UN rights experts urge Pakistan government to act decisively to end sectarian violence
GENEVA (2 March 2012) – Three United Nations human rights experts in minority rights, freedom of religion and belief, and extrajudicial executions today urged the Government of Pakistan to respond decisively to end sectarian violence and improve the security of religious minorities, following the second group targeted killing in the space of two weeks.
On 28 February an attack on a bus in Kohistan in northern Pakistan, allegedly by individuals in military fatigues, left at least 18 Shia Muslims dead.
The human rights experts expressed their deep condolences to the families of those killed and all the people of Pakistan who suffer from such acts of terror. They warned that “sectarian violence threatens to worsen if the Government does not respond swiftly and decisively to confront it”.
“These killings are extremely shocking and constitute acts that require the strongest response”, stated the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák. “They have sadly become a recurrent practice in Pakistan, and we urge the Pakistan Government to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and do everything possible to establish strengthened security measures.”
“These targeted killings once more display the appalling degree of religious hatred in a country where there seems to be a failure to protect the security of religious minorities”, stated Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stressed in this regard that the Government has a positive obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the right to life, including in cases of crimes committed by private actors. “Failure to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate and punish for such acts is a violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The three UN experts welcomed the condemnation expressed by the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani and stated that, “such serious incidents demand, and communities have the right to expect, the most rigorous response possible from the Government.” Consequently, they urged the Pakistani Government to step up its security efforts in the face of the clear and present threat faced by certain groups on the basis of their religion.
In a previous incident on 17 February more than 30 people were killed or wounded when a suicide bomber exploded a bomb close to a mosque in a mainly Shia neighbourhood in the Kurram tribal region.
Ms. Izsak, Mr. Bielefeldt, and Mr. Heyns emphasized the authorities’ obligations under international human rights law, which include requirements for States to protect the existence and identity of religious minorities.
UN Secretary General offers condolences on Shia massacre in Kohistan
New York, 28 February 2012 – Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Pakistan
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack in Pakistan today in which gunmen reportedly killed eighteen people after ordering them off a bus travelling between Islamabad and the town of Gilgit. The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this abhorrent attack, as well as to the Government of Pakistan. The United Nations stands by Pakistan in its efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism and extremism, which continues to claim the lives of so many Pakistanis.