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Home » Lahore

HRCP calls on government to criminalize torture

June 25, 2020

LAHORE:Rafiullah alias Amir, who was beaten and paraded naked in Peshawar two days ago, is not the first victim of police brutality. Unfortunately, this is yet another glimpse of the policing culture in Pakistan that manifests itself in the form of unlawful detention, torture, and custodial death and rape, compounded by the lack of accountability.

Amir, a resident of Tehkal, was arrested and assaulted after a video of him mocking police officials went viral on social media. In a similar incident earlier this month, a 14-year-old boy was picked by the police in Dera Ismail Khan and detained overnight for posting a cartoon he drew of a check post.

From mentally ill Salahuddin Ayubi to gardener Amir Masih, from one custodial death to the other, from one illegal detention to another, we have witnessed the same cycle: unlawful use of force followed by ad hoc administrative actions to assuage public outcry, only to let it be forgotten.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has recorded 20 cases of custodial torture in the last year – these are only those cases that reach public attention through the media. Numerous other cases still go unreported. Let us pledge on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2020, commemorated every year on June 26, to end this culture of impunity and finally enact comprehensive legislation to outlaw this inhumane practice.

Pakistan has made multiple attempts in the past to legislate against torture. The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2020, tabled in February this year, is pending before a Senate committee and is an opportunity to finally pass a comprehensive law that addresses all aspects of custodial torture, including gender-based violence used exclusively against female victims.

Civil society must continue to reflect critically on all such legislation, and the government must ensure that these voices are heard. Parliament must uphold its duty as enshrined in Article 14 (2) of the Constitution to protect the right of the very citizens who elected it.

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