UN urges prompt investigation into murder of Pakistani human rights lawyer

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9 May 2014 – The United Nations today condemned the killing of prominent human rights lawyer Rashid Khan Rehman in Pakistan and urged the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mr. Rehman, who had worked with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for more than 20 years, was gunned down in his office in Multan, in Punjab province, on Wednesday, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

He had received numerous death threats for working on the defence case for a university instructor charged under the country’s blasphemy laws. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had last month urged the Government to investigate the threats that had reportedly been made to Mr. Rehman and to take effective measures to ensure his safety.

Mr. Rehman’s murder “has brought into stark focus the climate of intimidation and threats that permeates the work of human rights defenders and journalists in the country,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“We condemn the killing of Rehman and urge the Government to ensure a prompt investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mr. Colville added.

“Pakistani authorities have the responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists are able to carry out their work without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence.”

OHCHR noted that Pakistan prides itself on its vibrant, free media. However, there has been a “worrying” number of attacks and threats in recent months against TV presenters, other journalists and human rights defenders, particularly those expressing views critical of the military or security establishments, Mr. Colville noted.

During its most recent appearance before the Human Rights Council in October 2012, Pakistan’s Government accepted recommendations to make further efforts to prohibit attacks against journalists and human rights defenders and to effectively investigate such acts and prosecute the perpetrators.

“We urge the Government to redouble its efforts to prevent and investigate such attacks, whether committed by State or non-State actors, and to send a strong message that perpetrators will be held accountable,” Mr. Colville stated.