HomePakistanPakistan: Excessive force against Khan's violent protests

Pakistan: Excessive force against Khan’s violent protests

(NY) – from Pakistan Police fired and used excessive force on protesters following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges in May 9, 2023, Human Rights Watch said today. The cut of mobile internet service by the government, and access restrictions to Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, is too broad and indiscriminate in violation of basic rights.

Khan supporters across the country have used stones, Molotov cocktails and, in some cases, assault rifles, to attack police, setting fire to ambulances, police vehicles and schools, and destroying property. The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and charged the protesters with batons. Following violent clashes, police arrested hundreds of members of Khan’s political party, Tehrik-I-Insaaf, accused of criminal intimidation, rioting and assault about government officials. At least a man died in Quetta after police opened fire on protesters.

“The Pakistani government must uphold the right to peaceful protest while responding to violence with the minimum force necessary,” he said. Patricia Gosmann, associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “Criminal acts must be promptly investigated and duly prosecuted.”

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that security forces should use the minimum necessary force at all times. To disperse violent gatherings, firearms may only be used when other, less damaging means are not feasible, but they must be used to the minimum extent necessary. Law enforcement officials may only intentionally use deadly force when strictly unavoidable to protect life.

The government maintains that the Internet close it was necessary to protect public safety and curb the spread of misinformation. Internet and social media platforms continue to function intermittently. Yet this sweeping measure denies ordinary people access to life-saving information, interferes with access to healthcare, and restricts journalists’ ability to upload photos and videos documenting government overreach and abuse. International human rights law prohibits broad, indiscriminate, and indefinite restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression and to provide and receive information, Human Rights Watch said.

“The current charged environment in Pakistan is resulting in cycles of violence and counter-violence,” Gossman said. “It is vitally important that the authorities act in such a way that the situation does not get out of control.

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