Ban Ki-moon urges Pakistan to release detained, return to democratic rule

5 November 2007 –

Reacting to the imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the country’s authorities to release those who have been detained, including a United Nations human rights expert, and to take steps for a return to democratic rule.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General expressed his “strong dismay at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition activists, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,” Asma Jahangir.

He urged the authorities to immediately release those detained, to lift restrictions on the media and to take early steps for a return to democratic rule, and appealed to the Government of Pakistan to hold the Parliamentary elections as scheduled.

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced alarm at the suspension of fundamental rights and imposition of a state of emergency and called on the country’s authorities to clarify the status of the detained and ensure that no one is held for their political beliefs.

In a statement, Ms. Arbour expressed concern about reports that leading judges, lawyers and political and human rights activists have been detained or placed under house arrest, including Ms. Jahangir.

“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 prohibition on arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, cannot be suspended even in times of emergency, she said. 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, she noted.

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