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Pakistan

    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.

    March 27, 2014

    The Pakistani authorities should immediately release a Christian man sentenced to death under the country’s draconian blasphemy laws and quash his conviction, Amnesty International said today.

    Savan Masih, a Christian road sweeper from Lahore, was today sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy and fined 200,000 rupees. He was arrested on 6 March 2013 after a friend accused him of making blasphemous remarks during an argument.

    “This is a travesty of justice. There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, and an argument between two friends is not a basis for sending anyone to the gallows. Savan Masih must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    The vague formulation of the blasphemy laws, along with inadequate investigation by authorities and intimidation by mobs and some religious groups, has promoted vigilantism across Pakistan, especially in the northeastern state of Punjab.

    February 11, 2014

    The Pakistani authorities must immediately determine the whereabouts of an anti-drone activist who disappeared days before he was due to travel to Europe to give testimony before the European Parliament, Amnesty International said.

    According to witnesses, over a dozen men, some in police uniforms, others in plain clothes, burst into Kareem Khan’s home and whisked him away in the early hours of the morning on 5 February.

    “We are concerned that prominent human rights activist Kareem Khan may have been disappeared to prevent him from giving testimony overseas about US drone strikes in Pakistan,” said Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Kareem Khan’s brother and son were killed in a US drone attack in December 2009.

    Khan has brought a case to the Pakistan courts calling for members of the US Central Intelligence Agency to be prosecuted for the killings. He is also suing the Pakistani government because of their alleged failure to effectively investigate the deaths of his son and brother.

    January 24, 2014

    Pakistan must immediately and unconditionally release a man sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws today, Amnesty International said.

    Mohammad Asghar, a UK citizen with a mental illness, living in Pakistan, was first arrested in 2010 after allegedly sending letters to various officials claiming he was a prophet.

    “Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims, and violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought.

    “The blasphemy laws undermine the rule of law, and people facing charges risk death and other harm in detention. Pakistan must immediately release Mohammed Ashgar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure that this will not happen again,” said Polly Truscott.

    October 22, 2013

    In October 2012, 8-year-old Nabeela ventured out with her 68-year-old grandmother Mamana Bibi to do daily chores in their family's large, open field. Moments later, Mamana was blasted into pieces by a US drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Amnesty International did not find any evidence she was endangering anyone, let alone posing an imminent threat to the US. Yet a year has passed and the US government has not acknowledged Mamana Bibi's death, let alone provided justice or compensation for it.

    "Will I be next?," a new report from Amnesty International, finds that this killing, and several other so-called targeted killings from US drone strikes in Pakistan, may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes. Based on interviews with 60 survivors and eyewitnesses to these strikes, "Will I be next?" documents potentially unlawful killings and abuses, and makes recommendations to the US government for how to uphold the right to life and ensure accountability for any unlawful killings.

     

    September 18, 2013

    Pakistani school girl and education rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai is one of two 2013 recipients of Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award, along with singer and human rights and social justice activist Harry Belafonte.

    Malala Yousafzai

    The youngest ever recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience Award, Yousafzai is a 16-year-old advocate for equal access to education. Malala will be presented with the Award by U2's Bono accompanied by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

    In 2009 the BBC published the girl's diary which detailed her frustrations with the Taliban's order to shut down all girls’ schools in her native Pakistan.

    In 2012, Malala, then aged 15, and two friends were attacked by the Pakistani Taliban on their way home from school. Malala was shot and severely wounded in the attack. Treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hosptial in Birmingham, she now has a titanium plate fitted to help her hear.

    August 06, 2013

    The Pakistani authorities must hold former military ruler Pervez Musharraf accountable for all human rights violations committed during his rule, Amnesty International said ahead of a key trial today.

    Musharraf is today expected to be formally charged at an Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad with criminal conspiracy and murder related to the December 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

    There are a number of other cases pending against Musharraf, including in relation to the 2006 killing of the Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti, with trials for these expected to follow later in the year.

    “It is encouraging to see the courts take the unprecedented step of bringing a former Army Chief to account for his alleged involvement in past human rights violations and crimes under international law. But Musharraf must be held accountable for all violations committed under his rule, not just a select few,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

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