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PAKISTAN: Police torture a young man in front of his mother to elicit a bribe; he dies shortly after

March 25, 2010

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-034-2010



25 March 2010
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PAKISTAN: Police torture a young man in front of his mother to elicit a bribe; he dies shortly after

ISSUES: Torture; arbitrary detention and arrest; police negligence; impunity
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that police officials from two different police stations tortured a young man to gain bribe money. He was tortured with screwdrivers in front of his mother in the first police station, and was allowed to be removed from remand in jail by another police station for further acts of torture. Though he was admitted to hospital on the orders of a civil magistrate court, police interfered in his hospitalization. He succumbed to his injuries shortly after. His mother has filed a case against the police for murder but no signs of a credible investigation are yet evident.

CASE DETAILS:

According to information received by the Star Welfare Organisation, an NGO in Sargodha, and the victim’s family, on February 26, plain-clothed police officials of Satellite Town Police Station raided the house of Mr. Muddasar Iqbal, 24, for his arrest in the case of a motorcycle theft. He was not at home, so his elder brother was illegally arrested instead by the Sub-Inspector of Satellite Town Police Station, Mr. Azmat Joya and his staff: Head Constable Babar Cheema and Constable Amir Abdullah.

Later that day the mother Ms. Zarina Bibi, an uncle Mr. Sher Mohammad and his son Manzoor Illahi went to the police station to enquire about the arrest of her elder son. Inspector Azmat Joya told them that he was a hostage: if she was to bring her younger son, Muddasar Iqbal, to the station, then her elder son would be released. He did not reveal the specific charges. She was told to bring Muddasar to police chowki (kiosk), a sub-police station of Satellite Police Station, and when she did so later that day, Inspector Azmat Joya started to beat the young man, and ordered her to leave.

On February 27 Ms. Zarina Bibi went to the police chowki to find Muddasar fastened to a charpai, a wooden cart, being tortured with a heavy rolling device, on his legs and the soles of his feet. Constable Amir Abdullah reportedly charged her Rs. 50,000 for his release; when she replied that this would be impossible the officers allegedly started to stab the soles of the man's feet with screwdrivers, drawing blood. Ms. Zarina promised to pay the amount.

According to our information she had arranged Rs. 20,000 by the following day and promised police the remainder in a week. However the victim was tortured again. The police officially declared his arrest on March 1 and produced him before the civil magistrate for remand. The magistrate granted judicial custody till March 9 and he was sent to Sargodha District Prison; he was not asked about the possibility of torture, though he was unable to walk. He complained about problems with his urine.

In the meantime the Satellite Police Station continued to harass Zarina, and threatened that her older son could suffer the same fate if she did not produce more bribe money.

Instead we are told that associates of SI Joya arranged for Muddasar to be reclaimed into police custody and further tortured. Assistant Sub-Inspector Ijaz Hussain of Jhal Jhakian Police Station (in the same district, and known to be a close associate of SI Joya) filed an application before the court of Mr. Owais Ahmed, Civil Judge of Sargodha, claiming that Muddasar Iqbal was wanted in another motorcycle theft case under the jurisdiction of his police station. On March 18 the victim was sent into police remand by a civil judge for three days. On his return through the courts the victim was able to tell the judge that he had been severely tortured and was unable to eat properly or walk. The judge ordered him to be sent to civil hospital in Sargodha for two days of treatment.

On March 20 the judge ordered Muddasar to be admitted to Allied Hospital in Faisalabad district. However we are told that Sub-Inspector Azmat and Assistant Sub-Inspector Ijaz forged his papers and sent him back to the civil hospital in Sargodha. He died there at around 2am on March 22. The news has sparked civil protests in the district and media coverage, and a First Investigation Report (FIR) was filed on March 22 by Zarina Bibi.

Although high officials have announced that the officers responsible have been suspended and that an inquiry has been set in motion, we are told that no suspensions have been seen to have taken place, and there have been no signs of an inquiry. District Police Officer, Dr. Usman Anwar has claimed that police are working on the case. The AHRC is concerned that the investigation, should it take place, will be neither thorough nor impartial.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below urging them to conduct a proper inquiry, bringing all actors in this case to account, including the law enforcement officers and relevant members of the judiciary.

The AHRC has written to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture calling for his intervention into this case.

To support this appeal please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

RE: PAKISTAN: Police torture a young man in front of his mother to elicit a bribe; he dies shortly after

Name of victim:

Muddasar Iqbal son of Mansabdar Awan
House number 126, galli no 2,
Millatabad, Sargodha district,
Punjab province

Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Sub inspector Azmat Joya,
Satellite town police station,
Sargodha district, Punjab province

2. Head constable Baber Cheema,
Satellite town police station,
Sargodha district, Punjab province

3. Constable Amir Abdullah,
Satellite town police station,
Sargodha district, Punjab province

4. Assistant sub inspector Ijaz Hussain,
Jhal Jhakian police station,
Sargodha district, Punjab province

Date of incident: March 22, 2010
Place of incident: Sargodha civil hospital

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the death of a young man, Muddasar Iqbal, by police torture. He was taken in to custody by the Satellite town police station on February 26, 2010 and was severely tortured for a false case of motorcycle theft. His mother was asked to arrange Rs 50,000 for his release and for her inability to pay this full sum of money, her son was tortured to death in two police stations.

