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Independent regulatory body stressed to probe torture cases

By Our Correspondent
February 28, 2022

LAHORE:Continuing its national anti-torture campaign titled ‘#CriminalizeTorture’, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) Sunday held a panel discussion at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in collaboration with student societies - Historical Society, Law and Politics Society and Hum Aahang. The panel titled ‘Criminalizing Torture: How Torture Corrupts the Justice System’ aimed to raise awareness on the issue of criminal cases, torture in police custody, wrongful convictions and the importance of anti-torture legislation. The panellists included Advocate Ramla Altaf Baig as moderator, politician and former senator Farhatullah Babar, Executive Director of the Parliamentarians Committee on Human Rights (PCHR) Muhammad Shafique, current National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) member from Punjab Nadeem Ashraf and trans-rights activist Neeli Rana as panellists.

“Torture is rampant in Pakistan,” said Senator Farhatullah Babar. "Concrete measures must be taken to establish an independent regulatory body to investigate incidences of torture," he added. “The criminal justice system is badly tarnished by confessions that are made under duress and torture," said Nadeem Ashraf, former federal secretary and current NCHR member from Punjab.

“It is immensely important that the government has come to the point where they have tabled their own bill on criminalising on torture,” said Muhammad Shafique, former commissioner of the NCHR and current Executive Director of PCHR.

Neeli Rana, trans-rights activist, speaking about her experience with the police said “Every day, the movements of the trans community are restricted by the fear of police torture.” Torture corrupts the entire criminal justice system and puts innocent people in prison and on death row. Torture is endemic in Pakistan. This in turn is fueled by socio-cultural acceptance of violence, procedural and legal loopholes and lack of independent oversight of the police. Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010. Despite frequent promises, the government has yet to enact legislation criminalising torture.

“We are currently in unprecedented times as the government has tabled a bill in the National Assembly which has been cleared in the Standing Committee on Interior. The time to act is now, and we must urge our lawmakers to stand up for their citizens, do the needful and finally criminalize torture,” added Sarah Belal, Executive Director of JPP.