PAKISTAN: Police officers exonerated in the case of death by custodial torture on the plea that there were no witnesses 

The police allegedly demanded Rs. 500,000/= for the release of a young man but as the amount was not paid on time he was tortured severely which resulted in his death.

A young man of 18 years died in police custody after being tortured in a private torture cell run by the police. However the case has been pending for two years before the High Court and the judge is reluctant to hear the petition filed by the mother of the victim, Dilshad Begum. The high police officials of Lahore, Punjab, have exonerated the perpetrators in their inquiry reports as no one saw the police officers committing the torture. The postmortem report confirms that the victim died as a result of severe torture which included the use of an electric drill.

The negligence on the part of the higher judiciary, the police and the Punjab provincial government is that no questions were asked as to why the young man was illegally detained for 13 days in police custody, why the police officers are running a private torture cell in a shoe factory and why, when his body was recovered from the police station were the officials of the concerned police station not charged with murder?

The bail applications of the perpetrators were rejected by the Sessions Court and High Court but still the perpetrators, the police officers, have not been arrested. The single bench of the Lahore High Court is avoiding issuing instructions to the government for the arrest of the perpetrators on the petition of victim’s mother.

Please find here the copies of FIR, medical report of cause of his death and inquiry report of the Superintendent of Police (SP) exonerating the perpetrators of torture.

The details of the case of 18-year-old Mr. Tahir Naveed alias Sunny is that he was court arrested before the officers of the Lower Mall Police Station, Lahore, capital of Punjab province, and tortured to death within 13 days of his illegal arrest. Sunny’s father Mr. Naveed Iqbal, is also an on-duty constable at the Investigation Wing of the Johar Town Police Station, Lahore, but he could not save his son as high officials did not allow him to meet his son during his detention. The exonerated police officers are threatening the mother to withdraw her petition from the Lahore High Court otherwise she should be ready for another such case in her family.

According to Dilshad Begum, her son was arrested on April 18, at the Lower Mall Police station. His father, Constable Naveed, was asked by Superintendent of Police (SP) City Mr. Shahzad SP to produce him for the investigation into the case of the murder of two policemen who were shot dead by unidentified men in March 2011 in the jurisdiction of the Lower Mall Police Station. The victim’s wedding ceremony took place on the day the murders occurred and he went to Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. He returned immediately and presented himself before the police station.

After his court arrest, instead of putting him in the police lock up, Sunny was taken to a private torture cell in the basement of a shoe factory located in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore. In the private torture cell he was subjected to brutal torture which included the use of electric drills in order to get a confessional statement about his alleged involvement in the killing of two police constables. He was charged to have snatched a rifle from the murdered policemen and when interrogated told to return the rifle. The first inquiry report stated that no such rifle was recovered from him and that part of the charge was false.

The police party including Inspector Maqsood Gujjar, the Station House Officer (SHO) Misri Shah police station, Sub-Inspector, Naveed Azam, SHO, Lower Mall police station, Sub-Inspector Aleem Khan and Nasir Sub-Inspectors, Lower Mall Police station, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Akbar and three other constables kept on torturing Sunny for 13 days. During those days the family was not allowed to see him. The police party demanded a bribe of Rs. 500,000/= from the parents for releasing him. However, as they could not afford the amount the torture continued and Sunny succumbed to the inhuman treatment and died on April 30 in police custody. Two days before his death police officials brought him to the police station in order to deal for the amount demanded for his release.

His body was handed over to the family from the police station. The post mortem report of the Health Department of the Government of Punjab, which was conducted at Mian Munshi Hospital, Lahore showed torture as the major cause of Sunny’s death.  The report shows 26 marks of severe torture on his body including the front and back of the neck, arms, hands, feet, legs, thighs, lips and nose. The marks of a sharp blade and an electric drill were also found on both hands, feet and other body parts.

Dilshad Begum launched a complaint against the killing of her son in police custody. On May 1, 2011, the New Anarkali Police, Lahore registered a murder case under section 302 against nine people including Misri Shah Station House Officer (SHO), Inspector Maqsood Gujjar, Lower Mall SHO, Sub-Inspector Naveed Azam and seven subordinates. They were suspended from service and an inquiry was initiated on the orders of the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Investigation.

According to the inquiry conducted by a senior police official, Sunny was detained without arrest at a private place. He was beaten so badly over the course of 13 days in detention that he suffered severe internal injuries and consequently died of kidney failure, the inquiry report stated. His body was later dumped in the basement of a shoe factory.

The high police officials and the people in the Punjab government rejected the first inquiry report and instituted two different inquiries which were conducted by senior police officers. The second report favoured the culprits and exempted them from murder charges. The pleas taken in the inquiry reports is that, though the person was tortured to death there is no evidence of who actually tortured him. As a result of these successive inquiries the charge of murder under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code in the FIR was replaced with section 119, (killing by mistake) without permission being obtained from the court as required by the law. Therefore all the perpetrators were restored to their positions.

Dilshad Begum filed a writ petition with Justice Khalid Masood of the Lahore High Court seeking the reincorporation of Section 302 and the arrest of the culprits. However, for the last one and half years the case has been heard in the higher court. On every date of the hearing Dilshad Begum was disappointed as the judge gave further dates for the hearing as her case did not come till the court proceedings. The attitude of the Lahore high court is providing a justification for the police to conduct torture and get impunity through the delay in the court cases.

The family members are continuously receiving threats from the police to withdraw the petition from the court against them or face the similar consequences again.

The family is now facing a new problem with the formation of the same government after the general elections and it is feared that the government will again protect the same police officials who are close to the ministers.

The case of the torture to death of a young man, Sunny, in police custody is a clear demonstration that torture is no longer a crime for the courts, government and, of course, for police as it is a normal practice. Though Pakistan has ratified the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) in 2010 it is reluctant to make torture a criminal offence in the Pakistan Penal Code.

The law of the land and prevailing justice systems are too weak to support the torture victims. When these victims or their families seek justice, they are entangled in the legal machinery in such a way that causes constant delays in the deliverance of justice. In the majority of the cases lacunas in the law favour the perpetrators, leaving victims at the mercy of the so-called purveyors of justice and law enforcers.

The running of private torture cells in Pakistan by the police is a common practice. Private locations are used so as to ensure that there is nothing to connect the various police stations from which the officers are attached. The government and the high officials of the police must conduct inquiries into the existence of these torture cells and ensure that they are closed forthwith.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the governments of Pakistan and Punjab province to arrest and prosecute all the police officials for killing a young man in custody through severe torture as mentioned in article 12 of UNCAT. In this particular case the officers were exonerated by the courts as there were no witnesses to the torture. However, the fact remains that the victim was in the custody of the police at the time of his death and they have offered no explanation as to how he died. The high police officials that exonerated the perpetrators must also be prosecuted. The government must also pay compensation to the victim’s family as it is described in the UNCAT. A thorough and impartial inquiry must be conducted in the case.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-107-2013
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system, Right to health, Rule of law, Torture,