June 23, 2020
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah, a professor of chemistry at the University of Sindh Jamshoro, a prominent women's rights activist, and a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), based in Hyderabad, Sindh Province.
According to the information received, on June 10, 2020, Dr. Arfana Mallah expressed her dismay on Twitter when a colleague at Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur, Sindh Province, was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sedition. Within hours, Dr. Mallah was subjected to a vicious campaign led by clerics with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party and, subsequently, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, who sought to have Dr. Mallah charged with blasphemy.
A hashtag #ArrestArfanaMallah, which trended for over a week, from June 11 to 19, appeared in some particularly disturbing tweets, including one that compared her to 'the female version of Sulman Taseer [sic]' referring to the former governor of Punjab Province, who was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011 for having spoken up in defence of a Christian woman charged with blasphemy.
Under pressure from radical religious groups and the police, Dr Mallah subsequently issued a written apology, explaining that her social media posts meant no disrespect to Islam or the Prophet. Meanwhile, radical religious groups have further insisted she video-record her apology.
The Observatory firmly condemns the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah and considers the attacks against her amount to incitement to violence and pose a serious risk to her safety. The Observatory calls on Sindh and Pakistani authorities to provide Dr. Mallah with immediate protection and to guarantee, in all circumstances, her physical integrity and psychological well-being.
Please write to the authorities in Pakistan, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Dr. Arfana Mallah;
ii. Call for an end to the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah and ensure she is able to carry out her legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;
iii. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Pakistan.
• Mr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan; Fax: +92 51 920 8479; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Minister in Charge for Interior and Narcotics Control; Fax: +92 51 922 04 04; Email: email@example.com
• Mr. Ijaz Shah, Minister of State for Interior, Fax: +92 51 920 2624, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Ms. Shireen Mazari, Minister of Human Rights of Pakistan, Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org ; Twitter: @ShireenMazari1 / @mohrpakistan
• Mr. Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh; Fax: +92 21 9920 2000; Twitter: @CM_Sindh
• Ambassador Farukh Amil, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Fax:022 734 80 85; Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Pakistan located in your country.
Paris-Geneva, June 23, 2020
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.