The United States should not ignore the deteriorating human rights situation in Pakistan while it is enhancing security cooperation with the country, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stressed.
“[US] Secretary [of State John] Kerry should make it clear to Pakistani leaders that trying civilians before military courts and going on a death penalty spree is contrary to international law and could harm Pakistan’s international reputation,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a press release Monday.
Describing a «serious rollback» in human rights following a December attack by the Pakistani Taliban on an Army-run school in Peshawar that killed more than 130 children and teachers, HRW stressed that “rights-rejecting responses to militant atrocities are counterproductive and will only fuel more militant abuses”.
According to HRW, the Pakistani government used the Peshawar attack to «justify overbroad and draconian counterterrorism measures”.
In particular, HRW pointed to a January 7 constitutional amendment that permits military courts to prosecute terrorism suspects and puts an end to a four-year moratorium on the death penalty in the country.
The human rights watchdog also expressed concern over the Protection of Pakistan Act, which, among other things, suppresses peaceful protests, freedom of speech and violates international standards of presumption of innocence.
In a letter to Kerry, HRW called on the United States “to address both new and longstanding problems in Pakistan’s human rights situation, including worrying new counterterrorism legislation, accelerating and injudicious impositions of the death penalty, and attacks on religious minorities and freedom of speech”.
Kerry is in Pakistan for the January 14 ministerial US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue where the two countries will discuss shared security interests. The visit comes as the official US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31.
The United States is seeking to cooperate with Pakistan against the Afghan and Pakistan branches of the Taliban and Kerry is expected to announce $250 million in aid to give a boost to Pakistan’s military operations in the tribal regions of North Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan.