UN rights experts: Pakistan must pass measures to protect minorities

[JURIST] Three independent UN human rights [official website] experts on Monday urged [press release] Pakistan to adopt urgent legislation to put an end to faith-based killings and protect the country's Ahmadiyya Muslim [BBC profile] community, whose faith is currently outlawed. The call follows a resurgence of violent attacks in Pakistan targeting Ahmadiyya Muslims, which have resulted in the deaths of two members of the community and are believed to be related to the practice of their religious faith. The country has also recently seen many arrests for blasphemy. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief [official profile] Heiner Bielefeldt said [UN report] that the violence was "fueled by existing blasphemy legislation in Pakistan particularly targeting minorities." He went on to urge the country to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for members of minority religious communities. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions [official profile] Christof Heyns also spoke, stressing the importance of ensuring accountability to the government's efforts to reduce attacks. Pakistan, according to Heyns, must take urgent and firm steps to bring justice to those guilty of such killings.

There have been many incidents involving Pakistan's highly contentious blasphemy laws in recent years. In May police in the Pakistani province of Punjab filed charges of blasphemy [JURIST report] against 68 lawyers for protesting police actions. In March a Pakistani judge sentenced a Christian man to death [JURIST report] for blasphemy. In January a court in Pakistan sentenced a man to death [JURIST report] for being found to have written letters claiming to be a prophet. In August of last year a Pakistani court dismissed charges [JURIST report] against a cleric who was arrested for allegedly framing a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. In April of last year the Lahore High Court in Pakistan acquitted a Christian man [JURIST report] sentenced to death for blasphemy. In November 2012 a Pakistani court ordered police to drop blasphemy charges [JURIST report] against a 14-year-old Christian girl, which sparked international concern over the use of the country's controversial law.

 

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