News: Press releases
Pakistan: investigate disappearance of human rights defender Zahid Baloch
Pakistan authorities must immediately determine the fate and whereabouts of the chairman of Baloch Student Organization-Azad (BSO-Azad), who was allegedly subject to enforced disappearance by officials of the Frontier Corps, the ICJ said today.
The ICJ is calling for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations, in line with international standards, and for those responsible to be held criminally accountable.
Eyewitnesses said Zahid Baloch was abducted at gunpoint in Quetta on 18 March 2014.
Members of the organization, who witnessed the incident, claim Baloch was taken by personnel of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force stationed in Balochistan.
“Zahid Baloch’s abduction is in line with other cases, documented by national and international human rights groups, of Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies subjecting human rights defenders and political activists, particularly from Balochistan, to enforced disappearance,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.
“Pakistan’s Supreme Court has also passed multiple judgments acknowledging the role of security and intelligence agencies in enforced disappearance and secret detentions, holding that the practice is a violation of the right to life and liberty recognized by the Constitution of Pakistan as well as international human rights law.”
The Government has so far taken no steps to investigate Zahid Baloch’s abduction.
The police have also refused to register a First Information Report (FIR) against members of the Frontier Corps allegedly responsible.
Members of BSO-Azad have been carrying out peaceful protests demanding that the police immediately register an FIR for Baloch’s alleged enforced disappearance.
Latif Johar, one of the group’s members, has been on hunger strike till death at a BSO-Azad camp in Karachi since 22 April 2014.
The protesters claim that on 5 May 2014, the police fired tear-gas at protesters present at the hunger strike camp.
“Instead of silencing peaceful protesters, Pakistan must carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation to determine who is behind Zahid Baloch’s disappearance and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice,” said Zarifi.
In addition, Pakistan must ensure all persons held in secret or arbitrary detention are immediately released or charged with a recognizable criminal offence and brought promptly before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal for a trial that meets international standards.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Reema Omer, ICJ International Legal Advisor for Pakistan (London), t: +447889565691; email: reema.omer(a)icj.org
BSO-Azad is a political organization, working towards “Baloch national liberation and the restoration of independent and sovereign Baloch national state.” The government banned the group in March 2013, claiming that it was “involved in terrorism.”
The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under international human rights law, including Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan ratified in 2010 and is legally obligated to implement.
The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders also reiterates that everyone has the right to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and obligates the State to take necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of peaceful protestors against “any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights”.