Free detainees, restore democracy : UN Chief tells Pak govt

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United Nations, Nov 6 (UNI) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the Pakistan government to immediately release political detainees, including a UN Human Rights expert and restore democracy.

The UN chief, in a statement yesterday, expressed his ''strong dismay'' at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition activists, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jehangir.

He urged the authorities to immediately release those detained, to lift restrictions on the news media and to take early steps for a return to democratic rule, and appealed to the Pakistani government to hold the parliamentary elections as scheduled.

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced alarm at the suspension of fundamental rights and imposition of emergency and called on the country's authorities to clarify the status of the detained and ensure that no one is held for their political beliefs.

In a statement, received at UN headquarters here in New York, Ms Arbour expressed concern about reports that leading judges, lawyers and political and human rights activists have been detained or placed under house arrest, including Ms Jehangir.

''A state of emergency should only be used to deal with a dire security threat to the nation, not to undermine the integrity and independence of the judiciary,'' the High Commissioner said.

''The prohibition on arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, cannot be suspended even in times of emergency,'' she said.

''Such far-reaching restrictions of rights must be proportional and may only be applied to the extent and for the time strictly required by the situation,'' she noted.

UNI

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