Thu, 22 Nov 2012 02:12:05 GMT

US body pleased by dropping of blasphemy case against Pak girl



From Lalit K Jha
Washington, Nov 21 (PTI) A US body on religious freedom has applauded the dropping of false blasphemy charges against a Christian girl in Pakistan and appealed to the country to reform its blasphemy law.

Applauding the decision of a Pakistani court that dismissed the charges against 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the Pakistan Government to build on this positive outcome and address the culture of impunity and intolerance plaguing the country.

A court in Pakistan threw out the case yesterday saying there were no witnesses to the incident and observing that people must be very careful while levelling such accusations against anyone.

"We are encouraged by the court''s actions that highlight the importance of the rule of law and sends an encouraging signal that this law should not be abused," said Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF''s Chair.

"Now it is important to ensure the safety of Rimsha and her family since mobs often take the law into their own hands when blasphemy allegations are made," she said.

Lantos Swett said despite the positive outcome of this case, Rimsha''s experience signals the need for Pakistan to reform or repeal its harsh blasphemy law that carries the death penalty, requires neither proof of intent nor evidence to be presented after allegations are made, and includes no penalties for false allegations.

At least 16 people currently are on death row for blasphemy, an estimated 20 others are serving life sentences, and many more are awaiting trial or have appealed their sentences, said the USCIRF official said.

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