[JURIST] Pakistani bar leaders have expressed dismay at the shutdown [Geo report] of Geo-TV [media website] and another independent Pakistani television channel, declaring the closures an unconstitutional violation of free speech contrary to Article 19 of the now-suspended national charter [text]. Geo and ARY Television [media website], which have been beaming their news programs from ground stations in Dubai since local broadcast was blocked in Pakistan after President Pervez Musharraf's November 3 declaration of emergency rule, were asked by the UAE government to suspend their transmissions and did so early Saturday morning. Geo announced on its website that the channel was shut down after President Pervez Musharraf put tremendous pressure [on Dubai] to silence a media outlet which had refused to bow down to his dictates. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] condemned the closure of the stations and urged Dubai authorities to allow the news channels to resume broadcasting. In a statement [press release] Saturday, it called Musharraf's pressure against Dubai authorities "outrageous interference.
Geo risked the wrath of the Musharraf regime earlier this year when it provided extensive coverage of events surrounding the suspension and eventual reinstatement of now-ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The News has local coverage.
11/19/07 - Chaudhry told the News in an interview late Saturday that "In the presence of a strong judiciary, no such curbs on the media are possible." The News has more.
[JURIST] Singaporean human rights group SG Human Rights [advocacy website] called Sunday for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] to split off the human rights section of its proposed new charter into a separate treaty. Chapter 14 of the draft Charter, which is to be signed early this coming week, aims to deepen the integration of member-states and promote human rights and democracy within the region. A "confidential" copy [PDF text] leaked onto the Internet reads in part:
ASEAN Charter, Article 14 ASEAN HUMAN RIGHTS BODY
1. In conformity with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter relating to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, ASEAN shall establish an ASEAN human rights body.
2. This ASEAN human rights body shall operate in accordance with the terms of reference to be determined by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
ASEAN is facing criticism for allowing military-ruled Myanmar to sign the Charter, but a split such as described might save face by allowing Myanmar to limit its signature to the Charter's governance provisions. Last Friday, the US Senate voted unanimously [AFP article] to urge ASEAN to suspend Myanmar until the regime showed respect for human rights. Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo expressed skepticism [Inquirer article] Saturday about Myanmar's ability to commit to the goals of the Charter. Channel NewsAsia has more.
[JURIST] Khieu Samphan, the president of Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) from 1976 to 1979 during the communist Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] has defended the late Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot in a new book, denying that he was responsible for genocide. In his Reflection on Cambodian History Up to the Era of Democratic Kampuchea, Samphan called Pot a patriot [BBC report] insisting that in his government "[t]here was no policy of starving people. Nor was there any direction set out for carrying out mass killings." The Khmer Rouge regime has been blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979.
[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament Saturday ordered an investigation into the delay of a referendum on the future of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk [Global Security Backgrounder] after Kurdish leaders accused the Arab-dominated Iraqi central government [official website, in Arabic] of blocking the vote, which could result in the city joining the Kurdish-controlled semiautonomous region [official website] in the north of the country, or even declaring its independence. The Iraqi Constitution [text] requires a referendum on Kirkuk's status before the end of the year. The city is highly coveted because of its vast oil wealth. Kurds claim a strong cultural connection with the location, while Arabs and Turkomen in the city are generally united in favor of Baghdad retaining control.
Two years ago leaders of the Kurdish Alliance accused [JURIST report] then-Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of "violating the laws" by breaking promises allowing Kurdish resettlement around Kirkuk. Many Arabs were brought into the city during the Saddam Hussein era, and many Kurds were driven out. AP has more.
[JURIST] Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [personal website; BBC profile] is likely to face 8 1/2-year old corruption charges again in the likely event that an amnesty ordinance [text] issued [JURIST report] by President Pervez Musharraf is thrown out by the country's Supreme Court, according to Pakistani Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum as quoted Sunday in an interview with the London Sunday Times. Qayyum said that he had defended the amnesty after it was issued and before Bhutto returned to the country from exile, but that it was "not happily worded" and would probably be rejected in a number of legal challenges now pending [JURIST report] since only the courts can throw out charges.
Upon release, Jahangir issued a statement [text] calling on all political parties to join together to reinstate the rule of law in Pakistan. Jahangir also called for free and transparent elections and emphasized the need for an independent judiciary. Reuters has more.
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