Pakistan: trans woman human rights defender Nayyab Ali threatened at gunpoint (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Pakistan on 26 July 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within the initial 60 day period. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

BACKGROUND

Topic: threatening at gunpoint of trans woman human rights defender, Ms. Nayyab Ali by a police officer, and the subsequent threats she is facing.

Ms. Nayyab Ali is a transgender woman human rights defender. She is co-Chair of the Pakistan Alliance for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls and manages the Khawaja Sira Community Centre in Okara, which provides vocational training, life skills education and driving classes for the transgender community. She has been leading advocacy for the approval of Pakistan’s National Transgender Rights Protection Policy and has been a vocal critic of physical attacks on transgender persons and rights defenders in the country. She is also working as a Victim Support Officer and acts as the head of the Transgender Protection Unit of Islamabad police at the Police Facilitation Centre, F-6.

Ms. Ali has been the subject of one previous communication, PAK 1/2021 sent to the Government of Pakistan on 12 January 2021. We regret that no reply has been received and requested that, in responding to the allegations contained in this letter, you’re the Government also address the allegations in the communication from 2021.

ALLEGATIONS

On 24 June 2022, at 1:30 am, Ms. Nayyab Ali received a phone call from a transgender woman who had been physically assaulted and robbed in the neighbourhood of Markaz, Islamabad. Ms. Ali travelled to the scene of the incident, called police officers and accompanied the woman to Ramna police station to formally report the incident.

While at the police station, one officer pointed gestured towards Ms. Ali and the woman she was accompanying and referred to them using discriminatory language. Ms. Ali introduced herself and asked the police officer not to use derogatory language. The officer reportedly became aggressive, pointed his gun at Ms. Ali, unlocked the bolt and using further discriminatory language, told her if she spoke another word she would be “shot like a dog”.

The other police officers at the police station did not immediately intervene but shortly thereafter took the officer aside. Shortly after leaving, the same officer came back, and continued swearing at Ms. Ali. The two transgender women were not allowed to leave the police station despite multiple requests to do so.

When the local transgender community found out that the women were being held there, they began protesting outside the police station. When the Station House Officer arrived, he reportedly further threatened Ms. Ali. She was not allowed to leave the police station until 6 a.m., over four hours after arriving there.

On 25 June 2022, Ms. Ali was called in for a meeting with the Deputy Inspector General of Police, who reportedly pressured her to not register the case and instead allow for an internal institutional investigation, which she refused. During the meeting, the Deputy Inspector General also reportedly denied her request for security protection, despite this being promised the day previous at the police station by the Assistant Superintendent of Police.

On 25 June 2022, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against a constable at Ramna police station under section 506(ii) of the Pakistan Penal Code for “criminal intimidation” and the constable has been detained. There have reportedly been no proceedings against the other officers present at the Ramna police station. A date for the trial has yet to be announced.

On 1 July 2022, the National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan submitted a request for action and protection on behalf of Ms. Nayyab Ali to the Inspector General of Police in Islamabad. The Inspector General had until 18 July 2022 to respond with a comprehensive report.

According to the information received, online threats against Ms. Ali and other members of the transgender community have increased since the incident occurred. While in the wake of the attack there has been some public support voiced by people close to the Government for the rights of the transgender community in Pakistan, one Government appointed individual posted a screenshot of the FIR lodged by Ms. Ali to Twitter. The screenshot contained Ms. Ali’s phone number, address and ID card number, and has been re-shared by the Islamabad police Twitter account. This has reportedly led to more direct and severe transphobic threats against Ms. Ali, from members of society and reportedly from unidentified members of the police force.

CONCERNS

In the communicaiton we expressed our deep concern regarding the situation of risk in which Ms. Nayyab Ali finds herself. While we note efforts by the Government to take swift action to hold the perpetrator to account, we are concerned by the lack of protection afforded to Ms. Ali who continues to receive threats from unidentified individuals, including suspected members of the police force. We are also concerned that an unredacted copy of the FIR lodged by Ms. Ali was posted online, containing personal information including her mobile phone number and address. We fear that the publication of Ms. Ali’s personal information may be a breach of Ms. Ali’s right to privacy and may have now put her in a situation of even further risk.

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