The European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (EPWG on FoRB) is concerned by the latest ruling in the case of Asia Bibi and has a requested a meeting with the Ambassador of Pakistan to the EU to speak about her case. The EPWG on FoRB has summoned the Ambassador because of concerns about the welfare of Asia Bibi and after hearing reports that local influential Muslims were pressuring the court to uphold the death sentence.
Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for allegedly made derogatory comments against Prophet Muhammad whilst arguing with a Muslim woman. In a court decision last month the Lahore High Court rejected Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence.
In our 2013 annual report the EPWG on FoRB made recommendations to the Pakistani government to “reform the way it deals with the blasphemy laws and its frequent abuse, with a view to a future repeal of the most dangerous sections including Article 295 (B) and 295 (C) of the Pakistani Penal Code.”
The EPWG on FoRB has also been undertaking advocacy work to pressure European Union (EU) leaders to raise the subject of blasphemy laws with the Pakistani government especially after the EU decided to grant Pakistan GSP+ trade status which is conditional on the Pakistani government protecting and promoting human rights.
In the October plenary session of the European Parliament, EPWG on FoRB Co-President Peter van Dalen requested a plenary debate in the European Parliament. The request received strong support from the Parliament’s political groups. Both Peter van Dalen and Dennis de Jong spoke in the debate and urged leaders to take action. Dennis de Jong spoke about the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan saying that “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws make it dangerous if not impossible for religious minorities in Pakistan to express their faith”. Peter van Dalen spoke about the role the EU should play and how the High Representative/Vice President “should now quickly pull out all the stops to prevent the implementation of the death sentence”. Many other Members of European Parliament expressed their outrage at this case and the continued abuse of innocent and vulnerable citizens through the Pakistani blasphemy laws.