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Pakistan military court to try security force members for killing unarmed man

The Pakistan Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ordered the Anti-Terrorism Court of Pakistan to try six paramilitary forces in the shooting death of an unarmed man under the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 1999 [text]. On Friday, several paramilitary soldiers opened fire [JURIST report] on an unarmed, 17-year-old man in Benazir Park, then stood by as he died. The incident was caught on tape and disseminated by television and Internet media sources. Chairwoman of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission (PHRC) [advocacy website] Zohra Yusuf said the video footage clearly shows that Sarfraz Shah was unarmed [CNN report]. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official website] acknowledged that the killing was unjust, but pointed out that Shah had been trying to rob two women in the park. Malik further noted that the proceedings would be transparent and neutral. Anti-Terrorist Courts in Pakistan facilitate expedited hearings and decisions.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over Pakistan's human rights record. In April, the PHRC harshly criticized [JURIST report] the Pakistani government for its poor human rights record and called on government officials to fix the human rights abuses occurring in the country. In its 2010 Annual Report [text, PDF], the group chronicled the repeated human rights violations that have taken place in the country over the past year, citing growing intolerance and extremism in the country. The government was also blamed for its inability to reform blasphemy laws and abolish the death penalty [JURIST news archives]. Also in April, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released [JURIST report] the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials], criticizing the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan [materials] for their conduct in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. However, the 2008 Pakistani elections [JURIST report] were deemed "competitive and reflective of the people's will," restoring democratic rule and leading to some human rights progress. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] in March condemned [JURIST report] the assassination of Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and expressed her opposition to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law. Controversy surrounding Pakistan's blasphemy law has recently been reignited over the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] during an argument with other women in her village last year. Bhatti had spoken out in favor of reforming the law.

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