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Pakistan

    February 13, 2015

    The execution of two men convicted of non-terrorism-related offences marks a disturbing and dangerous escalation in Pakistan’s use of the death penalty since a moratorium was lifted in December last year, Amnesty International said.

    Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Fiaz were hanged this morning in Mirpur Central Prison in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir region. The two men were convicted of murdering the son of the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association in 2004, and given death sentences in 2005.

    Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions on 17 December 2014 – in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre – on prisoners convicted of “terrorism” offences in Anti-Terror Courts. However, today’s hangings mark the first executions of prisoners convicted by ordinary courts.

    “Today’s executions mark a disturbing and dangerous escalation of Pakistan’s use of the death penalty since a moratorium was lifted. The government has apparently gone against its own stated policy of only executing those convicted on terrorism charges,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    January 16, 2015

    Pakistan’s government must immediately put an end to the spate of executions in the country in the wake of the Peshawar school attack, which has already seen 19 people put to death over the past month, Amnesty International said.

    Since a moratorium on executions was lifted on 17 December, Pakistan has threatened to send to the gallows around 500 death row prisoners convicted on terrorism charges. Another execution - of Ikramul Haq, member of the armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and convicted for murdering a Shi’a Muslim in 2004 - is scheduled for tomorrow in Lahore.

    “The killing spree that is unfolding in Pakistan must end immediately. As horrific as the Peshawar attack was, proving you are tough on crime by carrying out more killings is never the answer to combating violence,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The government should immediately reinstate a moratorium on executions with a view to the eventual abolition of the death penalty.”

    December 22, 2014

    Pakistan’s reported plans to execute 500 more people are “deeply disturbing” and would do nothing to protect civilians from the conflict with the Taliban, Amnesty International said today. 

    The reports come following the execution of six people in the past four days in the wake of the deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar.

    “The planned execution figures being quoted are deeply disturbing and indicate a huge regression from a government which until last week maintained a moratorium on executions,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. 

    “Pakistan suffered an horrific tragedy in Peshawar last week, but resorting to the death penalty and threatening to carry out large numbers of executions masks rather than addresses the underlying problems that need to be tackled by the government – namely that communities living in the north-west of Pakistan are gravely at risk from violence and human rights abuses.”

    December 19, 2014

    Resuming the death penalty is not the answer to combating terrorism in Pakistan and only perpetuates a cycle of violence, Amnesty International said as two people were executed in the country today for the first time since 2012.

    Two people who had been convicted over their role in two separate Taliban attacks were hanged in Pakistan today. They were the first executions since the government lifted a moratorium on executions for those tried of terrorism-related charges this week in response to the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed at least 142 people.

    “It is extremely disappointing that the government has given into fear and anger by executing two people today. As horrific as the attack on the Peshawar school was, more killings – this time by the government – is never the answer to combating terrorism and crime,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “This is a cynical reaction from the government. It masks a failure to deal with the core issue highlighted by the Peshawar attack, namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in north-west Pakistan.”

    December 17, 2014

    The Pakistani government must resist giving in to fear and anger in the wake of the Peshawar school tragedy and maintain its moratorium on executions, Amnesty International said today after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to restart executions for terrorism-related offences.

    “Yesterday’s attack was utterly reprehensible, and it is imperative that those responsible for this unimaginable tragedy are brought to justice. However, resorting to the death penalty is not the answer – it is never the answer,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific.

    Sharif’s announcement came the day after at least 142 people – including 132 children – were killed by Taliban militants at an army-run school in the north-western city.

    “Pakistan is understandably gripped by fear and anger in the wake of the attacks. However, lifting the moratorium on executions appears to be a knee-jerk reaction which does not get at the heart of the problem – namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in north-west Pakistan,” said David Griffiths.

    December 16, 2014

    Today’s Taliban attack on a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar shows a merciless disregard for human life and highlights the urgent need for protection of civilians in the area, Amnesty International said.  

    At least 126 people, mainly children, were killed when several armed men entered the school and began firing indiscriminately at students and teachers in one of the most shocking Taliban attacks in recent memory.

    “There can be absolutely no justification for targeting children in this way. This unconscionable Taliban attack is a grave reminder that civilians in north-west Pakistan desperately need effective protection from militant groups,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific.

    “Of prime importance now is that the Pakistani authorities take effective steps to protect civilians and minimize the risk of this type of sickening tragedy being repeated.”

    November 26, 2014

    The prison sentence for blasphemy handed down today by a court in Pakistan against four people including the owner of a major private TV channel and one of its star actresses will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the media, Amnesty International said. The organization also noted serious concerns about the fairness of the trial.

    An anti-terrorism court (ATC) today sentenced in absentia Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo TV and its parent Jang Media Group, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir and TV host Shaista Wahidi, to 26 years in prison each for airing a “contemptuous” program. Geo TV has a tense relationship with Pakistani authorities and was earlier this year temporarily taken off air following the blasphemy allegation.

