John Kerry must tell Pakistan to address rights issues

New York, Jan 13: The US should press Pakistan to address both new and longstanding human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday in a letter Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Tuesday during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad.


"A serious rollback in human rights in Pakistan has been under way since the horrific attack last month on a Peshawar school," said Human Rights Watch.

"The US-Pakistan dialogue is a good opportunity for Kerry to press the Pakistan government not to sacrifice basic human rights and fair trials in the name of confronting terrorism."

The government's response to the Dec 16 terror attack has included a constitutional amendment allowing the prosecution of civilian terrorism suspects in military courts.

The government has sought to justify the measure as a means to ensure "the speedy trial of terrorists." Yet, as many Pakistani lawyers and judges have pointed out, Pakistan's civilian courts are capable of handling terrorism cases so long as law enforcement authorities do their job, including conducting professional investigations and providing protection to witnesses.

The Pakistan government's accelerating and injudicious impositions of the death penalty have also raised serious due process concerns, the US-based rights group said.

"Kerry should make it clear to Pakistani leaders that trying civilians before military courts and going on a death penalty spree is contrary to international law and could harm Pakistan's international reputation," Human Rights Watch said.

"Rights-rejecting responses to militant atrocities are counterproductive and will only fuel more militant abuses."


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