Dr. Shireen Mazari,
Minister of Human Rights of Pakistan,
Dear Dr. Shireen Mazari,
I am William Nicholas Gomes, a British Human Rights activist and Freelance Journalist.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has informed me about the judicial harassment of, and threats against, Ms Marvi Sirmed, a journalist and political commentator, currently on a fellowship in the United States, who has been denouncing enforced disappearances in Pakistan for years.
According to the information received, on August 22, 2020, Ms Marvi Sirmed posted a satirical tweet from her personal account referring to the many enforced disappearances of human rights defenders and government critics in Balochistan Province, Pakistan. Since then, social media users have launched a series of online attacks against her with threats to kill and rape, deploring the agnostic nature of her comment and demanding her arrest for “blasphemy” under Article 295(c) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On August 23, 2020, several individuals lodged separate complaints for “blasphemy” against Ms Marvi Sirmed in different parts of the country including Lahore (in police stations Ravi Road, Faisal Town, and Garden Town), Punjab Province; Karachi, Sindh Province; Jhang (Kotwali police station), Punjab Province, and Islamabad with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The Observatory firmly condemns the threats, incitement to violence, and the judicial harassment of Ms Marvi Sirmed, which seem to be only aimed at punishing her for the legitimate exercise of her right to freedom of opinion and expression and her right to freedom of religion or belief.
The Observatory calls on the Pakistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms Marvi Sirmed and all human rights defenders in the country, especially given the recent surge in blasphemy allegations in Punjab Province, and the global incitement to violence against those suspected or accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms Marvi Sirmed, her family members in Pakistan, and all human rights defenders in Pakistan;
ii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms Marvi Sirmed and all other human rights defenders in Pakistan;
iii. Call for an end to the online threats and incitement to violence against Ms Marvi Sirmed and ensure she is able to carry out her legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the recent acts of incitement to violence against Ms Marvi Sirmed in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;
v. Develop policy measures to put an end to the abuse of blasphemy laws for silencing political dissent and human rights defenders;
vi. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular, its Articles 1 and 12.2;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Pakistan.
I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your earliest response.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Activist and Freelance Journalist
York, United Kingdom