    “This sentence will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan. It is appalling that someone should be sent to prison for decades over a TV program. Today’s judgment shows how Pakistan’s deeply flawed blasphemy laws have become another tool to silence media,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    November 04, 2014

    The Pakistani authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the vicious mob killing of a Christian couple accused of blasphemy today, Amnesty International said.

    Local police reported that an angry crowd today attacked and killed a Christian married couple in Kot Radha Kishan outside of Lahore, Punjab, and then burned their bodies at the brick kiln where they worked. Rumours circulated that the couple had desecrated a Qu’ran the day before, although the circumstances of this accusation are not clear.

    “This vicious mob killing is just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation – although religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable. Those responsible must be brought to justice and the Pakistani authorities have to ensure at-risk communities are proactively given the protection they need,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    October 20, 2014

    A politically motivated ban imposed on a Pakistani TV channel critical of the government constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) today suspended transmissions of private network ARY TV for 15 days. It has been accused of ostensibly “maligning” the country’s judiciary after it aired an interview with a man currently the subject of a high-profile trial before the Lahore High Court.

    “ARY TV must be immediately allowed back on air. There is simply no justification for the Pakistani authorities to silence sections of the media solely because of their political leanings,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The ban on ARY is a sobering reminder of the threat of criminal prosecution on the basis of overly broad contempt of court or anti-state provisions. Journalists in Pakistan are under attack from all sides, facing harassment, even abduction and killings for carrying out their work.”

    October 16, 2014

    A Pakistani court’s decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is a grave injustice, Amnesty International said.

    The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

    “This is a grave injustice. Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place – still less sentenced to death – and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi’s trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed.”

    Asia Bibi’s lawyer said after today’s verdict that he will file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

    September 15, 2014

    Pakistan should immediately scrap apparent plans to carry out the first civilian execution in almost six years and instead impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a first step towards abolition, Amnesty International said.

    Shoaib Sarwar, a death row prisoner convicted on murder charges in 1998, is reportedly set to be hanged in a Rawalpindi jail on 18 September 2014. If carried out, it would be the first civilian execution in Pakistan since 2008 and the first execution in the country since 2012.

    “This execution should be halted immediately,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    September 12, 2014

    Today’s arrest of the suspects in the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai offers an important opportunity for the authorities to address their poor record in protecting human rights defenders in Pakistan, Amnesty International said.

    “By her words and deeds, the brave education rights activist Malala Yousafzai proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher.

    “But human rights defenders promoting the rights of women and girls in her native Swat and across Pakistan remain especially at risk of deadly attacks and other abuse from the Taliban and other groups, not least because of the authorities’ continued failure to hold the perpetrators to account.

    “Human rights defenders play a critical role in promoting the rights of everyone in Pakistan society. With the world watching, it is critical that Pakistan seizes this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, justice and rule of law.”

    June 06, 2014

    The Pakistani government’s suspension of Geo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, is a politically motivated attack on freedom of expression and the media, Amnesty International said.

    “The suspension of Geo TV is a serious attack on press freedom in Pakistan. It is the latest act in an organized campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting the network on account of its perceived bias against the military,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director.

    “The Pakistani authorities must immediately reverse this ban. If there are concerns about the content of Geo TV broadcasts, the authorities should address this in line with international human rights standards – not simply move to silence a critical voice.”

    The governmental body Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) today ruled that the licenses of Geo TV be suspended for 15 days with immediate effect.

    The ban is due to allegedly blasphemous content broadcast last month by Geo TV - part of the Jang Media Group - and its earlier accusations against a senior military intelligence official.

    May 29, 2014

    Pakistani authorities should immediately investigate the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military’s premier spy agency, over its alleged involvement in journalist attacks, said Amnesty International on the third anniversary of the abduction and killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad.

    “Failure to investigate such incidents thoroughly, impartially and transparently and to hold perpetrators accountable fosters a culture of impunity for attacks against independent media in Pakistan,” said David Griffiths, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    In an open letter, Amnesty International and 10 other human rights organizations called on the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to fulfil his promise to end the impunity enjoyed by individuals and groups who attack journalists.

    April 29, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 30 April 2014

    Journalists in Pakistan live under the constant threat of killings, harassment and other violence from all sides, including intelligence services, political parties and armed groups like the Taliban, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    ‘A bullet has been chosen for you’: Attacks on journalists in Pakistan, describes how the Pakistani authorities have almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media workers or to bring those responsible to account.

    Amnesty International has documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in Pakistan in response to their work since the restoration of democratic rule in 2008, but only in one case have the perpetrators been brought to justice.

    But these killings are just the most brutal statistic – many more journalists have been threatened, harassed, abducted, tortured or escaped assassination attempts in the same period.

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