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Human Rights body demands establishment of mechanisms to stop custodial torture, deaths in Pakistan

Representative Image (Photo: ANI)

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in a statement released on Wednesday, urged Pakistan to implement the anti-torture legislation.

According to the statement, the HRCP demanded that the Pakistani administration must develop mechanisms, which help report and address the instances of custodial torture, ensuring that ample financial, human, and technical resources are allocated for the same.

HRCP while referring to Pakistan’s Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act from November 2022 commented that the implementation of this rule has remained stagnant, calling it a “shocking lapse in the state’s responsibility towards its citizens which must be rectified.”

In the statement further, the HRCP stated that these unreasonable delays give courage to the perpetrators to continue inflicting torture with unfettered impunity. The HRCP statement states, “This act must be made functional with its rules and mechanisms instituted at once”.

Additionally, efforts must be made to stop the political and social norms that sustain or encourage custodial torture inflicted by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, the general public must be made aware of citizens’ right to freedom from torture.

The same statement by HRCP also mentioned that such provisions can only be effective if they are supported by the criminal justice system with integrity and an explicit commitment to ending custodial torture at all levels.

Previously, several activists from Pakistan had also urged for the implementation of the same bill but rights groups had pointed out several loopholes in the law. Joseph Jansen, chairperson of the rights group “Voice for Justice” had said that the existing blasphemy laws do not guarantee a fair trial and religious freedom, and the accuser enjoyed impunity despite presenting false evidence and false testimony, according to a report published by Dawn newspaper at that time.

Despite this, neither any law was amended, nor was any measure introduced to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws except procedural changes. Jansen noted that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were incompatible with international human rights standards.

“The accuser who levels blasphemy allegations against any person is bound to prove malicious intent, but this stipulation is missing in legislation and is not taken into account during blasphemy trials,” Jansen was quoted as saying by Dawn in that report.

Another activist, Ashiknaz Khokhar, based in the country, said that the digital media and social platforms in Pakistan had become a source of making false accusations of blasphemy and targeting religious minorities. According to the rights activist, innocent blasphemy accused were made to face imprisonment for years.