Tuesday, November 20, 2007


PRESS RELEASE November 5, 2007

Sweeping Emergency Powers in Pakistan Represent a Direct Assault on Human Rights Standards, Amnesty International Says Group Urges President Bush to Ensure that No U.S. Military Assistance is Used Against Demonstrators

(Washington, DC)-- The military crackdown in Pakistan represents a direct assault on international law and human rights standards enshrined in the country's own constitution, Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said today."Measures that have been portrayed as necessary to protect Pakistan are in fact a wholesale abrogation of fundamental human rights protections and dismantle the very institutions and checks and balances that underpin the country's stability," Khan said.Amnesty International called for the immediate return to constitutional rule and the release of many hundreds of people detained under the current measures."General Musharraf's actions constitute a direct assault on Pakistan's judiciary, its vibrant human rights community, independent media and peaceful political dissent," said Khan.T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Asia, urged President Bush to ensure that no U.S. weapons provided to Pakistan are used to commit human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in his country. "The United States also needs to publicly demand the immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful demonstrators being detained in Pakistan," he said. Bypassing the constitution's provisions in declaring a state of emergency, General Musharraf suspended the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life, as well as key elements of the right to a fair trial. Under international law and human rights standards--enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan--these rights must be fully and unconditionally respected in all circumstances, whether or not a public emergency exists."Musharraf's actions also fly in the face of commitments set out in the emergency declaration itself to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law," said Khan.The suspension of judges who are, in effect, under house arrest violates core provisions of the U.N. Principles for the Independence of the Judiciary. Judges may not be removed by the executive, except in cases of incapacity or if they are unfit to discharge their duty."Amnesty International fears that this assault on key institutions of accountability, combined with sweeping emergency powers, will exacerbate existing patterns of human rights abuse, including torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent," said Khan.By Monday, several hundred lawyers, human rights activists and political workers have been arrested or arbitrarily detained across Pakistan. The Office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was raided by a large police contingent on Sunday and around 70 human rights activists were arrested. They have been charged with unlawful assembly under public order provisions and initially detained in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. They include senior citizens, many of whom suffer from ill health. Among those under house arrest is the Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, U.N. Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion Asma Jahangir. Her house has been declared a sub-jail where she will be detained for 90 days under preventive detention laws.
Independent television and radio news channels have been prevented from broadcasting within the country since Saturday. New laws restricting freedom of print and electronic media were issued, breach of which attracts three to four years imprisonment and heavy fines. BackgroundActing in his capacity as army chief of staff, General Musharraf suspended the bulk of the constitution, acquired powers to amend it without any parliamentary procedure and proclaimed a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). This order prohibits any court issuing an order against the President, Prime Minister or any person exercising powers under their authority.Under the order, existing members of the superior judiciary are effectively suspended until they take a new oath to uphold the PCO. Only five of 17 Supreme Court Justices have taken the oath. Many Supreme Court and Provincial High Court Justices are now effectively under house arrest.These measures came on the eve of a Supreme Court hearing to rule on petitions contesting General Musharraf's eligibility to contest presidential elections held on October 6. Lawyers who were counsels in the petitions including President of the Supreme Court bar association Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Munir A. Malik and retired Justice Tariq Mahmood were immediately arrested. These lawyers had been leading a movement to uphold the independence of the judiciary since President Musharraf suspended the former Chief Justice of Pakistan on March 9.

The situation in Pakistan is really something messy. Many political analysts all over this world agree that even if Musharaff has the backing of a foreign power, in the end it is the Pakistani people who will decide what to do with the Musharaff regime. Political analysts all over the world are predicting that the Musharaff regime is near the point where it will either be directly overthrown by the Pakistani people, or it will be summarily dismissed from power by a section of the Pakistani military. Pervez Musharraf himself knows that he has become more unpopular now to rule Pakistan. The last presidential election in Pakistan seemingly was just a false or a fake one, since Misharraf didn't really have real presidential opponents to compete with inside Pakistan during that election period. So, Musharraf doesn't have the democratic mandate to rule Pakistan. The Islamo-fascists inside Pakistan are capitalizing upon the fact that Musharraf is an unpopular leader to deal with, and that they are propagating the idea even to the moderate majority of Pakistan that they are the better alternative than Musharaff. The democratic institutions inside Pakistan had long been curtailed by the Musharaff regime. Political analysts all over the world believe that anti-Musharaff sentiments will become more powerful and more united in the coming days.

