The Pakistani authorities must end impunity for so-called ‘honor’ killings and other violence against women, Amnesty International said today. “The tragic killing of Qandeel Baloch, at the hands of her brother, has highlighted the need for urgent action to protect women and men from crimes that are justified as a defense of family honor.”
Amnesty International welcomes the decision of the Punjab authorities to register Qandeel Baloch’s murder as a crime against the state, and refuse her family the legal right to grant their son clemency.
“This needs to become the rule rather than the exception. Pakistan needs to undertake structural reforms that end impunity for so-called ‘honor’ killings, including by passing legislation that removes the option of clemency for such killings without resorting to the death penalty as a punishment,” said Champa Patel.
Qandeel Baloch's brother has confessed to strangling his sister to death during her sleep on 15 July, triggering global outrage.
Under Pakistan’s current laws, the family of a murder victim may pardon the perpetrator, including on payment of compensation known as ‘diyat’ or ‘blood money’. In cases of so-called honor killings, where members of the victim’s own family are responsible for the crime, the perpetrator may be pardoned by their own family and not face imprisonment or any other punishments.
“By failing to hold perpetrators of so-called ‘honor’ killings accountable for their crimes, the Pakistani state has been forfeiting its duty to the victims and letting a climate of impunity take reign. This leaves many thousands of people – mostly women and girls – from all walks of life and across the country at risk of falling victim to these crimes,” said Champa Patel.
In its latest annual report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives on so-called ‘honor’ grounds. In 2014, the figure was 1,000, and in 2013, it was 869.
Under international law, culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called ‘honor’ cannot ever be considered a justification for any act of violence against women.
“There is no honor in killing women under any circumstances. The state must respect and protect women’s right to life, equality, and dignity so that they can make life decisions of their own without fear of retribution or violence,” said Champa Patel.
The Pakistani parliament is currently debating a bill that, if passed, would lead to the removal of the option of clemency for so-called ‘honor’ crimes. While Amnesty International calls for an end to impunity for such crimes, it opposes the death penalty as a possible punishment.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.