Human rights have been widely defined as being rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. These rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Internationally, human rights are guaranteed and protected by various forms of legally binding instruments including treaties, customary international law, general principles, and other sources of international law. Together this body of law is known as International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and as it is a subset of public international law it is primarily addressed to States. IHRL limits what the State can do to its subjects and protects individuals from excesses that a State may commit. 

The rationale for international human rights law is based on the assumption that individuals require protection from the State. State uses of force are considered legitimate under the international human rights framework when this is absolutely necessary in self-defense, in order to prevent crime or in order to effect the lawful arrest of offenders. This paradigm regulates the resort to force by State authorities in order to maintain or restore public security, law and order, and is therefore premised on the principle of ‘capture rather than kill’ unless capture is not possible through non-lethal means. Under the human rights paradigm therefore, the use of force – particularly lethal force – is only a measure of last resort.

While there are various international law treaties that ensure the rights of individuals, nine human rights treaties form the core of the human rights framework in international law. Out of these nine conventions, Pakistan has ratified seven and is a party to hundreds of multilateral treaties and thousands of bilateral treaties and commitments etc. This shows the State’s willingness to operate in accordance with international law.

Status of International Humans Rights’ Treaties in Pakistan

Listed below are some major internationa; treaties on human rights as well as their status in Pakistan

INSTRUMENT

STATUS IN PAKISTAN

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the fundamental starting point in the area of human rights protection. The UDHR was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948. Although aspirational in nature, the UDHR holds weight with regard to the universality of certain fundamental human rights – the preamble delineates the Declaration as, a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.’ However, as it is not a treaty it does not create legally binding obligations for countries.

 

The rights listed within the Declaration are generically worded and were later categorized into two distinct, legally binding Conventions: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), thereby distinguishing between civil and political rights, on one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights, on the other, both of which were ratified by Pakistan. The UDHR, however, makes no such distinction. The UDHR, ICCPR and ICESCR combined are referred to as the International Bill of Rights’. The UDHR has been the foundation for a range of other international agreements which are legally binding on the countries that ratify them.

Widely accepted as customary international law. 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965

The purpose of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is to promote the fundamental rights of all citizens of the State Party irrespective of their race, colour, sex, national origin, language or religion. The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees fundamental rights to its citizens, provided irrespective of their race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth. The Convention also requires accurate statistics of the marginalized communities, this extends to evaluation of appropriate data relating to minority ethnic groups including consultation on, and implementation of, comprehensive monitoring guidance. Pakistan ratified this Convention in September 1966.

Ratification 1966
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) establishes a framework for States to protect and promote the civil and political rights of their citizens, whilst also emphasizing on the importance of rectifying violations of these rights. With 53 Articles, the ICCPR consists of substantive, implementing and derogation provisions. The substantive provisions create, define or regulate rights, these include Articles 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27. The implementing provisions highlight implementation procedures and preclude the signatory parties from refusing compliance with certain obligations, such as Articles 2, 4(2), 44, 48, 49, 50 and 51. Finally, the derogation provisions, i.e. Articles 4(2)-(3) and 5(2), allow for the signatory parties to refuse compliance with certain obligations. 

Ratification 2010
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) encourages States to grant economic, social and cultural rights to all citizens and provide labour rights, rights to health, education and an adequate standard of living. As mentioned previously, the UDHR, taken together with the ICCPR and the ICESCR, is commonly referred to as the ‘International Bill of Rights’. Pakistan ratified the ICESCR in 2008 and committed itself to implementation of the Covenant in letter and spirit by incorporating these rights in its constitution and legal system as well as to respect, protect and fulfill all its international obligations.

With 31 Articles, the ICESR consists of substantive, implementing and derogation provisions. The substantive provisions create, define or regulate rights, these include 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15. The implementing provisions include Articles 2, 3, 5(1), 14, 23, 26, 27 and 29. And finally, the derogation provisions, i.e. Articles 4 and 5(2), allow for the signatory parties to refuse compliance with certain obligations.

Ratification 2008
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979

The overarching purpose of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the eradication of any such concurrent traditional practices or laws in a State that discriminate against women on the basis of their sex and to provide them a manifesto of equal opportunities and rights through domestic enforcement of their inherent rights.

The Convention consists of a total of 30 Articles. Articles 1, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 are substantive provisions, whereas Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 23 and 24 are the implementing provisions.

Ratification 1996
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984

This convention was adopted and opened for signature and ratification by the General Assembly on Dec 10, 1984. The government of Pakistan signed the convention on Apr 17, 2008, and ratified it on June 23, 2010. This Convention requires State Parties to end torture within their jurisdiction and criminalize all acts of torture. The Convention goes beyond many other international Conventions in that it offers a comprehensive definition of torture:

“the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Article 2 of the Convention states, “1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. 3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Article 4 of the Convention elaborates on domestic law of signatory states. It reads, “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture. 2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.”

