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UN's Ban Condemns Flogging Of Girl In Pakistan

An image taken from the Pakistani flogging video
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has branded as "unacceptable" the flogging of a teenage girl by Taliban militants in Pakistan and said human rights must be upheld whatever local practices dictated.

Speaking to reporters, Ban also called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to abolish a law for his country's Shi'ite Muslim minority that critics say violates women's rights.

Footage emerged in Pakistan last week of a 17-year-old girl being beaten in the remote Swat valley, where the provincial government agreed in February to let Islamists impose sharia, Islamic religious law, in exchange for peace. The girl was said to have had an affair.

In his first comment on the case, Ban said he had not seen the video but had read reports.

"This is just unacceptable," he said. "While I appreciate all these different systems and traditions in many different countries, the respecting and upholding [of] basic human rights, this is most important."

Ban praised the action of Pakistan's newly reinstated chief justice, who has ordered an investigation of the flogging. He said Iftikhar Chaudhry had "taken the right decision."

Turning to Afghanistan, the UN chief took issue with the law for the Shi'ite community, which has provoked an outcry in the West. Critics say it legalizes marital rape by stipulating that "a wife is obliged to fulfill the sexual desires of her husband" provided she is healthy.

"I would urge...that the president of Afghanistan should abolish these laws, which severely infringe the basic human rights of women," Ban said.

Afghanistan's Justice Ministry said on April 6 the law was on hold and under review. Shi'ite Muslims account for some 15 percent of the population of mainly Sunni Afghanistan.