Today a joint media briefing was organized by civil society organizations including Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC), FATA Commission for Human Rights, Civil Society Joint Working Group, Partners for Prevention and Response (p4RR), EVAWG Alliance Members, TransAction, National Action Coordination Group and Pakistan National Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN).
The Civil Society organization demanded that the Federal Government should adopt Protection Policy for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). In 2012 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Brazil provided a recommendation for Pakistan to consider establishing a national policy of protection of human rights defenders. While Denmark recommended that Pakistan should develop a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, and should bring to justice all perpetrators of attacks on or threats against human rights defenders to combat impunity.
The adoption of this policy will mean that the government of Pakistan acknowledges the important role played by civil society in helping them ensure full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. In the legal and political context of Pakistan, a protection policy in Pakistan in line with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is necessary to bridge the gap between international standards accepted by states and the domestic realities faced by defenders.
The speakers said that Human rights defenders play a vital role in democratic societies. The active involvement of people, groups, organizations and institutions is essential to ensure continuing progress towards the fulfillment of international human rights. Civil society – among others – assists states to ensure full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. Accordingly, human rights defenders perform important and legitimate functions in democratic societies. State authorities should respect that dissenting views may be expressed peacefully in democratic societies and should publicly acknowledge the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders.
Qamar Naseem a Human Rights Activist said “National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) should effectively use their promotion and protection mandates to protect the legitimate and lawful interests of HRDs, and to intervene in the interest of defenders who may fall victim to human rights violations. He demanded from NHRIs to establish focal points on human rights defenders and ensure that they are adequately resourced and actively collaborate with all human rights defenders, and give special attention to human rights defenders facing increased risks”
Zar Ali Khan, Chairman of FATA Commission of Human Rights. said “Pakistan’s civil society d is committed to continue struggle for defending and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, empowered citizenship and strengthening of a democratic space based on the premises of participation, inclusivity and accountability.
Taimur Kamal, Coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), said “There can be no guarantee of fundamental freedoms or human rights in a country where human rights defenders continue to be persecuted for their work”
Radish Tony a minority rights activist said, “State must adopt effective measures to prevent violations of the rights of HRDs and, where necessary, address the harm suffered by the activists and refrain from criminalizing or taking other adverse actions against these rights defenders, including reprisals and restrictions”.
Farzana Jan, a transgender rights activist, said “Governments, both at Provincial and National level, must engage in dialogue and consultation with human rights defenders, and publicly recognize and support their work through communication and information campaigns”.
The Civil Society alliances reaffirmed that they will continue to collaborate with national, regional and UN human rights mechanisms to prevent and respond to human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders and will develop innovative approaches in order to involve the general public, all branches of government and other opinion leaders, including the media in the work of human rights defenders.