For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called today for a credible and independent investigation by the UN into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and opposition leader killed last month, including disturbing allegations of intimidation and harassment of doctors involved in the case. PHR urged Pakistan to invite the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions to investigate these reports and monitor the government's investigation of Bhutto's killing. Additionally, PHR called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to ensure that the overall investigation into Bhutto's death is independently monitored and reviewed. If the Special Rapporteur is not invited by Pakistan to observe the inquiry, the UNSC must take other, appropriate action to ensure that an independent investigation is made of the murder, that all forensic data is handled and preserved properly, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
"There must be a credible and independent UN investigation of the Bhutto case, including whether health professionals involved have been intimidated or coerced by the Pakistani government," stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "Protecting the medical independence and neutrality of all health professionals is essential for determining the facts of what happened to the former Prime Minister."
Press reports have said that doctors who tried to treat Bhutto and examined her body soon after her death had been under intense pressure to keep their findings quiet. Some of the doctors have reportedly gone into hiding. The Special Rapporteur should determine whether health professionals were coerced or intimidated, medical records were changed or destroyed, and whether any other evidence or witnesses have been tampered with. The Special Rapporteur should also be allowed to freely monitor the overall investigation into Bhutto's death by the Pakistani Government and he should make his findings public.
"The UN Security Council must ensure that the overall investigation into Bhutto's assassination is independently monitored and that all evidence is reviewed and made public by outside investigators," stated Donaghue. "Given the far-reaching implications of Bhutto's death for Pakistan and for the region, the UN must act to make sure that there is no interference, nor perception of interference, in the ongoing inquiry."
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.