In the absence of any legal structure against torture, custodial abuse is rampant in Pakistan. To end this trend, there is a need to form torture-specific legislations and mechanisms for the rehabilitation of the torture victims.
This was discussed at a seminar on “Impacts of Torture on Human Life” held to mark the International Day in Support for Torture Victims at a local hotel here on Tuesday.
Speakers highlighted that even though the government ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) under international pressure two years back, it still needs to devise torture-prevention mechanisms to ensure peaceful investigations. They underlined that the government has yet to take palpable steps towards securing the detainees from custodial abuse, as its own institutions were involved in human rights violations.
Furthermore, they observed that since the law-enforcement agencies enjoy impunity and are not accountable to anybody, the detainees are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment during custody in the name of investigation.
The existing criminal laws are silent on the issue of torture, adding that the victims undergo severe physical and mental torture. Resultantly, the victims become psychiatric patients, giving way to domestic violence, crime and contributing towards poverty in the society. Torture victims, they added, have the right to be respected like any person. Additionally, they should be provided facilities of psycho-physical and social rehabilitation under the provisions of UNCAT and other international laws.
MNA Sardar Muhammad Mushtaq said that a good majority of torture victims belongs to poor background, whereas those of influential backing often go unpunished. He assured of extending support to Human Development Organisation (HDO) and lobbying for it at the parliamentary level for bringing legislation against torture.
District Public Safety Commission Chairman Advocate Malik Khaliqdad said that police torture remains unchecked because people avoid lodging complaints. He urged the participants to come up with their complaints to the District Public Safety Commission against custodial abuse.
Rural Development Project Executive Director Ahsan Khan said that torture was not the solution to ending crime from the society but perpetuates it.
Deputy Superintendent Police Headquarters Tariq Khan said that torture was an unjustifiable and unacceptable act in the civilised world. He added that efforts were afoot to utilise scientific methods for investigation of such crimes.
District Bar Association Haripur General Secretary Khalid Sultan Khan said that although there was no torture-specific legislation in the country, but section 22-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPP) provides support to a torture victim against his perpetrator.
Earlier, a theatre group presented a skit on how poverty becomes the cause and effect of torture, stressing the importance of rehabilitation for torture survivors and their families. Moreover, the participants through a joint declaration demanded setting up district-based forensic laboratories and human rights committees monitoring detention centres. They urged doctors to document torture cases and called for ratification of Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.