Civic Charter launched to curb transgressions of human, civil rights
Civil society and human rights activists launched the Civic Charter – a global framework for people’s participation – at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club on Monday afternoon.
Speakers said the charter had been prepared after a global process involving international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Civicus. The programme was being driven, it was said, by the International Civil Society Centre in Berlin.
The charter went online for global signing on Monday and has been drawn up by Mr Maini Kiai, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association.
The charter focuses especially on the following rights:
1) Freedom of expression: Everyone is free to share, discuss, and promote their views and ideas, support the ideas of others, or express dissent.
2) Freedom of information: Everyone should have easy and prompt access to information.
3) Freedom of assembly: Everyone is free to peacefully come together with others to pursue common goals and aspirations.
4) Freedom of association: Everyone is free to join, form, or support organisations for the advancement of common causes.
Dr Riaz Shaikh, dean of the social sciences department at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist), said that over the past three years, 60 countries had framed anti-human rights laws to clamp restrictions on citizens.
In this context, he mentioned the cybercrime laws drafted recently in Pakistan, people disappearing without reason or trace, and other such excesses.
Asad Butt, vice chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said that there were many countries that signed such democratic conventions without the will or intention to implement them.
Consequently, he said, there was no security of person, no freedom of expression, and no health facilities, and cited Pakistan as an example.
Muhammad Ali Shah, chairperson of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, said that multinationals and international corporate bodies manipulated the passage of laws in resource-rich countries to maintain a stranglehold over their natural resources, whereby, the poor of these countries suffered tremendously. These laws, he said, were framed to muzzle plurality of thinking in society.
Shah cited a project in Sri Lanka and one in Pakistan where, he said, modern ports were being built which would displace and uproot thousands of fishermen and their families.
Those who opposed such draconian laws and moves disappeared or were killed, he said, adding that the same was the situation in Pakistan where the recent NGOs-related bill was meant to muzzle the civil society.
Zulfiqar Shah, joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), said that the freedoms to expression, information, association, and assembly were being severely affected in Pakistan. People, he said, must be given these rights to live up to the democratic traditions rulers are always talking about.
Speakers said the charter provided a framework for people’s participation that identified their rights within existing international law and agreements. It was imperative, they said, that all governments, all levels of public administration, international institutions, business and civil society organisations worldwide fully implemented and respected the charter.