Pakistan: Wave of violence shows a horrific disregard for human life

A bomb attack in Lahore that killed eight people is the latest in a wave of violence that shows a horrific disregard for human life, Amnesty International said today.

Over the past fortnight, a series of bomb attacks claimed by a slew of armed groups has claimed the lives of more than 120 people and injured several more, raising concerns about the protection of human life.

“All those suspected of responsibility for this horrific wave of violence must be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty,” said Nadia Rahman, Amnesty International’s Pakistan campaigner.

“Pakistan’s authorities have a responsibility to protect the lives of everyone in the country, and they must do so while upholding international law and standards. Resorting to cruel and inhumane methods will not address the root causes of the problem and risks perpetuating a cycle of violence.”

The bomb attack in Lahore comes a week after more than 80 people were slain at the famed shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh. Cities attacked earlier include Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, and Dera Ismail Khan.

After the Sehwan attack, the Pakistan authorities claimed to have killed 100 “terrorists”. No details have been disclosed about any criminal investigation, who was targeted, what their involvement was in the attacks, and why they were not brought to justice in fair trials.

“The victims of these attacks deserve true justice, not a campaign of violent revenge in their name,” said Nadia Rahman.

“The victims of these attacks deserve true justice, not a campaign of violent revenge in their name."

Nadia Rahman, Amnesty International’s Pakistan campaigner

The Lahore bombing comes as Pakistan’s military announced a fresh offensive, “Operation Radd ul-Fasaad”, and the paramilitary Rangers force was given special powers to operate in Lahore and other parts of Punjab.

Amnesty International calls on the authorities to ensure that any security operations adhere to Pakistan’s obligations under international law.

The organization has documented crimes under international law and human rights violations under paramilitary troops in Karachi, including where people were subject to arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, denied access to lawyers, medical support, and guarantees of a fair trial.

“The injustices we saw in Karachi must not be revisited on people in Lahore or other parts of the country,” said Nadia Rahman.

Pakistan’s parliament is currently debating proposals to revive the mandate of military courts to try civilians, after a two year mandate lapsed on January 7.

Amnesty International considers that the criminal jurisdiction of military courts, in Pakistan and in any other country, should be limited to trials of members of the military for breaches of military discipline; it should not extend to crimes under international law or human rights violations.

In accordance with international law, Amnesty International opposes the use of military courts to try civilians and, along with other organizations, has documented a catalogue of human rights violations flowing from them, including coerced confessions, opaque processes, executions, and unfair trials.

“Every government has a responsibility to protect people’s lives and take necessary measures to provide for their security, but military courts are not the solution,” said Nadia Rahman.

“The only way to tackle with attacks on human rights is with justice, truth and reparation, not further human rights violations.”