Torture – a word missing in Pakistan’s penal code

Work on report on Convention Against Torture pending; speakers express concern over rise in torture cases.

Sehrish Wasif July 19, 2011


Just five days before the submission date, the government has yet to begin work on its report on the Convention Against Torture (CAT). After ratifying the United Nations convention on June 23, 2010, the government was required to submit a report under the “UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” on July 23.

This was highlighted in a joint press briefing by Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) Executive Director Chaudhry Shafiq, former Minister of State for Interior Dr Shahzad Waseem and Oxfam Program Coordinator Uzma Zarin, held at a hotel here on Monday. The briefing was part of a day-long consultation on “Combating Torture through Reporting on Convention against Torture” organised by PCHR, Oxfam International and UN Women.

The speakers expressed concern over the increase in torture cases in the country and the government’s failure to form laws to combat and prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens.

Besides introduction of some sections in the Police Order 2002 and a few amendments in criminal laws, no serious efforts have been made to give effect to CAT.

They said that a year since the ratification of the UN convention, the government has not taken “any visible efforts on CAT on any level”, while noting that mere ratification of the UN convention will not be sufficient, as torturing is a practice deeply entrenched in the law enforcement system.

Shafiq, the PCHIR’s executive director said, “There is not even a single mention of torture in the entire Pakistan Panel Code (PPC); the word used is ‘hurt’. So when there is no law or section about torture in the PCC, how can it be removed from the behaviour and attitude of Pakistani Police?”

He said there is no mechanism to monitor or implement any strategy to combat torture in the country. He termed the new trend of conducting judicial inquires by setting up commissions, “Useless, as to date no results of any incident have come out”.

Dr Waseem, the former minister for interior, said that torture at the hand of the state is common in the country; this includes police custody torture, torture by intelligence agencies of which there is no information on record and target killing backed by state organs. “The paralysis of the criminal justice system is the root cause behind the increase in state torture,” he added.

The former minister said that due to a lack of awareness, people consider police investigation as a form of “punishment”, and their diminishing faith in the justice system has lead to consider police stations a place to get justice. It is the prime responsibility of the government to come up with strategies to combat the use of torture in the country, he added.

Oxfam Program Coordinator Zarin informed that over 10,421 cases of torture in police custody have been reported in Pakistan during the last 10 years. According to Madadgar, a UNICEF initiative, 695 cases of torture against women in police custody were reported during the first six months of 2009. Sexual violence is reported by up to 70 per cent of women in police custody, along with the violation of their basic human rights.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.


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