UN rights experts call for urgent measures to protect Pakistan’s religious minorities

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

2 June 2014 – Independent United Nations human rights experts today called on Pakistan to adopt urgent measures to stop faith-based killings and ensure the security of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, whose faith is outlawed in the country.

The experts – appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to deal with freedom of religion, minority issues, and summary executions – made the call after renewed violent attacks against Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, in which two members of the community have been killed, as well as a number of arrests on blasphemy charges.

“I am very concerned by the recent surge of violent attacks against Ahmadiyya Muslims by militant extremists. Such violence is fuelled by existing blasphemy legislation in Pakistan particularly targeting minorities,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt.

“I urge Pakistan to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of minority religious communities,” he added in a news release.

On 13 May 2014, four Ahmadiyya Muslims were arrested by police on blasphemy charges in Sharaqpur. While three were released on bail, Khalil Ahmad was kept in detention, where he was shot dead by a visiting 15-year-old, who brought a gun, concealed in his lunch box, into the station.

Then on 26 May, Mehdi Ali Qamar, a United States citizen and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, was murdered in Rabwah. The doctor, who was on a humanitarian mission to Pakistan, was killed by two unknown men on motorbikes, while visiting the graves of his relatives at a local cemetery.

Seven members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community were reportedly killed in 2013.

The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, stressed that Pakistan must urgently put in place protective measures to ensure the personal security of Ahmadiyya Muslims, as well as any other religious minorities living in the country who are under threat of hostility and violence by militant extremists.

“The full range of rights of religious minorities must be guaranteed in law and in practice,” she noted.

In addition to robust protective measures, Pakistani authorities need to undertake “urgent and firm” steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of those killings, stressed the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.

“Showing determination in ensuring accountability in such cases must be a key element of the Government’s efforts to reduce the attacks and guarantee the safety of not only the Ahmadiyya Muslims, but other vulnerable groups,” he stated.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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