A United Nations human rights expert has called on the Pakistani authorities to make it a top priority to locate and protect four disappeared human rights and social media campaigners, saying no government should tolerate attacks on its citizens.
"I strongly urge the Government of Pakistan to take every step possible to locate the four missing activists, a first step toward reemphasising its commitment to freedom of expression at the beginning of the year," said David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The four activists Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Salman Haider and Ahmed Raza Naseer went missing this month. They had been accused of promoting blasphemy, a criminal offense in Pakistan.
"No government should tolerate attacks on its citizens," the human rights expert said.
"By making the investigation of these disappearances an urgent priority, the Pakistani authorities can send a strong signal that they take seriously the responsibility for the life and security of all of its citizens, particularly in cases involving freedom of expression."
"Free expression campaigners and experts have long called for the abolition of criminal blasphemy provisions in Pakistan, which may carry the death penalty," Kaye said.
"Not only are such laws incompatible with international human rights law, but they also facilitate threats by state and non-state actors seeking to target expression."
The Special Rapporteur stressed that "all States have an obligation to promote a diverse space and culture for expression, but such culture does not create itself.