Pakistani human rights defender Hina Jilani is the new President of OMCT

November 30, 2016

On 29 November 2016 OMCT announced that Hina Jilani, a prominent Pakistani human rights defender, is the newly elected President of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).hina-jilani-biography-1_940x430

Ms. Jilani was elected to a four-year term on Saturday 26 November at the organization’s General Assembly meeting held every four years. Addressing OMCT partners and members of its SOS-Torture network of more than 200 non-governmental organizations around the world, she said she would focus on boosting its cohesion to make its voice louder. “We can’t just condemn points of view; we have to convince people,” she said. “We have to show them that these values did not come out of nothing, that they are worth being preserved.  We have to show that undermining these values is not in the best interest of humanity.

Hina Jilani created Pakistan’s first all-women law firm and co-founded Pakistan’s first legal aid centre in 1986. In 1991 helped set up a shelter for women fleeing violence and abuse and presented one of the first cases of domestic violence in the country. Ms. Jilani was also one of the founders of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an NGO promoting human rights in Pakistan. She also created Pakistan’s Women Action Forum, a prominent women’s rights group whose campaigns have been at the heart of the democracy movement in the country. Ms. Jilani has been a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1992.

At the international level, she was the first United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008. She was appointed in 2006 and 2009, respectively, to the UN International Fact-Finding Commissions on Darfur and on the Gaza Conflict.

Her expertise and lifelong dedication to human rights has earned her international recognition. In 2013, she joined The Elders, a group of statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates, brought together by Nelson Mandela.  In 2000 she was honoured with the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Award for Women’s Rights, just a year after she was awarded the Human Rights Award by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. In 2008 she received the human rights award of the American Bar Association.

For more posts on Hina see: (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/hina-jilani/OMCT-LOGO

She spoke after a two-day forum organized on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of OMCT and its SOS-Torture network, along with UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who shared concern that many countries were “returning to authoritarianism”, human rights defenders around the world were under “enormous pressure”, and that reprisals and arbitrary detentions were increasingly done under the pretext of fighting terrorist activities. The High Commissioner said he feared that declarations such as United States President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign declarations (condoning ill treatment such as “waterboarding”, for instance) might inspire other Governments to resume resorting to torture, hence exacerbating the practice around the world.

She also seemed undeterred by the consequent risks of wavering support of multilateral institutions, since the US election and the British “Brexit” vote triggered a wave of speculation as to a possible shift in funding priorities away from international aid, and since the withdrawal by several States such as South AfricaBurundiGambia and Russia from the International Criminal Court, triggered concerns over the deconstruction of a system built up to protect victims of serious human rights violations. “This is not an easy time for human rights defenders, but when has it been for us? We keep our determination despite all the challenges,” she told activists. “The global donors must understand that if there is hesitation in supporting these human rights defenders and their networks it will only reduce our outreach. But we did it before we had money. We have no reason to believe that this is a favour to any one organization or community.”

Ms. Jilani said that OMCT was one of the organizations best placed to uphold human rights and combat torture, adding: “It has the experience, the capacity, and the knowledge to take this challenge forward.”

Source: Prominent Pakistani human rights defender Hina Jilani becomes new OMCT President / November 29, 2016 / Statements / OMCT

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