On 21 January, ESCR-Net sent a letter to the government of Pakistan to express concern about the recent arrest of Saeed Baloch, human rights defender, fisherfolk leader and member of the Board of ESCR-Net.
The letter expressed the collective appreciation of ESCR-Net`s membership for the contributions made by Mr. Baloch in the promotion and defense of human rights, both in Pakistan and around the world.
According to reports received, Mr. Baloch was arrested on Saturday, 16 January 2016 by the Rangers, a paramilitary security force in Pakistan. While evidence against him has not been presented, Mr. Baloch was allegedly accused of financially assisting an individual involved in organized crime and of embezzling fisheries’ funds. In light of the broad powers granted to the Rangers in Sindh Province under the vague provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, ESCR-Net is concerned that Mr. Baloch may remain detained for up to three months without formally being charged with any crime.
ESCR-Net calls on Pakistan to:
Launch a prompt and independent investigation into the basis behind the charges against Mr. Baloch and ensure his immediate and unconditional release, in the absence of credible evidence to support the allegations against him;
In the event that Mr. Baloch continues to be detained for any period, take immediate steps to ensure the protection of all of his rights while in custody including, among others, communication with counsel of his own choosing;
Guarantee the enjoyment of all human rights for people in Pakistan, including the rights to freedom of expression and association through, among other measures, ensuring the conformity of national legislation with the international human rights obligations accepted by Pakistan;
Take urgent steps to ensure that action taken, or restrictions imposed, by the government or its agents in connection with purported anti-terrorism operations is prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society, and proportionate to the aim; and
Take urgent action to ensure that human rights defenders working in Pakistan enjoy, in practice, all the protections guaranteed to them by the standards of international human rights law, including, among other human rights defenders, those advocating for the social, economic, cultural and political rights of fishing communities and the protection of natural resources in Pakistan.
Please read the complete letter here.