In a report called “As good as Dead” published on December 21, Amnesty International denounces impact of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
LPakistan's blasphemy laws are widely enforced and open to many abuses. The accused have few means to defend themselves. In a perversion of the justice system, the accused is presumed guilty based on little or no evidence. The report documents cases that illustrate the scale of human rights violations and abuses. Amnesty calls for an immediate repeal of these laws.
Once accused, the “presumed culprits” engage in an exhausting battle to prove their innocence. The sentences are extremely heavy, including imprisonment and the death penalty. Pressure from angry crowds plays a huge role in judgments and even when released, defendants remain in danger due to constant threats from their peers. For Audrey Gaughran, Director of Amnesty International:
“There is overwhelming evidence that blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take justice for themselves. Once accused, they are trapped in a system that offers little protection. Presumed guilty, she can no longer defend herself against the violence of the inhabitants. ”
Amnesty's report puts the spotlight in particular on the Christian victims of the enforcement of blasphemy laws. Asia bibi is a symbol of it.
Christian today noted in the Amnesty report, two particularly emblematic stories. The story of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl with learning disabilities had mobilized international opinion. She had been accused of having burned pages of the Koran. The charges were overturned by the High Court in Islamabad, but Rimsha and her family were forced to flee to Canada due to threats to their lives.
Shama and Shazhad Masih, a Christian couple, were beaten and burned to death in a brick kiln by an angry mob, suspecting them of having burned pages of the Koran. The 5 police officers present at the time of the incident had not intervened to protect them.
Amnesty denounces the lack of reaction from the security forces who “do not act effectively in the face of an angry crowd demanding death”.
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