiny at international level and not as to fulfill their sincere commitment to protect and promote human rights. We hope, this would not be the case for Pakistan in spite of the existence of such speculation as Pakistan is heading towards the 2nd cycle of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the third quarter of this year.
We also would like to take note at this stage that the final passage of the bill came after a shuttle between the two houses of the parliament over the past few months and more than three years after the decision of the cabinet. We strongly demand speedy process of establishing an independent and autonomous National Commission for Human Rights (in accordance with the Paris Principles) and it should be protected against political and executive influences.
The expectation of the people of Pakistan is that those members who are selected have proven expertise, knowledge and experience in the promotion and protection of human rights which is very important for the integrity and reputation of a new institution in its challenging environment. Finally, we would also like to seek civil society opinion in Pakistan and the international human rights community to demand the removal of all the ambiguities in the current bill that curtail full effectiveness of the NCHR and the integration of civil society participation through institutionalized mechanisms.
For further inquiries, please contact:
Sayeed Ahmad, FORUM-ASIA, Country Program Manager, +66 842 176 150, [email protected]
The statement is endorsed by:
- Individualland Pakistan
- National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Pakistan
- Shirkat Gah Women Resource Centre, Pakistan
- Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), National Centre, Islamabad – Pakistan