Khattak ‘disappearance’ case a test of Pakistan’s human rights commitment, say UN experts

GENEVA (9 December 2020) – UN human rights experts* today raised concerns about the scourge of enforced disappearances and torture in Pakistan, calling on the Government to uphold its human rights obligations by initiating prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into such acts.

The experts highlighted the government’s failure to fully investigate the case of human rights defender Idris Khattak who was taken into custody by Pakistani Military Intelligence on 13 November 2019 and held incommunicado for over seven months. In June of this year, authorities acknowledged his detention, but he continues to be deprived of his most basic rights.

They urged Pakistan, which was re-elected to the 47-member Human Rights Council in October, to lead by example by showing its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

“There is no question that Pakistan must conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khattak’s unlawful disappearance, and that those responsible must be held to account - impunity is not an option,” the experts said.

Mr. Khattak’s case is emblematic of a series of documented enforced disappearances in Pakistan, where many human rights defenders are similarly silenced for their legitimate work of monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights violations and attacks against minorities.

“We welcome the fact that proof of life was demonstrated recently when Mr. Khattak was granted his first contact with the outside world in a short, supervised visit from a family member,” the experts said.

“However, additional steps must be taken without delay in order for Mr. Khattak’s most fundamental rights to be restored, including his right to an independent medical assessment, his right to unrestricted access to a lawyer, his right to a trial in full compliance with due process and his right not to be detained arbitrarily.”

“Unacknowledged detention exposes both the victims and their loved ones to severe and prolonged suffering that may well amount to torture or to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in clear violation of Pakistan’s obligations under international law,” the experts said. “All victims and their families have the right to justice, truth and reparations.”

Pakistani authorities have committed to actively engage with Special Procedures. In the case of Mr. Khattak, experts have repeatedly raised their concerns directly with the Government and will continue to closely monitor the situation.


*The experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice Chair), Ms. Aua Balde, Mr. Bernard Duhaime, and Mr. Luciano Hazan, The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Fernand de Varennes RP, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Pakistan