PAKISTAN: Civil Society urges Govt. enact law to end Torture 

International Day in support of Torture victims

Rights-based organizations, HR defenders vow to synergies efforts to combat Torture

LAHORE:(26th June 2013):“The large scale instances of torture in custody is a common practice in Pakistan and there is no law in the country to stop this menace. The Parliament of Pakistan should enact law for criminalization of torture. Govt. of Pakistan must respect all international treaties and ratify the optional protocol on Torture. Despite prohibition of torture in the Constitution of Pakistan under the article 14 (2), police and other law enforcement agencies are running detention and torture cells. These centers must be immediately closed and the perpetrators of Torture must brought to justice”.

These demands were made by speakers at a civil society seminar on 26th June 2013″Ending Torture: Protecting Human Rights“, jointly organized by Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) and Anti Torture Alliance (ATA) Pakistan, in connection with international day in Support to Torture Victims, here on Wednesday at HRCP Hall.Among main speakers were I.A. Rehman, Mohammad Tahseen, Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Sajida Mir, Bushra Khaliq and Zakia Arshad. A large number of representatives of civil society, Human Rights activists, media and political parties attended the seminar.

Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I. A. Rehman said investigation through torture is common practice of police in Pakistan. The menace of Torture is a colonial legacy, which is continued in Pakistan since decades. Torture is generally used to extort confessional statements from detainees. It has become societal attitude. Most of jail inmates in Pakistan are under trial prisoners, which is tantamount to torture as well. Similarly handcuffing of under custody is illegal but the police is still practicing it. The state agents justify torture “in good faith” for national security.

Talking about Article 2 of UNCAT, he urged state to incorporate admin, judicial and legal reforms in their respective legal systems. Even during war torture cannot be justify, he clarified. Under the UNCAT “No state shall hand over to another state any person, who might be tortured”.

He urged the state develop mechanism to ensure protection and safety of Human rights defenders. It is imperative for the civil society as well to initiate solid steps to protect victims of torture by forging unity to stand up against the menace by involving rights-based group, HR activists and individuals.

Focal Person Anti-Torture Alliance (ATA) Pakistan, Bushra Khaliq said there are 1300 police stations in Pakistan and it can assumed that at least 1300 persons are tortured every day. Two important conventions were ratified in 2010, which prohibits torture. She clarifies that Section 332-337 of PPC deals with Hurt, and not Torture.

She said at present there is no law to criminalize custodial torture in Pakistan, this reason giving rise to incidents of unabated torture in police custody. Thousands of cases of severe torture in police custody are reported every year. Sexual violence is reported by up to 70 per cent of women in police custody, along with the violation of their basic human rights. Making torture a criminal offence can stop this menace .She said there are no adequate and proper independent investigation procedures in Pakistan to investigate through modern and scientific methods including the forensic method in the criminal justice system. She urged upon the authorities to modernize the criminal justice system with development of proper complaint centers and the Judicial Commission must immediately start the reforms; particularly in lower judiciary and also make reforms in prosecution system.

Director South Asia Partnership (SAP-PK), Mohammad Tehseen, presenting civil society charter of demands said besides enactment of law its implementation mechanism more important. The government must perform its constitutional responsibility and check the menace of custodial torture. He said Pakistan has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in June 2010, but it has yet to take steps for the implementation of this convention.

Making torture a punishable crime only can stop this. He demanded legislation for an absolute ban on torture by police, law enforcement agencies, state or non-state actors for a peaceful society. He said the provincial governments must improve the condition of human rights standards at police stations, lock ups and jails.  At least female SHOs can be appointed in the model police stations in different parts of the province. He shared the incident of murder of young child by a feudal lady in Jatoi village.

Renowned Journalist Khawar Naeem Hashmi, himself a torture victim, said in his testimony, Pakistan is not a free country, 18 crore population is facing state torture daily. Talking about his struggle for press freedom and his ordeal in police custody during Gen. Zia-ul-Haq martial law, he said he was detained in Lahore Fort, where had to face worst form of inhuman torture. Hundreds of political activists were subjected to torture during martial law period, however, the stories of these torture victims are not documented, he lamented.  It is important to highlight the struggle and stories of these brave victims

Political Activist and torture victim Sajida Mir, said in her testimony that in martial law regimes political workers and innocent people are arrested and subjected to state-sponsored torture. They did not spare even women, who dared to resist the regime. Police exploit political workers and women, which is another form of torture. Thana culture never changed and police stations had become hubs of torture and bribery, she added. He demanded of the government to end torture culture in police station and there should be sensible police officers appointed in police stations

Zakia Arshad from SAP-PK said lack of public awareness on the human rights has also aggravated the issue of rising torture and ill treatment. Therefore there is a strong need for the sensitization of the lawmakers, judiciary and law enforcement bodies on the subject of torture. It is also observed that legislators are the least interested in making a law against torture, she added.

Testimonies from the floor threw detail light on the incidents of torture and its implications on the societal attitudes.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-122-2013
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights, Extrajudicial killings, Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Non-state actors, Rule of law, Torture,