Spy agencies, government's functionaries to be answerable: Senate passes 'National Commission for Human Rights Bill' unanimously
The Senate on Friday unanimously passed "The National Commission for Human Rights Bill, 2012" to establish an independent Commission for protection of human rights of the citizens, while under the law government forces and intelligence agencies would be answerable to the Commission.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
The commission will have the authority to visit any jail or place of detention or any other institution or place under the control of the government or its agencies, where convicts, under trial prisoners, detainees or other persons are lodged or detained for purposes of ascertaining the legality of their detention as well as to find out whether the provision of the applicable laws or other provisions relating to the inmates living conditions and their other rights are being complied with.
A judge of the Supreme Court or a person having practical experience in matters relating to human rights will be Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights to exercise the power and perform the functions under the law. According to the Bill, the Commission shall has power of a civil court while inquiring into complaints, summoning any person and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath.
On the complaints of human rights violation by the members of the armed forces, the Commission shall adopt the following procedure, namely:
(a) it may either on its own motion or on receipt of a petition, seek a report from the Federal Government on complaints or violation;
(b) after the receipt of the report it may either not proceed with the complaint or, as the case may be, make its recommendations to the Federal Government.
Under this procedure, the Federal government shall inform the Commission of the action taken on the aforesaid recommendations within three months or such extend time as the Commission may deem appropriate.
About procedure with respect to intelligence agencies, the Bill says that the function of the Commission do not include inquiring into the act of practice of intelligence agencies, and where a complaint is made to the Commission alleging that an act or practice of such an agency is inconsistent with or contrary to any human right, the Commission shall refer the complaint to the competent authority concerned.
According to the Bill, the commission will have power to take suo motu notice on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, inquiry into complaints of violation of human rights and negligence in the prevention of such violation by the public servants, it would have power to intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court by making application for becoming a party to the proceeding before such court. It can also summon any person for discovery and production of documents etc.
The Bill further says that the Commission and its every staff member shall function without political or other bias or interference and shall, unless this Act expressly otherwise provides, be independent and separate from any government, administration, or any other functionary or body directly or indirectly representing the interests of any such entity. According to the Bill, for dispensation of speedy justice against human rights violation, the federal government may consult Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court through a notification to extend a session court jurisdiction to hear human rights violation cases.
The bill would bring Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) under the direct supervision of the government and they wouldn't be able to take or appeal for external financial help without prior permission of the state. Leader of House in the Senate Nayyar Hussain Bukhari tabled the Bill in the House for passage. The House unanimously passed the Bill.
According to objects and reason of the Bill, the formation of National Commission for Human Rights would not only fulfill the international obligation of establishment of such a Commission, but it shall also serve as driving force for negating the propaganda of human rights violation in Pakistan. In pursuance of UN General Assembly Resolution of 20th December, 1993 and such other resolutions of the UN Commission on human rights, the UN Members States are under obligation to establish independent national human rights institutions for protection and promotion of human rights. Presently, the National Human Rights Commissions are functioning in more than 54 countries of the World.
The Bill already passed by the National Assembly in December, 2011 has now been passed by the Senate with amendments recommended by Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. Under 18th Constitutional Amendment, now the Bill would be sent back to the National Assembly for approval with amendments. If the National Assembly makes any objections on the amendments, which have been incorporated by the Senate in the Bill, a joint sitting of the Parliament would be held for approval of the Bill.
Professor Khursheed Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Ismai (JI) while speaking on the Bill that under this law no NGO would get direct financial support from anywhere. He said that the courts for human rights would also be established. "National Assembly has already approved the bill and now Senate has approved it. This will pave the way for protection of human rights in the country," he added.