MANSEHRA: There is a need to put an end to the culture of impunity for police with which detainees are subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading punishments.
This was the crux of a discussion titled “Role of judiciary and legal practitioners in prevention of torture” organised by the Human Development Organisation, a human rights organisation that works for rehabilitation of torture victims in Hazara.
Senior lawyers from Mansehra District Bar, law officers, human rights defenders, media persons and representatives of academia attended the session. They underscored the need for behavioural changes of law- enforcement agencies supported with necessary legislation.
The speakers observed that “no law or rule on earth” permits subjecting detainees to cruel punishment, but law-enforcement agencies commonly use such methods to extract confession from suspects. They noted that the citizens from poor backgrounds are the most vulnerable to custodial abuse.
“There are scores of cases wherein the police declared an innocent person a hard criminal using the tool of torture,” said Advocate Sardar Salman Farsi, terming all such practices against the constitution of Pakistan, whose article 14(2) prohibits use of torture to extract confession.
Advocate Mushtaq Khan said that detainees who are unable to bribe investigation officers are subjected to the worst kind of physical, mental and sexual torture. He cited the example of Sonia Bibi’s case, wherein nine police personnel raped her during detention in Mansehra.
He said that although physical remand of a detainee is legal under section 167 of the PPC, but it is misused for making detainees confess under coercion. He stressed that this practice can only be prevented through amendment in the code of criminal procedure.
Advocate Shahnawaz Iqbal said doctors who play a key role in documentation of torture after judiciary mostly show complicity with the police and do not even properly examine a detainee.
Advocate Shahnawaz Asim was of the view that owing to lack of modern resources of forensic labs and other facilities that help investigators collect evidences, police are only left with the tool of torture. He stressed on the need of modernising criminal investigations before making amendments in the law of remand.
PPP MPA Sajida Tabbasum said that police work in an atmosphere of complete impunity, adding that due to torture-supported investigation conviction rates are very low. She said that as the police are more concerned about disposing of cases within the shortest time using third degree torture, the accused are often acquitted from courts.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.