Tuesday, 23rd July, 2024

Former Pakistan PM Khan arbitrarily detained: UN panel

Tuesday, 02 July 2024 | 9:39 am | 19 times

Former Pakistan PM Khan arbitrarily detained: UN panel
A panel of UN experts has determined that the detention of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was arbitrary and a violation of international law, calling for him to be released “immediately”.

In an opinion published Monday, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention raised concerns about multiple cases brought against Khan since he was ousted in April 2022.

It found that his depravation of liberty was “arbitrary” and violated several international laws and norms.

Khan’s “detention had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office”, the working group said.

“Thus, from the outset, that prosecution was not grounded in law and was reportedly instrumentalised for a political purpose,” it said in the opinion, which was dated March 25 and made public Monday.

The working group, made up of five independent experts whose opinions are not binding but carry reputational weight, called on Pakistan’s government to “take the steps necessary to remedy the situation”.

“The appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Khan immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” it added.

The experts also called on Pakistan’s government to ensure “a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Khan, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights”.

‘Huge victory’

Neither Pakistan’s interior nor information ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party hailed the ruling as “a huge victory”.

“It has shown without any one percent of doubt that Imran Khan is innocent and has been thrown into prison illegally,” PTI spokesman Syad Zulfiqar Bukhari said in a statement.

Khan, who served as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, has been entangled in more than 200 legal cases since he was ousted, in what he says is a campaign to keep him from power.

Now 71, he has been detained since August last year and barred from standing for office.

However, the former international cricket star and his wife had their 14-year prison sentences for graft suspended by a Pakistan high court in April.

Last month, Khan had a 10-year sentence for treason overturned.

He had been cleared for release before that trio of sentences in the days running up to Pakistan’s general elections in February.

But Khan remains in the Adiala jail, south of Islamabad, over an illegal marriage conviction.

He and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were both sentenced to seven years in jail in February on charges that, under Islamic law, their marriage came too soon after Bibi’s divorce.

Last week, an Islamabad court deferred a plea to suspend those sentences, saying a decision would be announced on July 12.

‘Repression’

Analysts have said Pakistan’s powerful military, which ruled directly for decades and still wields immense power, is likely behind the slew of cases.

Khan was ousted by a parliamentary no-confidence vote after falling out with the top generals who had once backed him.

He then waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance in opposition against them and accused top officers of conspiring in an assassination attempt in which he was shot during a political rally in November 2022.

Khan’s brief arrest in May 2023 sparked nationwide unrest, which in turn prompted a sweeping crackdown against the PTI and its senior leaders.

The UN working group voiced concern about the “political repression” of the party, saying it was “gravely concerned about the alleged arrest and disappearance of Mr. Khan’s close colleague”.

It also expressed alarm at “the general allegations of widespread arrests, detentions and disappearances of individuals, including many supporters of (PTI), and urges the authorities to take swift and appropriate action in that regard”.


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