UN body to review Pakistan's compliance with convention against torture

Failure to comply will lead to Pakistan losing preferential trade status


News Desk April 17, 2017
PHOTO: FILE

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) will review the Pakistan government's compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment on April 18 and April 19, according to rights group Justice Project Pakistan.

This will be the first time that Pakistan is being reviewed by the CAT ever since the country signed and ratified the Convention in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

Pakistan ratified the CAT to qualify for its GSP+ scheme, a preferential trade status that has seen the country's exports rise by 22 per cent and 5.5billion Euros in 2014, making it one of the largest countries to reap benefits from the status granted in the very same year.

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In fact, Pakistani exports under the scheme increased to 6.2 billion Euros from January to December of 2016.

While the country's failure to comply with these requirements can put these economic advantages at risk.

In its Initial State Report, submitted five years after it was due, Pakistan has argued that its pre-existing legal framework is in line with the provisions of the Convention.

It underscores that torture is prohibited and prevented in Pakistan, with allegations of abuse effectively investigated and prosecuted.

However, to support these claims, the report only reiterates sections in the law that bear little connection to torture and fails to address any reported cases of torture.

The bold claims of the State Report only obfuscate the fact that nothing has been done to combat the endemic of torture in Pakistan.

To pretend that torture in custody is not an accepted method of criminal investigation in Pakistan is a dangerous folly, with numerous well-documented cases in the public domain that disprove the assertions of the report.

Justice Project Pakistan and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Clinic documented the pervasive culture of police brutality in a 2014 report Policing as Torture.

Researchers examined 1,867 medical-legal certificates of independent physical examinations of criminal defendants from Faisalabad.

The figures were striking; physicians found conclusive evidence of severe torture and abuse in 1,424 of the 1,867 cases.

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Police were documented as having “beaten victims, suspended, stretched and crushed them, forced them to witness other people's torture, put them in solitary confinement, subjected them to sleep and sensory deprivation, confined them to small spaces, exposed them to extreme temperatures, humiliated them by imposing culturally inappropriate or unpleasant circumstances, and sexually abused them.”

Moreover, in the seven years since the ratification of the convention, Pakistan has failed to pass a single piece of legislation that comprehensively addresses the issue of torture.

Several private member bills that have sought to criminalize torture have since lapsed.

As such, torture remains ill-defined in the Pakistani jurisprudence as the only mention of torture in the Constitution, in Article 14(2), does not define the scope of torture.

Both the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan do not mention torture by name, and the offences and punishments highlighted by the state in its report only concern the “hurt principle” which deals with the severest of bodily injuries resulting in permanent damage.

And so, the law in Pakistan does not consider any act of mental torture, cultural humiliation, or any act of physical torture that does not leave any lasting marks a punishable offence.

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