Pakistan: Acquittal of Ms. Gulalai Ismail and her parents

30/07/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
PAK 002 / 0719 / OBS 062.3
Judicial harassment
Pakistan
July 30, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, dismissed a case against Ms. Gulalai Ismail and her parents, Mr. Muhammad Ismail and Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail, following an investigation opened after a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against them on July 12, 2019 over charges of “financial support from terrorist organisations”.

Ms. Ismail, an ethnic Pashtun and woman rights defender, is the founder of the Youth Peace Network and co-founder and Chairperson of the NGO Aware Girls[1]. Ms. Ismail has led a campaign against extrajudicial killings in Pakistan and was awarded the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award by the organization Reach all Women in War (RAW). Mr. Ismail is a prominent and vocal human rights activist and the coordinator of Pakistan NGOs Forum.

According to the information received, on July 2, 2020, the case was dismissed as the Prosecutor was not able to submit any evidence related to the charges filed against Ms. Ismail and her parents to the court in the one year the case was open.

The Observatory welcomes the acquittal of Ms. Gulalai Ismail and her parents, but recalls that Mr. Muhammad and Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail’s names still figure on Pakistan’s Exit Control List (ECL), which prevents them from leaving the country. Moreover Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail has been denied her passport application and Mr. Muhammad Ismail is still facing charges of “cyber crime”. His bank accounts are also frozen.

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment of Ms. Gulalai Ismail, Mr. Muhammad Ismail, and Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail, which seems to be only aimed at punishing Ms. Gulalai Ismail for her human rights work. The Observatory calls on the Pakistani authorities to immediately put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Gulalai Ismail, Mr. Muhammad Ismail, Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail, and their other relatives.

Background information:

On May 22 and 23, 2019, the police in Islamabad filed two FIRs against Ms. Gulalai Ismail, who was charged with “defamation” (Section 500 of the Penal Code), “sedition” (Section 124-A of the Penal Code), “promoting enmity between different groups” (Section 153-A of the Penal Code) and other charges under Section 6/7 of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. The charges stemmed from a speech she gave at a rally in Islamabad, in which she called for justice in the case of a 10-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in May 2019 and denounced the authorities’ inaction to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice[2]. As a result, Ms. Gulalai Ismail was forced into hiding. The case is still ongoing. A petition has also been filed before the Islamabad High Court in order to ban Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s social media accounts.

At the same time, Ms. Ismail’s relatives have faced repeated acts of harassment and intimidation by security forces. For instance, on May 24, 2019 at dawn, the police raided her family home in Islamabad and threatened her family members. The family’s residence was again raided on May 27. Again, on July 4, 2019, a large group of men in civilian clothes raided three times Ms. Ismail’s house in Islamabad and threatened to harm Ms. Ismail’s younger sister if the former did not cease her work as an activist. Security forces also took away the family’s driver, interrogated him, and subjected him to physical acts of ill-treatment for about eight hours before he was released.

On July 12, 2019, a FIR was lodged against Ms. Ismail and her parents by the Counter-Terrorism Department in Peshawar, accusing them of having received “financial support from terrorist organizations”. Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s parents received a Bail Before Arrest (BBA) from the court and as a condition of that BBA, had to present themselves to the court every week. Without any official notification, Ms. Ismail’s parents were also placed on the ECL, and the immigration services refused to issue a new passport to Ms. Ismail’s mother.

During the night of October 17 to 18, 2019, armed police officers – some in police uniform, and some in plain clothes with their faces hidden - knocked at Ms. Gulalai Ismail parents’ house asking for Mr. Muhammad Ismail to come out of the house, which he refused to do. The police officers stayed outside the house for an hour before leaving.

On October 24, 2019, Mr. Muhammad Ismail was abducted by unidentified men in black clothes outside of the High Court of Peshawar, where he was due to present himself as a bail condition. His fate and whereabouts remained unknown for many hours. It was later discovered that Mr. Muhammad Ismail was taken to the Cybercrime department of the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), where he was temporarily detained. On October 25, 2020, Mr. Muhammad Ismail was finally presented to the magistrate of Peshawar Session Court, which ordered a 14 days pre-trial detention against him on the basis of Articles 10 (“cyber terrorism”) and 11 (“electronic forgery”) of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The FIR accused Mr. Muhammad Ismail of “broaden hate speech and fake information against Government Institutions of Pakistan” through his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Mr. Muhammad Ismail had access to his lawyer during the hearing. Mr. Muhammad Ismail was then sent to Peshawar jail, where he was detained until November 25, 2019, when he was granted conditional bail.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Pakistan, urging them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment against Ms. Gulalai Ismail, Mr. Muhammad Ismail, Mrs. Uzlifat Ismail and their relatives, including the lifting of administrative restrictions;

ii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all
human rights defenders in Pakistan;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all the human
rights defenders in Pakistan, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

iv. Conform to 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 with Articles
1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in
accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Pakistan.

Addresses:

• Mr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan; Email: secretary@president.gov.pk
• Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Minister in Charge for Interior and Narcotics
Control; Email: info@pmo.gov.pk
• Mr. Ijaz Shah, Minister of State for Interior, Email:
interior.complaintcell@gmail.com
• Ms. Shireen Mazari, Minister of Human Rights of Pakistan, Email: minister@mohr.gov.pk, secretary@mohr.gov.pk ; Twitter: @ShireenMazari1 / @mohrpakistan
• Ambassador Farukh Amil, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva,
Switzerland; Email: mission.pakistan@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Pakistan located in your country.

***
Paris-Geneva, July 30, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39

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[1] Aware Girls is an NGO aiming at strengthening the leadership of young people, especially women and girls, and enabling them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building
[2] On May 15, 2019, 10-year old girl Farishta went missing near her home in Islamabad. Her parents reported her disappearance the same day, but it took four days for the police to register a FIR on the disappearance, and a proper search was not launched. Her body was finally found in a forest on May 21, 2019, leading to public outcry.

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