Arshad Mehmood

 

Lawyer, Trainer (DemocratiCommission for Human Development) & Member of Executive Committee (Anti-Death Penalty Asia network (ADPAN))

Active in Country: Pakistan 

DTP Alumnus: DTP Annual Human Rights Defenders Program, February 2001 – Bangkok.

 

 What are the changes in human rights in region between now and when you did the training?

I attended DTP in February 2001, almost two decades ago. Things have changed a lot since then especially after 9/11 that has affected the whole human rights movements across the world and more particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Talking about human rights is becoming an increasingly difficult and challenging task. Civil society in Pakistan was more vibrant and alive away back in 2001, though civil society is still vibrant and take up issues for public debate but space is comparatively shrinking for us now.  On the pretext of national interest and security and to combat terrorism in Pakistan, state has in fact made drastic changes in its policy towards civil society and NGOs in Pakistan. Now we need NOC from Government office for every activity.  People who are daring to raise their voice are going missing. State authoritative and oppressive face is getting more and more strong.  Pakistan has re-introduced the death penalty after years of moratorium and besides regular courts we have now military courts as well, these military courts are trying people without ensuring fair trial and right to appeal in the formal courts. Though Pakistan has ratified almost all UN human rights conventions (except Convention on Enforced Disappearances) but situation on the ground is worse than it was in 2001.

 What communities are you working with and what are the main issues you’re working on today? 

I am working with grassroots human rights defenders, lawyers, teachers and youth in Pakistan. The main issues that I am working on include, security of human rights defenders, creating awareness regarding fundamental rights, Child rights, women’s rights, international human rights law and UN mechanism and criminal justice system of Pakistan and also advocating against death penalty in Pakistan. I am also elected member of the executive committee of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia network (ADPAN)

 Please share any success stories

There are many that have changed the life pattern of many of my trainees. I remember one marriage registrar in southern part of Punjab who attended my training that was against child marriage.  He refused to perform a nikkah of an under age girl on the ground that it is against the law, though child marriage is quite common in that region of Pakistan.  Further, there are many human rights defenders who were part of our trainings and now leading human rights movements in their respective district. 

 What knowledge/skills from the training programs(s) have been useful to your work?

Many….  like international human rights mechanism that I first studied in detail during the course of my DTP training away back in 2001. It in fact opened a new window of fresh air for me as a human rights defender.  UN mechanism and the international human rights law is now part of my every training and I conduct sessions on that much more confidently than before. In short, DTP is a good blend of both practical exercises and theory and it made us well informed and skilled advocate for human rights. 

 Do you see a value in investing in training of human rights defenders/activists?

The work that DTP is doing is highly valuable and such trainings not only make human rights defenders academically stronger but also provides skills regarding lobbying and advocacy.  It in fact developed the skills and interest to work for human rights.  

 What was your experience like as a participant?

It was very positive, it developed my interest in the international human rights law and made me to study this in depth. The Manual that was shared during the training, with few exceptions still relevant and helped me to plan my session during the training. I still have hard copy of it and used it so often as guide book. 

 How could the program be improved? 

Though I am not much aware of the current curriculum being taught at DTP but still with the experience that I have of imparting trainings, this program should focused on the working of Human Rights Council, how human rights defenders engaged its various mechanisms to further the cause of human rights. Further to above, DTP has very rich experience of working with human rights defenders from across Asia, it should come up with a directory of its trainee along with a list of those who among these trainees can be engaged as resource persons for discussing the particular state of human rights of their respective country and also session that they have developed expertise on after DTP training. 

 Do you have any general comments or suggestions regarding human rights issues you would like to see addressed in future programs?

Issue of Death Penalty especially in Asia, needs to be make part of future programs. Unfortunately it’s countries in the Asia, who still carrying this punishment.  Further, security of Human Rights Defenders and how we can while working as human rights defenders ensure our own safety. Ultimately we would like to provide a summary on our eNewsletter, website and other social media platforms.

 

 

Profile written May 2016