Islamabad: On concluding a national consultation held in collaboration with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that a comprehensive legislative framework to eradicate torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment is long overdue.
Having ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), the Pakistani state must not only define and criminalise torture, but also set up independent oversight mechanisms to curb impunity. This requires effective coordination and consultation with the police and prison systems, including better training and resources.
HRCP Secretary-General Mr Harris Khalique pointed out that torture remains endemic in an increasingly brutalised society. Honorary Spokesperson Mr I A Rehman said that when decision making passes from Parliament to the executive, people become excluded from the very processes that are intended to protect their rights. For its part, civil society must actively support those parliamentarians who are lobbying for effective anti-torture legislation.
Senator Sherry Rehman explained that the Torture and Custodial Death Bill 2019 seeks to protect citizens from all acts of torture, custodial death and custodial sexual violence. Former senator Farhatullah Babar added that the state’s security agencies need to agree to become part of the dialogue on anti-torture legislation, and that this should include civilian oversight of internment centres. Reema Omer of the International Commission of Jurists pointed out that the government must also consider whether it can justify legislation such as the KP Actions in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance 2019, which perpetuates the scope for torture on one hand, with attempts to meet Pakistan’s legal obligations under UNCAT on the other.
Concluding the session, moderator Asad Jamal said that HRCP would set up a working group to monitor the passage and implementation of anti-torture legislation vis-à-vis Pakistan’s international obligations under UNCAT.