Pakistan high court demands explanation of security force killing

Pakistan high court demands explanation of security force killing

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[JURIST] The Pakistan Supreme Court [official website] on Friday demanded [order, PDF] an explanation of an incident in which Pakistani security forces shot and killed an unarmed man. Several paramilitary soldiers opened fire on an unarmed, 22-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. The rangers filed a First Information Report (FIR) detailing the events of the incident. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [official website] said the rangers’ version of the story contradicted the video footage, and ordered the attorney general, the head of Pakistan’s Rangers paramilitary force and other government officials to appear in court with a complete record of the incident. The chief justice condemned the rangers for failing to file any reports about the incident until after the victim’s brother filed a report at the police station:

[I]t was not only the duty of the police concerned but of the Provincial Police Officer as well as Director General Rangers, to take notice of the matter, as they must have learnt about the incident which was widely aired by the electronic media and there was a lot of hue and cry regarding this incident; furthermore the family of the deceased along with other citizens had also started raising voice against highhandedness of these law enforcing agencies. Surprisingly, when the case … was registered … the custody of remaining persons, who were very much visible at the scene of crime, were not handed over nor the police demanded them for the purpose of investigation. As far as the awareness of the incident is concerned, it was very much available on all TV Channels.

The chief justice also accused the rangers of deliberately misrepresenting the incident in an effort to conceal their conduct. The two suspects are currently in police custody as the investigation proceeds.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over Pakistan’s human rights record. In April, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [official website] 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.