ISLAMABAD - In the first ever UN denunciation of the US drones campaign in Pakistan’s tribal belt, a top official of the world body has termed the attacks as a human rights violation, while voicing concerns over other HR abuses in the country and the role of its ‘largely unaccountable’ intelligence agencies to this effect.
“I see indiscriminate killings of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations. All the necessary arrangements should be made for the protection of civilians and payment of compensation to the civilian victims of drone strikes,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as she called for a UN investigation into the drone strikes during a media briefing on the conclusion of her four-day visit to Pakistan on Thursday.
“Drone strikes raise serious questions about their compliance with the international law. The United Nations secretary-general has urged the member states to be more transparent and cautious in exercise of force on certain insurgent or militant groups. Protection of civilians must be ensured at all costs and provision of compensation to the civilian victims be made,” she said.
Urging the Pakistan government extend invitation to independent UN experts - including the special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions - Pillay said it would provide valuable guidance to Pakistan both on the legality of drone attacks and the killings believed to have been carried out by the militant organisations and spy agencies.
She also expressed concerned over women rights abuses, religious discrimination and misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan.
“I heard of many instances in which the abductions, killings and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers are alleged to have been carried out by powerful and largely unaccountable state institutions, especially the military intelligence services.”
She argued her case by citing the example of threats faced by Asma Jahangir because of her courageous and outspoken exposure of human rights abuses.
“The issue of disappearances in Balochistan has become a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair, and I encourage a really determined effort by the government and judiciary to investigate and resolve these cases.”
In this context she also recalled last year murder of the journalist Saleem Shehzad, which give an impression that the recent human rights advances could easily be undermined by certain non-state and state forces.
Recalling the alleged imposition of death penalty on five women for dancing at a marriage ceremony on the orders of a jirga, Pillay said, “The Kohistan case illustrates another of Pakistan’s major problems, which is the existence of parallel justice systems such as jirgas.”
In her briefing, Pillay had referred to the restoration of democracy in Pakistan in 2008. Later, this journalist asked Rory Mungoven, the Asia-Pacific Region chief of the UN HR as to what “restoration of democracy in 2008” meant given that the general elections in Pakistan were held in 2002 and parliamentary assemblies had completed their tenure. And his reply was: “This refers to the imposition of emergency in 2007 that had disrupted democratic process which faced so many challenges before 2008. I think the UN HR chief did not mean to say that democracy was not there before 2008.”