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May 31, 2012
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President Zardari signs bill to establish human rights commission

May 31, 2012

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KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday signed the National Commission for Human Rights Bill 2012 for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

Briefing the media, spokesperson for the president, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the signing ceremony was held at Bilawal House. He said with the signing of the bill into law, Pakistan had fulfilled a core requirement of the two-decades-old Paris Declaration of 1993 calling upon states to set up independent human rights commissions, as reiterated by the United Nations in 2008 soon after the present government took office. He said an international commitment outstanding for nearly a quarter of a century had been fulfilled.

While dealing with human rights violation cases involving members of the armed forces, the commission may either on its own motion or on receipt of a petition seek a report from the federal government. In case a complaint against the intelligence agencies is made, the commission would refer the complaint to the competent authority concerned.

According to the spokesman, the commission, headquartered in Islamabad, would consist of 10 members including a chairperson and a member each from the four provinces, Fata and Islamabad Capital Territory, minority communities and the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women. At least two members of the commission shall be women. He said a person shall be eligible for appointment as chairperson who has been, or is qualified to be, a judge of the Supreme Court or a person having demonstrable knowledge of, or practical knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.

Under the Act, a member shall not be less than 40 years of age and shall have knowledge and experience relating to human rights. The chairperson and members shall hold the office for a term of four years that may be extended once.

The law signed on Wednesday states that the federal

government shall through public notice invite suggestions for suitable persons for appointment as chairperson and members of the commission and, after proper scrutiny, shall submit a list of these persons to the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. It says that the prime minister shall in consultation with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly forward three names for each post to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person for each post.

The law says that in case there is no consensus between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, each shall forward separate lists to the bi-partisan and bicameral parliamentary committee who in turn shall approve the nominations and forward them to the president for appointment.

The spokesman said the law says that the chairman and the member may be removed from office on the grounds and in the manner provided for in article 209 of the Constitution.The commission would perform its functions either taking suo moto or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf for violation of human rights or abetment thereof and the negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant. It can intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court by making an application to become a party to the proceeding before the court.

The commission or any person authorised by it may visit any jail, place of detention or any other institution or place under the control of the government or its agencies, where convicts, under trial prisoners, detainees or other persons are lodged or detained for purposes of ascertaining the legality of their detention as well as to find out whether the provisions of the applicable laws or other provisions relating to the inmates’ living conditions and their other rights are being complied with.

The commission would submit independent reports to the government on the state of human rights in Pakistan for incorporation in reports to United Nations bodies or committees. It would also develop a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The commission would have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908). It may call for information or report in cases of human rights form government or its organisations.

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