In order to eliminate torture, introduction of legislation based on international standards can be a starting point. A policy of zero tolerance, through effective accountability, must also be adopted because without accountability torture cannot be eliminated.
In order to eliminate torture, introduction of legislation based on international standards can be a starting point. A policy of zero tolerance, through effective accountability, must also be adopted because without accountability torture cannot be eliminated. For effective accountability of the law enforcement personnel, they must be well-educated and trained to understand why it is important not to resort to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Therefore, the framework of any plan to reform the police with the object of eliminating torture has to be multi-dimensional. In fact, it has to start at school. Eliminate corporal punishment. Introduce students to the idea of a world free from torture.
For too long the police organisations have been left to themselves without any effective external accountability mechanism. The Police Order 2002 introduced a multi-tiered accountability mechanism but it was never implemented or it failed to effectively hold the police accountable. The current legislative framework for police organisations, too, has not been effectively implemented. The reasons are manifold. One, the existing framework doesn’t make recommendations of, for instance, the public safety commissions binding. Two, no efficient mechanism either in terms of time or substance, for external accountability has been devised.
For any reform to take place, a special institution for external accountability of the police cannot be dispensed with. It may, therefore, be recommended that an office of the Police Ombudsperson may be established in every province and region. The ombudsperson may be charged with the task of deciding complaints of excesses by the police and other law enforcement agencies. But accountability for excesses has to be across the board. We can leave the intelligence agencies out of the accountability framework for the reasons due to some of which accountability through the National Accountability Bureau has failed. Elimination of torture has to be part of the larger agenda for a more democratic Pakistan. Health of a democracy is determined by, among other things, how fairly and impartially the right to be dealt in accordance with law is enforced. Let the armed forces, civil armed forces and intelligence agencies be held accountable without exemption. A law to criminalise enforced disappearances is a must, for instance. A law to prescribe limits for the intelligence agencies, is just as important. Remember the recommendations made by the Saleem Shehzad Commission and the commission on enforced disappearances circa 2011?
For the police to become more humane as well as for all other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, education and training in human rights and law is essential. This requires reallocation and investment of resources by diverting them from other areas. It also requires a reorientation of the state from being security-driven to democracy-driven. Are we prepared to change our priorities? Are we prepared to push for democracy? If not, then, accountability for torture too, will have to wait.