Friday, July 21, 2017

UK human rights report surprisingly extra cool on India, flays Pakistan

After several years, Britain’s annual human rights report has made only a passing reference to India but expressed serious concern over the rights situation in Pakistan.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: The Hindustan Times
By Prasun Sonwalkar | July 22, 2017

For the first time in recent years, Britain’s latest annual Human Rights Report made passing references to India but continued to express concern over the situation in Pakistan, particularly in relation to misuse of blasphemy laws and discrimination of religious minorities.

India had figured prominently in previous reports on issues of reported attacks against women, children’s rights, criminalisation of homosexuality and corruption. The 2016 report released on Thursday makes three references to India.

It noted that in 2016, there were “deliberate internet shutdowns in more than 50 countries, including Ethiopia, India and Uganda”. It also mentioned Britain funding for women’s rights projects in India and hosting an Indian delegation on the issue of violence against women and girls.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are among 30 countries categorised by the Foreign Office as “Human Rights Priority Countries”. The report commends progress by Sri Lanka against commitments in UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 30/1, pointing out that greater progress is needed.

“China remains the country which carries out most executions, which are generally carried out in secret after an opaque legal process. Of the world’s recorded executions, 87% took place in just four countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia,” the report said.

London viewed Pakistan’s human rights situation in 2016 as continuing to be of “significant concern”. The report said: “Serious violations of women’s and children’s rights continued throughout the year. Terrorist incidents persisted despite a continued improvement in the security situation.”

It added, “The country’s minority communities, including religious minorities - in particular Ahmadiyya, Christian and Shia communities - suffered widespread persecution. Pakistan maintained its use of the death penalty, albeit at a reduced rate: there were 87 executions in 2016 compared to over 325 in 2015.

“Modern slavery continued to be a major problem. The operating space for international and domestic NGOs remained restricted…A decision not to extend the use of military courts to try civilian terrorist cases, a major concern given their lack of transparency, would be a welcome sign.”

Noting that Islamabad had launched a comprehensive human rights action plan, the report said national and provincial assemblies enacted legislation to protect women from honour crimes and violence, improve Hindu minority rights, and outlaw forced conversions in Sindh province.

“However, the government made only limited progress in harnessing these positive developments to effect real improvements to the lives of Pakistan’s citizens. Performance against the action plan was patchy and implementation of human rights legislation remained a major challenge,” it said.

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