UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HIGH COMMISSIONER ALARMED ABOUT
PAKISTAN STATE OF EMERGENCY

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5 November 2007


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today she is alarmed over the suspension of fundamental rights and imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan.

Pakistan has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but the High Commissioner noted that, under accepted rules of international law, fundamental rights, such as the right to life, the prohibition on arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, cannot be suspended even in times of emergency. Such far-reaching restrictions of rights must be proportional and may only be applied to the extent and for the time strictly required by the situation.

"A state of emergency should only be used to deal with a dire security threat to the nation, not to undermine the integrity and independence of the judiciary", the High Commissioner said.

The High Commissioner expressed concern about reports that leading judges, lawyers and political and human rights activists have been detained or placed under house arrest, including United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Asma Jahangir. The High Commissioner called on the Pakistan authorities to clarify the status of those detained and ensure that no one is detained for the peaceful exercise of their political beliefs.