GENEVA (11 January 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, David Kaye, today called on the Pakistani authorities to make it a matter of the highest priority to locate, protect and return home four disappeared human rights and social media campaigners.
The four men -Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Salman Haider and Ahmed Raza Naseer- went missing between 4 and 7 January. Mainstream media outlets had accused them of promoting blasphemy, a criminal offense in Pakistan.
“No government should tolerate attacks on its citizens,” the human rights expert said. “By making the investigation of these disappearances an urgent priority, the Pakistani authorities can send a strong signal that they take seriously the responsibility for the life and security of all of its citizens, particularly in cases involving freedom of expression.”
“Free expression campaigners and experts have long called for the abolition of criminal blasphemy provisions in Pakistan, which may carry the death penalty,” Mr. Kaye noted. “Not only are such laws incompatible with international human rights law, but they also facilitate threats by state and non-state actors seeking to target expression.”
The UN Special Rapporteur stressed that “all states have an obligation to promote a diverse space and culture for expression, but such culture does not create itself.”
“I strongly urge the Government of Pakistan to take every step possible to locate the four missing activists, a first step toward reemphasizing its commitment to freedom of expression at the beginning of the year.”