#HRC53 Jubilee Campaign Calls on Pakistan to Address Religious Freedom Violations in Oral Statement at the Human Rights Council

GENEVA, Switzerland – 10th July | Jubilee Campaign addressed Pakistan during the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, highlighting the need for Pakistan to address religious freedom violations under the blasphemy laws and coerced religious conversions. Joseph Janssen, representing the Jubilee Campaign, expressed concern over the lack of political will by the government of Pakistan to tackle these pressing issues.

The 53rd Council session finalised the Adoption of outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan. [A four year review of the situation of human rights in Nigeria]. Jubilee Campaign noted with regret that Pakistan did not support the nine specific recommendations calling for the repeal or amendment of blasphemy laws. Joseph said, “It is disheartening to see Pakistan taking steps contrary to the UPR recommendations by making the blasphemy laws even stricter.” He raised concern with the recent National Assembly decision which passed an amendment of Section 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, introducing severe punishment for those who disrespect the family of the Prophet Muhammad.

Additionally, the federal government signed an agreement with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in June, agreeing to include charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act against individuals accused of blasphemy.

The Jubilee Campaign also expressed concern over the restrictions placed by the government authority NADRA – responsible for issuing national identity cards – on religious conversion away from the majority religion of Islam. Furthermore, Pakistan has failed to pass laws criminalizing forced faith conversions due to objections raised by government religious bodies, particularly the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Council of Islamic Ideology.

In light of these issues, the Government of Pakistan was urged to reconsider, accept, and implement the UPR recommendations, including:

  • Amending all blasphemy laws to introduce effective safeguards and ensuring that individuals accused of blasphemy are not tried under the anti-terrorism act, thereby guaranteeing a fair trial.
  • Adopting and enforcing legislation aimed at criminalizing the offense of forced conversions and taking concrete measures to combat abductions, child marriage, and forced marriages of girls and women from religious minorities.
  • The Jubilee Campaign emphasized the importance of religious freedom and the protection of the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. It called upon the government to take immediate action to address these issues and create an environment where religious diversity is respected and upheld.
Watch Joseph Janssen’s full intervention below. Source: UN WebTV (Creative Commons Licence)