What is the best option for Musharraf to do now? He should voluntarily give way to democracy now in Pakistan. The only remaining political option for Pervez Musharaff as of now is to give way to democracy in Pakistan. That means he has to voluntarily resign now from his role as Pakistan's chief executive. That means he has to resign now as the military chief of Pakistan. That means he has to ensure that secularization in Pakistan would really be happening in a 100 percent way. That means Musharraf must ensure that Pakistani politics will have a smooth transition towards democracy. I repeat, the only best option for Musharraf to do now in Pakistani politics is that he would voluntarily give way to real democracy. All the other options in Pakistani politics are not his anymore, but now belong to the Pakistani people. The political analysts all over the world now have the courage to say that even the 2nd Bush Admin would not be able to guarantee the survival of the Musharraf regime. Many political analysts from all over the world agree that even if Musharraf has the backing of a foreign power, in the end it is the Pakistani people who will decide what to do with the Musharraf regime. Not even the U.S Government can save the Musharraf regime from its unpopoularity among the Pakistani people. It would be a great mistake for the 2nd Bush Administration to continue having sweet relationship with an unpopular regime in Pakistan. Greorge W. Bush knows well that Musharraf is an unpopular dictator in Pakistan, and that the people of Pakistan do deserve a much better leader who can lead such country to 100 percent secularization and real democratization. Therefore, Musharraf should announce now that he will step down both as military chief and chief executive of Pakistan by December, and that he is now forming a care-taker government that will ensure the smooth transition of Pakistan towards democracy. Pervez Musharraf should do the heroic act of voluntarily giving way to democracy in Pakistan now.




Saturday, November 03, 2007


Filipino priest shaves head in solidarity with Burma monks; protests continue across region

Press ReleaseBy Asian Human Rights Commission (HRC) October 4, 2007

HONG KONG – A Filipino priest in Hong Kong found a new way to observe a Catholic holy day on Thursday by having his head shaved to show solidarity with Burma's Buddhist monks.
Fr. Robert Reyes had his head shaved outside the legislative assembly in the city centre to mark the feast for St. Francis of Assisi and commune with Buddhist monks suffering from the continuing violent crackdown by the military junta in Burma after they led protests against it in September.

"Today, I will have my head shaved for the first time... It is such a small price to pay to express what is deepest in my heart and the heart of all peace and justice loving persons," Fr. Reyes said in a statement that he read out beforehand.

"I let go of my hair and ask the rest of the world to let go of their indifference as well. Hair represents both attachment and defilement. The Burmese Generals led by General Than Shwe are madly attached to power which has not only defiled them but is now leading them to murder those who stand for what they are not... the Buddhists monks," he said in the statement.
He likened the monks' actions of going out to the streets to demonstrate to how St. Francis of Assisi had also lived his life, through non-violence and love.
Like the monks, St. Francis too had lived a simple life deprived of wealth and privileges, he noted.

Reyes also likened the shaving of his head to St. Francis' stripping his clothes to express anger.
"For these monks to lead the protests was a form of self sacrifice. They have risked their own lives and chosen to break their silence for the welfare of their people," Reyes observed.
"But even these peaceful actions were too much for the regime to tolerate," he added.
Reyes stressed that Catholics around the world must pay constant attention to the continuing violent crackdown by Burma's regime and do whatever possible through their communities to end the suffering there.

Photographs of his solo protest can be viewed online at:
http://photo.ahrchk.net/07burmaprotests/photo.php?book_id=2&ch_id=25 .

The protection of human rights and civil liberties and access to democracy are among the general aspirations of humanity in this world. The Burmese people are members of the human family. It is only proper that the wise citizens of this world would readily help the Burmese people in their peaceful and lawful struggle for the protection of their human rights and civil liberties and their attainment of actual and real democracy.

The wise citizens of this world should continue the peaceful or lawful means of pressuring the junta in Burma to give way to democracy now.