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June 26, 2015

Torture in custody a crime against humanity: speakers

 
June 26, 2015

LAHORE
Custodial torture is a crime against humanity, which legitimises violence and promotes impunity. It is a mother of violations of human rights. The widespread use of torture by law enforcement agencies is a clear demonstration of primitive criminal justice system.
Torture is not only disturbingly common in Pakistan but it is tolerated as a norm in our society. It has become a common tool to extract confessional statement and bribe from the detainee. The victims are threatened into silence and even if someone does want to report, there is no legal mechanism to help the victim. So without effective legislation against torture, a proper forensic system and zero tolerance, the torture-free investigation is a wishful thinking. These views were expressed by speakers at a press conference jointly organised by Anti-Torture Alliance (ATA) Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in connection with International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Thursday. Human rights defenders and activists, including Asma Jehangir, Bushra Khaliq, Tanveer Jehan, Waqar Mustafa, Nadeem Anthony Advocate and Samson Salamat, spoke on the occasion.
Speakers said Pakistan ratified the United Nation’s Convention against Torture (UNCAT) on June 23, 2010 but to date no law was enacted to criminalise the illegal practice of torture. Although Senate of Pakistan passed a toothless bill against torture in January 2015, however, it needs amendments in line with the UNCAT. The National Assembly must take up the bill in the light of civil society demands. Speakers were of the view that in the wake of the recently acquired GSP Plus status for Pakistan, the level of State obligation for effective compliance of the UNCAT had further increased.
It has become all the more important for the government to take practical steps towards elimination of custodial torture. On this occasion, a resolution was also presented and passed. The resolution called for the parliament of Pakistan to enact law for criminalisation of torture in line with the UNCAT and ensure that it would be vigorously enforced, the government would end impunity for law enforcers picking up people on suspicion or in the name of national security, establish rehabilitation centres for torture victims, pay compensation to them, close private detention and torture cells, shut down police and other law enforcement agencies torture cells despite prohibition of torture in the Constitution of Pakistan under the Article 14 (2), respect international treaties, the UN Convention against Torture, which it had ratified in June 2010 and ratify the optional protocol, take immediate steps to stop abductions and disappearances, bring perpetrators to justice, ensure security of HR defenders, journalists, political activists, writers, students by developing a mechanism for their protection and safety, modernise the criminal justice system by developing proper complaint centres, judicial commission to start reforms in the lower judiciary and prosecution system, legislate to change the colonial-era policing system into a civilian policing system by parliament, check the menace of custodial torture in their provinces by government.