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Pakistan: UN experts call for greater protection for school children and activists against extremist groups

Pakistan / Extremist groups

12 October 2012

GENEVA (12 October 2012) – A group of United Nations independent experts on rights defenders, summary executions, freedom of expression and education today urged the Government of Pakistan to make every effort to ensure that school children, and particularly girls, are protected throughout all of Pakistan, and to ensure that extremist groups do not restrict the ability of ordinary Pakistanis to realize their human rights.

The shocking attack against Malala Yousafzai by the extremist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was followed by a statement to the media threatening to kill any others, including women and children, who hold views the TTP does not agree with.

“Attempting to assassinate a 14-year-old girl who has the courage to speak out and claim the legitimate right of a generation of girls to receive an education is a shocking attack on human rights defenders in Pakistan,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. “The Government has to make every effort possible to protect Ms. Yousafzai and others who work towards increasing respect for women’s and girls’ rights.”

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, underscored the need to ensure a prompt and thorough investigation into this attack, in addition to the urgent need to provide Ms. Yousafzai, and others threatened by extremists, with swift and effective protection.

“We believe it is crucial that the Government of Pakistan take measures to ensure that its citizens, throughout the country, are able to express their views without fear of intimidation,” added the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue.

“We call upon the Government of Pakistan to clearly denounce those who committed these acts, and to openly support the right of all children, and particularly girls, to attend school in all parts of Pakistan without fear of attack,” stressed the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh. “The right to education includes ensuring that children are able to travel to and attend school without facing the fear of violence.”

“Education is also a crucial means of empowering women and girls to participate in the economic, social and political life of their societies,” added Mr. Singh. “It unlocks women’s potential and leads to an improvement in the health, nutrition, economic situation and overall wellbeing of both women and their families. Meanwhile, a lack of it leads to marginalization and isolation, leading to lower status, increased vulnerability to discrimination and human rights violations.”

Acknowledging the efforts of the Pakistani Government to assist Ms. Yousafzai, the UN Special Rapporteurs also jointly expressed their support to the families of all the injured girls, as well as to the people in Pakistan who continue to struggle against extremist actions.

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