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December 10, 2017

Human rights complaints’ redressal system worsens in KP


December 10, 2017

PESHAWAR: The Human Rights Day is being observed today but the situation of human rights complaints redressal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has worsened as pendency in the Directorate of Human Rights and Human Rights Cell of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) has risen by around 30 percent during the current year.

The Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966.

The year-long campaign revolves around the theme of rights and freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — which underpin the International Bill of Human Rights as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in 2012 promulgated an ordinance to protect human rights in the province. During 2012, only 24 complaints regarding human rights violation were received and duly redressed. In the following year, 34 complaints were received and redressed.

As a result of the 18th Constitutional Amendment 2010, like many other areas of governance, the monitoring, protection and enforcement of human rights was also devolved to the province. It led to a paradigm shift in the outlook and attitude towards the human rights that culminated at the passage of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Promotion, Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights Act 2014 that was adopted on January 20, 2014.

The Act facilitated the establishment of the Directorate of Human Rights (DoHR) to review, promote, protect and enforce human rights in the province.The Directorate over the last six year received 955 complaints regarding human rights violations. It included 313 individual complaints, 141 regarding Education department, 54 concerning Health department, 19 Local Government, 221 about police and 66 about the Revenue department.

However, the DoHR is fast becoming redundant as it has being run on ad hoc basis in the absence of any proper service structure. The DoHR has its complaint redressal rules to dispose of human rights-related complaints it receives directly or from the media and other sources, but it has no rules to protect and enforce the human rights in the province.

Currently, its pendency has risen by 41 percent due to the absence of a permanent chief. Only the other day the Law Department assigned additional charge to an additional secretary to look after the affairs of the Directorate.

Last year the Directorate received 372 complaints and disposed of 342, while 30 remained pending. However, during the current year as of December 9, the Directorate received 236 complaints which have been entertained while a similar number of complaints are awaiting approval by the new director.

The DoHR during the current year disposed of 143 complaints and 93 are still pending with it. This comes to 41 percent of the complaints it received over the last one year.The Directorate also has the suo moto powers. It has taken 31 suo moto notices during 2017 which it came to know through various platforms including media. However, it has failed to enforce actions even in these complaints owning to lack of mechanism for the purpose.

The Human Rights Cell in Peshawar High Court is another body tasked to redress and enforce human rights in the province. According to the data retrieved from the Cell, having a pendency of 686 till January, about 3,055 new human rights cases were instituted with it during the current year of which it disposed of 3,356 cases by December 6.It still has the pendency of 385 complaints. The cell has converted 147 complaints into writ petitions during the year and these are being heard by the relevant courts.

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