Pakistan: human rights record under UN scrutiny

As Pakistan is set to undergo its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 13 November, the ICJ has urged Pakistani authorities to meaningfully engage with the process to improve the human rights situation in the country.

“Pakistan’s past engagement with the UPR has been characterized by denial and defensive posturing,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia Director.

“As a recently-elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, it is more important than ever for the Pakistan to show that it takes its human rights obligations seriously by engaging with the upcoming UPR in its true spirit,” he added.

During its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations, of which it rejected seven, noted 34, and accepted 126.

The seven recommendations rejected by Pakistan relate to some of the most serious human rights violations in the country, including recommendations to adopt an official moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing capital punishment in law and practice, repeal blasphemy laws, and decriminalize adultery and non-marital consensual sex.

Even accepted recommendations have been largely ignored in the four years since the previous UPR, the ICJ notes.

Enforced disappearances are still not recognized as a distinct, autonomous crime; perpetrators of gross human rights violations continue to escape justice; there has been complete inaction to prevent abuse of so-called blasphemy laws; and freedom of expression is often restricted on vague grounds such as “national security” and “immorality”.

“Pakistan’s human rights situation has in many ways deteriorated since 2012,” Rawski added.

“Yet – as reflected by Pakistan’s national report for the upcoming UPR – the authorities apparently remain in a state of denial about the dire human rights implications of these new measures,” he said.

These measures include the lifting the informal moratorium on the death penalty and carrying out nearly 500 executions in less than three years – among the highest in the world; passing laws allowing military courts to try civilians for certain terrorism-related offences; and a new wave of crackdowns on NGOs, journalists and human rights defenders, including retaliating against NGOs for presenting “a very bleak picture” of the country’s human rights situation to the UN.

“UN member states on Monday should urge Pakistan to end the dangerous downward spiral on rights by ending repression, respecting fundamental freedoms, and holding perpetrators of violations responsible,” Rawski said.


Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director, t: +66 64 478 1121, e: frederick.rawski(a)

Reema Omer, ICJ International Legal Adviser for Pakistan (London), t: +447889565691; e: reema.omer(a)

Additional information

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation of each of the 193 UN Member States. Under this mechanism, the human rights record of all UN Member States is peer-reviewed every four to five years by the UPR Working Group, consisting of the 47 UN Member States of the Human Rights Council; however, any UN Member State can take part in the discussions and the dialogue during the UPR of the reviewed States. States then make recommendations to the country under review, which has the option of accepting or noting the recommendations.


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