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Pakistan: Victims of enforced disappearance should not be discouraged from lodging complaints

10 December 2021

GENEVA (10 December 2021) - A group of UN experts today called on Pakistan to halt the approval of an amendment to a bill criminalizing enforced disappearances that would harshly penalize families and other sources for reporting alleged cases.

The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, which passed Pakistan's National Assembly on 9 November and is due to be taken up by the Senate, includes a clause establishing penalties of up to five years imprisonment and one hundred thousand Pakistani rupees in fines for anyone found guilty of filing a complaint with information ‘that proves to be false’.

“Relatives of victims of enforced disappearance are already often reluctant to report cases or exchange information with Government officials, either for fear of reprisals or lack of trust," said the experts.

"If passed, this law would undoubtedly lead to an increased underreporting of the crime, and foster impunity for the perpetrators," the experts said. “These provisions would have a chilling effect on relatives of the disappeared persons and their representatives, who might find themselves in a climate of self-censorship, eventually leaving them without any effective remedy.”

The experts said Pakistan should seek the means to encourage affected relatives to come forward rather than creating barriers discouraging them from doing so.

The bill, amending the Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 and criminalizing enforced disappearances as an autonomous offence, was first introduced to the National Assembly on 8 June. It was initially welcomed by UN experts, because it was a long-awaited development in line with recommendations from relevant international human rights mechanisms. However, on 29 September, the Standing Committee on Interior of the Assembly introduced amendments that “run contrary to the spirit and objectives of a law to criminalize enforced disappearances,” said the experts, who have shared their concerns with the Government.

“We call on the Senate of Pakistan to carefully review and amend the bill, aligning it with international human rights standards,” the experts. “We also reiterate our call to Pakistan to enable a process that will allow the participation of victims, families, civil society organizations and other relevant actors in an open, inclusive and transparent discussion of the bill before its approval.”

ENDS

Luciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Aua Baldé (Vice-Chair), Tae-Ung Baik, Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevičius , Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. The Working Group also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. More information on the Working Group

Watch and learn more about the history of the Working Group, and on how to submit a case to the Working Group.

Read the eight Key Guidelines on COVID – 19 and Enforced Disappearances, issued by the Working Group jointly with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

Read the Working Group's 2021 report to the UN Human Rights Council and post-sessional documents

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ugo Cedrangolo ([email protected] or [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence (+41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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