According to information I have received on February 26, plain-clothed police officials of Satellite Town Police Station raided the house of Mr. Muddasar Iqbal, 24, for his arrest in the case of a motorcycle theft. He was not at home, so his elder brother was illegally arrested instead by the Sub-Inspector of Satellite Town Police Station, Mr. Azmat Joya and his staff: Head Constable Babar Cheema and Constable Amir Abdullah.

Later that day Mr. Muddasar's relatives, including his mother Ms. Zarina Bibi, her brother Mr. Sher Mohammad and his son Manzoor Illahi, went to the police station to enquire about the arrest of her elder son. Inspector Azmat Joya told them that he was a hostage: if she was to bring her younger son, Muddasar Iqbal, to the station, then her elder son would be released. He did not reveal the specific charges. She was told to bring Muddasar to police chowki (kiosk), a sub-police station of Satellite Police Station, and when she did so later that day, Inspector Azmat Joya started to beat the young man, and ordered her to leave.

On February 27 Ms. Zarina Bibi went to the police chowki to find Muddasar fastened to a charpai, a wooden cart, being tortured with a heavy rolling device on his legs and the soles of his feet. Constable Amir Abdullah reportedly charged her Rs. 50,000 for his release; when she replied that this would be impossible the officers allegedly started to stab the soles of the man's feet with screwdrivers, drawing blood. Ms. Zarina promised to pay the amount.

According to our information she had arranged Rs. 20,000 by the following day and promised police the remainder in a week. However the victim was tortured again. The police officially declared his arrest on March 1 and produced him before the civil magistrate for remand. The magistrate granted judicial custody till March 9 and he was sent to Sargodha District Prison; he was not asked about the possibility of torture, though Muddasar was unable to walk. He complained about problems with his urine.

In the meantime the Satellite Police Station continued to harass Zarina, and threatened that her older son could suffer the same fate if she did not produce more bribe money.

Instead I am aghast to hear that associates of SI Joya were able to arrange for Muddasar to be reclaimed into police custody and further tortured. Assistant Sub-Inspector Ijaz Hussain of Jhal Jhakian Police Station (in the same district, known to be a close associate of SI Joya) filed an application before the court of Mr. Owais Ahmed, Civil Judge of Sargodha, claiming that Muddasar was wanted in another motorcycle theft case under the jurisdiction of his police station. On March 18 the victim was sent into police remand by a civil judge for three days. On his return through the courts the victim was able to tell the judge that he had been severely tortured and was unable to eat properly or walk. The judge ordered him to be sent to civil hospital in Sargodha for two days of treatment.

On March 20 the judge ordered Muddasar to be admitted to Allied Hospital in Faisalabad district. However I am told that Sub-Inspector Azmat and Assistant Sub-Inspector Ijaz forged his papers and sent him back to the civil hospital in Sargodha. He died there at around 2am on March 22. The news has sparked civil protests in the district and media coverage, and a First Investigation Report (FIR) was filed on March 22 by Zarina Bibi.

Although high officials have announced that the officers responsible have been suspended and that an inquiry has been set in motion, I understand that that no such suspensions have been seen to have taken place, and there have been no signs of an inquiry. District Police Officer, Dr. Usman Anwar has claimed that police are working on the case. I am concerned that the investigation, should it take place, will be neither thorough nor impartial.

I am shocked that the torture in custody is a commonplace practice in Pakistan and that the dignity of innocent civilians is routinely compromised in the name of monetary gain. The absence of laws in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which criminalize torture at the hands of state agents has ensured its endemic status. The government has signed the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) yet failed to implement these promises in legislation.

I urge you to intervene strongly to ensure that a transparent, credible inquiry is carried out into the death of Muddasar Iqbal. The responsible police officials must be held fully accountable for his murder, and compensation arranged for his family.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111 +92 51 920 6111 +92 51 920 6111 +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

2. Mr.Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani
Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
Old US Aid building
Ata Turk Avenue
G-5, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +9251-9204108
Email: sarfraz_yousuf@yahoo.com

3. Dr. Faqir Hussain
Registrar
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9213452
E-mail: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

4. Minister of Law
Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Ravi Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92-42-99212004
E-mail: law@punjab.gov.pk

5. Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 7324489
E-mail: chiefsecy@punjab.gov.pk

6. Mr. Salman Taseer
Governor of Punjab
Governor House
Mall Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 99203044
Email: governor.sectt@punjab.gov.pk
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Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)


Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-034-2010
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.