Human Rights Activist Receives Death Threats

| June 9, 2012

Sir Ronald Sanders - Caribbean Diplomat


Members of a Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG), that authored a report on reform of the Commonwealth, have called for immediate Commonwealth action in relation to threats against the life of Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir.

The EPG, of whom Jahangir was one, last year submitted the report A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform, to Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Perth last October.  One of its key recommendations is that the Commonwealth should establish a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights.

Members of the group made their call for action in a letter to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh, Sharma and the Chairman of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).  The letter declares that the EPG members “are extremely troubled by the charges that Dr Jahangir has reliable information that her life is under threat from Pakistan’s security establishment”.  They declared: “Given our knowledge of her and of her highly regarded work, we are confident that her charges would have been made only after the most careful consideration and in light of credible intelligence”.

The Group called on the Secretary-General “to request the Government of Pakistan to provide full protection for Dr Jahangir, and to launch an immediate and transparent inquiry into the threats directed at her”.

“We are sufficiently alarmed to suggest that you should appoint a ‘good offices’ representative to be engaged in this matter with the authorities in Pakistan to furnish both you and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) with information” the Group said.

Copying their letter to the Chair of CMAG, the EPG members asked that CMAG take appropriate steps “to advise the Government of Pakistan of the deep disquiet that this matter has engendered”.

The letter was signed by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey, Ms Patricia Francis, Mr Samuel Kavuma, The Hon Michael Kirby, Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Sir Ronald Sanders, and Senator Hugh Segal.

Profiles of Eminent Persons Group (including Dr Asma Jahangir)

Dr Emmanuel O Akwetey is the founding Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), one of Ghana’s leading research and advocacy organisations established in 2000. He has for more than a decade participated in and facilitated several local, national, regional, continental and global forums on issues pertaining to poverty and inequality, human and institutional capacity development, and African political and economic integration.

Dr Akwetey has been widely consulted by the Government of Ghana, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the Government of Liberia, UNDP and several bilateral donor agencies. The political scientist has also collaborated with the Commonwealth Foundation and the Parliament of Ghana in its work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Africa branch.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – Served as Chair of the Eminent Persons Group – is a former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Previously he served as minister of education, defence, foreign affairs, home affairs, finance and deputy prime minister. In 2003 he succeeded Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister of Malaysia, building a progressive and modern multi-racial society as well as promoting wide-range reform.

During his career, he attended Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meetings. He was a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and earlier an architect of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.

Patricia R. Francis joined the International Trade Centre (ITC) as Executive Director in June 2006. ITC is a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization that enables small business export success in developing countries.

During her tenure at ITC she has implemented a change management strategy to build common values and strengthen key management functions. ITC has defined and restructured itself around five new business lines, and extensive consultation has led to a stronger strategic framework. Ms Francis went to ITC from Jamaica Trade and Invest, where she served as president since 1995. She served twice as President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies. She has chaired the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Caribbean Rim Investment Initiative, as well as the China-Caribbean Business Council.

Dr Asma Jahangir

Dr Asma Jilani Jahangir is a leading human rights lawyer, and Chair of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. She is known for her work in Pakistan and internationally to prevent the persecution of religious minorities, women, and exploitation of children. She is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, at the UN Human Rights Council. Previously, she served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

She is co-author of “Democracy in the Commonwealth” (Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit & ERIS report) and a board member of the International Crisis Group. Dr Jahangir has gained international recognition for her achievements. In 1995, she received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for “greatness of spirit shown in service of the people”.

Samuel Kavuma is the interim Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Caucus. Mr Kavuma has been a student leader in Uganda since 1997 at the institution, district and national level. In 2004, he was elected to the National Youth Council of Uganda and in 2007 he was elected to be the Regional Youth Caucus representative.

During this time, he was elected by other country youth representatives to be the Regional Coordinator/Chairperson for the Commonwealth African Region Youth Caucus. Mr Kavuma has also worked as a youth worker with Students Partnership Worldwide, Youth and Women Initiative of Uganda, and the Africa Youth Trust; he has also served as the Director of Uganda Youth Action for Development.

The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG served as a Justice of the High Court of Australia between 1996 and 2009. When he retired from the Bench, he was Australia’s longest serving judge. He also served as President of the Court of Appeal of the Solomon Islands 1995-6. He has held many international posts, including as President of the International Commission of Jurists 1995-8; UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia 1993-6; and member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee 1996-2005.

He took part in the Commonwealth Secretariat Conferences 1988-95 that established the Bangalore Principles on domestic application of international human rights law; was independent co-chairman of the Malawi Constitutional Conference 1994; and member of the International Labour Organization mission to South Africa 1991-2. He is on the board of advisors for The Law Reports of the Commonwealth and regularly contributes to the Commonwealth Law Bulletin. In 2010, he was named co-winner of the Gruber Justice Prize.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC MP is a British Conservative party politician. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1985. In 1974 he was elected as MP for Pentlands and represented that constituency until 1997. In 1979, he was appointed a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at first in the Scottish Office and then, he was transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, being promoted to Minister of State in 1983.

He became a member of the Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1990 he became Secretary of State for Transport and in 1992 Secretary of State for Defence. From 1995-97 he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.  Sir Malcolm was re-elected as a Member of Parliament in 2005, and now Chairs an all-party Committee on security.

Sir Ronald Sanders KCMG served as Rapporteur of the EPG.  He is an international consultant, writer, and former Caribbean senior diplomat. He served on the Board of the International Programme for the Development of Communications at UNESCO (1983-1985) and as an elected member of the Executive Board of UNESCO (1985-1987).

He was one of three Commonwealth High Commissioners elected in 1985 to liaise with the UN Committee on countering Apartheid propaganda; member of the Commonwealth Advisory Group on Advancing the Small States Agenda, 2001; member of the Advisory Board to World Bank/Commonwealth Secretariat Task Force on Small States (2000-2003); Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force against Drug Trafficking and money laundering (2002-2004). He is the author of several works on the Commonwealth including “The Commonwealth as the Champion of Small States” in The Contemporary Commonwealth: An Assessment 1965-2009 (Routledge, London, 2009).

Senator Hugh Segal CM is currently Canada’s representative for Commonwealth reform.  He joined the Canadian Senate in 2005, after four decades of public service which included Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Canada, Associate Cabinet Secretary (Ontario) for Federal-Provincial Affairs and Policies and Priorities, Legislative Assistant to the Leader of the Opposition (Ottawa), and President of the independent Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism, he is a former chair and present member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. He headed a NATO parliamentary delegation to Washington and is a former chair (Calgary 2004) of the annual Canada-UK Colloquium. He is a Senior Fellow at the Queen’s Schools of Policy Studies and Business, the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a member of the Working Group on National Security at Cranfield University’s Centre for Security Sector Management. He chaired the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies and was the founding Vice-Chair (Research) of the Canadian International Council. He sits on the Council of the International Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (Stockholm).

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Category: Commonwealth Political Insights, Politics

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