Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2014 ::
HRCP, in collaboration with World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), presented a set of recommendations to the government, parliamentarians, civil society and media at a two-day consultation on Convention against Torture and Pakistan on Tuesday to criminalise custodial torture in Pakistan.
Although torture is prohibited in the Constitution of Pakistan under Article 14 (2), police and other law enforcement agencies are still running detention and torture cells. The Pakistan Penal Code until now has not defined torture in line with the definition of the United Nations Convention against Torture. Sexual violence is reported by up to 70 per cent of women in police custody, it was revealed at the consultation.
Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights Director Shafiq Chaudhry said there was no sponsorship of the present government to criminalise torture. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Chaudhry said three to four laws were drafted last year at the private level. Though they were not up to the mark they were good enough to flag the issue, he said, adding that now was the time to draft a law with a spirit of change for which the government needs to show openness and commitment.
“Until there is the will, there will be no law and even if it is there then the implementation will be very low,” said Chaudhry.
He stated that the number of victims that are tortured are in thousands while findings reveal that several district courts across the country have not reported a single case, which is hard to believe.
He further said that the Protection of Pakistan (Amendment) Ordinance 2014 had serious objections and is against the spirit of the Constitution and undermines fundamental rights.
“Government takes a stance that there are laws to protect people against violence, but violence used by state officials is not covered by any law,” Chaudhry said adding that “This crime should be treated for the entire community and not just for a few people,” he added.
HRCP’s recommendations for the government state, among other things, that the government must discuss the draft bill against torture in a wider public debate. It must also put in operation the already established National Human Rights Institution and provide training and access to modern and scientific methods of investigation to law enforcement agencies and judiciary and shift away from inhumane methods of investigation and confessions. There needs to be more rehabilitation centres for torture victims and access to rehabilitation on the basis of physical needs of prisoners, states the recommendation.
They also suggest that a system of accountability for police personnel involved in torture must be introduced and the government must ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
The recommendations also stated that all reservations made to the anti-torture convention by the government must be withdrawn and an independent body that investigates and prosecutes police officers accused of torture and other forms of ill-treatment should be set up. A road map must also be developed in order to improve the situation of the internally displaced persons.