Pakistan: UN review spotlights human rights failures

Pakistan’s fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has drawn global attention to a number of serious human rights violations in the country, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.

On 1 February, the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council adopted a draft UPR outcome report for Pakistan. Pakistan received a total 340 recommendations – a substantial increase from its previous UPR in 2017, when Pakistan received 289 recommendations. As many as 122 State delegations took the floor to make statements, and 11 States submitted their questions in advance.

“That well over a hundred delegations participated so actively in the review indicates the global community’s concern over the human rights situation in Pakistan,” said Livio Zilli, ICJ’s Senor Legal Advisor and UN Representative.

Among the key recommendations adopted, the following urge Pakistan to:

— Reinstate a moratorium on executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty;

— Repeal or amend “blasphemy laws” to bring them in line with international human rights law;

— Ensure effective protection of the rights of religious minorities, human rights defenders, journalists, and other vulnerable groups;

— Ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, and bring perpetrators to justice;

— Set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage;

— Combat gender-based violence and end forced conversions; and

— End discrimination against marginalised communities, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and repeal section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”).

“These recommendations echo the concerns of dozens of civil society organizations, including the International Commission of Jurists, who all agree that the Government must take urgent measures to address the downward spiral of human rights violations in the country,” Zilli said.

Pakistan will now examine the recommendations and formally respond to them at the Human Rights Council’s June 2023 session.

Pakistan’s UPR review comes at a time of serious concern about the human rights situation in the country.

“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan is expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, something it has clearly failed to do,” added Zilli.

“Pakistan should make use of this process by accepting in good faith the recommendations made during the UPR review and adopting a concrete, action-based national human rights plan to ensure their effective implementation.”


Livio Zilli, ICJ’s Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative; e:

Reema Omer, ICJ International Legal Adviser for Pakistan t: +447889565691; e:

Additional information

UN Member States reviewed Pakistan’s human rights record for the fourth time on Monday, 30 January 2023, through the UPR process.

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation of each UN Member State. 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 States under review. States then make recommendations to the country under review, which has the option of accepting, rejecting or noting the recommendations.

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