Article 12 pertains to impartial investigation, it states, “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

The Convention consists of 33 Articles. Articles 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 are substantive in nature whereas Articles 2, 3, 4 and 16 are seen as implementing provisions.

Ratification 2010
Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989

The aim of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is to set standards for the protection of children against abuse, neglect and exploitation. It addresses the right to possess, receive and have access to certain services essential to the well-being of children. The Convention also mandates the protection of children from harmful acts and practices. Further, it ensures the child’s right to be heard in relation to decisions affecting his or her life and provides for progressive participation in matters impacting the child. Furthermore, the CRC also lays down essential standards for the protection of children’s rights in the realm of the juvenile justice system. Pakistan ratified this convention in 1990.

The CRC has three optional protocols:

i.                   Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in Armed Conflict (25 May 2000)

ii.                 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (25 May 2000)

iii.               Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (19 December 2011)

The Convention consists of a total of 54 Articles. Articles 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40 are substantive in nature. Whereas Articles 2, 4, 19, 21, 22, 33, 35, 42 and 44(6) are implementing provisions and Arts. 10(2), 13(2), 14(3) and 15(2) are derogation provisions. 

Ratification 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families 1999

The Convention sets minimum standards for migrant workers and members of their families, with a focus on eliminating the exploitation of workers in the migration process. 

No action
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 2002

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography is a protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and requires parties to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Ratification 2011
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict 2002

The Protocol was adopted by the General Assembly on 25 May 2000 and entered into force on 12 February 2002. The Optional protocol is a commitment that: States will not recruit children under the age of 18 to send them to the battlefield. States will not conscript soldiers below the age of 18.

Ratification 2016
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance 2006

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations intended to prevent forced disappearance, which, as defined in international law, is part of crimes against humanity.

No action
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008

The purpose of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is to protect, promote and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms by all persons with disabilities. The Convention defines persons with disabilities as those with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may obstruct their full and effective participation and engagement in society on an equal basis with others. Moreover, the Convention makes specific references to women with disabilities and children with disabilities.

 

The Convention consists of a total of 50 Articles. Articles 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 are substantive provisions, whereas Articles Arts. 4, 5, 31, 33, 33 and 43 are the implementing provisions and Articles 4(4) and 4(5) are derogation provisions.  

Ratification 2011

Domestic Legal Framework

Article 268(7) of the Constitution of Pakistan

Pakistan’s existing legal framework is articulated by Article 268(7) of the Constitution, which states that “all laws (including Ordinances, Orders-in-Council, Orders, rules, by- laws, regulations and Letters Patent constituting a High Court, and notifications and other legal instruments having the force of law) in force in Pakistan or any part thereof, or having extraterritorial validity…”. While the words of the provision do not explicitly mention inclusion of international law, the text strongly implies it. Due to this, international obligations form a significant part of the domestic rule of law and for the complete protection of the rule of law within the State, human rights commitments remain essential.

Domestic Implementation of International Obligations

International Law is widely entrenched in the domestic legal framework of Pakistan. There are various pieces of domestic law that replicate international law almost verbatim. The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution of Pakistan is identical to some of the provisions of the ICCPR. There are several other laws in Pakistan which closely correspond with provisions of international treaties which Pakistan has ratified. A few examples include:

INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENT

CORRELATING DOMESTIC LAW

Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and all subsequent Security Council ResolutionsUnited Nations (Security Council) Act 1948
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 and Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949Industrial Relations Ordinance 1969
Certain provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, more commonly known as “Bangkok rules”.

Pakistan Prison Rules 1978
Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and Security Council Resolutions 1267, 1373, 1456

 

Anti-Terrorism Act 1997
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, United Nations Convention against Corruption and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) RecommendationsAnti-Money Laundering Act 2010
General Agreement on Tariffs and TradeAnti-Dumping Duties Act 2015

 

Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade AgreementAfghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Rules 2011

 

Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions and Customary International Humanitarian LawActions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations 2011
Framework Convention on Tobacco ControlProhibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002
Chemical Weapons ConventionChemical Weapons Convention Implementation Ordinance 2000
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto ProtocolEnvironmental Protection Act 1997
Chicago Convention on International Civil AviationCivil Aviation Authority Ordinance 1982
United Nations Convention on the Law of the SeaTerritorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1976
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed ConflictAntiquities Act 1975
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act 1972
United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea

 

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1925