The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on Pakistan, noting the situation of human rights defenders and the death penalty in the country, and has appealed to the Pakistani Government to take urgent action to protect the lives and rights of journalists and bloggers. The Parliament pleaded the Government and Parliament of Pakistan to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and to remove the overly wide-ranging provisions for monitoring and retaining data and shutting down websites on the basis of vague criteria. The Parliament also called for all death sentences handed down on charges of ‘blasphemy’ or political dissent to be commuted, and suggested the President of Pakistan to make use of his power of clemency.
The Parliament was deeply concerned at the reports of the use of the death penalty in Pakistan following flawed trials, the execution of minors and persons with mental disorders, and allegations of torture, and called on the government to bring the provisions on the death penalty in national legislation into line with international law and standards, including a halt on executions for any offence other than intentional killing, a ban on the execution of juvenile offenders and persons with mental disorders, and a moratorium on carrying out executions while appeals are pending.
While taking note of the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was convicted by a military court in April 2017 and sentenced to death, the European Parliament deplored the use in Pakistan of military courts and emphasized that third-country nationals brought to trial must be allowed access to consular services and protection. The Parliament insisted that the Pakistani authorities should grant access to international observers and human rights organisations for purposes of monitoring the use of military courts, and called for an immediate and transparent transition to independent civilian courts, in line with international standards on judicial proceeding.
The European Parliament noted the findings of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that individuals accused of ‘blasphemy’ ‘suffer beyond proportion or repair’ in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such laws. The Parliament, therefore, appealed the Pakistani Government to repeal Sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Penal Code, and to put in place effective procedural and institutional safeguards to prevent the misuse of ‘blasphemy’ charges.
The European Union also reminded Pakistan that the granting of GSP+ status – a reformed version of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) that enables developing countries to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU – was conditional and that the effective implementation of international conventions was an essential requirement under the scheme. [European Parliament resolution of 15 June 2017 on Pakistan, notably the situation of human rights defenders and the death penalty (2017/2723(RSP))]