Torture is a method of attacking an individual's fundamental modes of psychological and social along with his critical and analytical functioning. Over 10,421 cases of torture in police custody were reported in Pakistan between 2000-2010. There is no specific criminal law penalty for the commission of Torture in Pakistan despite its prohibition under Article 14(2) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.
"The Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" commonly known as the "Istanbul Protocol" implies that one of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress that can lead to the deterioration of cognitive, emotional and behavioural functions.
Pakistan signed the UN convention on torture on April 17th 2008 and ratified it on June 23rd. However, due to reservations by Pakistan, any enforcement mechanism or actual implementation of the UNCAT has been rendered redundant. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan prohibits torture under Article 14 (2). It states “No person shall be subjected to torture for the purposes of extracting evidence.”
Torture, within the meaning attached to the 'act of torture' as prescribed in the Convention against Torture is not a specific crime in Pakistan. In a claim against torture, the victims have the burden of proof, and there are no independent investigating agencies that are empowered to inquire on a complaint. According to the existing legal framework in Pakistan, a claim for compensation for an act of torture could be settled under the Shari'ah law, an opportunity often subject to absolute misuse in the country. Under the existing circumstances in the country, As it stands, this procedure often benefits the perpetrator. given the fact that in Pakistan, law-enforcement officers enjoy a higher degree of authority in societyn, the terms of compensation are often decided by the perpetrator.
Torture in custody is a serious problem affecting the rule of law in Pakistan. It is used as the most common means to obtain confession statements. As yet, there has been no serious effort by the government to make torture a crime in the country. It guarantees impunity for the perpetrators who are mostly either policemen or members of the armed forces. Furthermore, there is no means of protection for witnesses. This discourages victims from making complaints. While the international jurisprudence on the issue has reached a high standard the situation in Pakistan resembles the stone ages.
According to the statistics, 555 suspects were taken into police custody in 2001, 990 in 2002, 838 in 2003, 1260 in 2004, 1350 in 2005 and 1660 in 2006. These suspects were locked up or shifted to private torture cells. Similarly, about 1725 people in 2007, over 1100 in 2008, 1560 in 2009 and 1640 in 2010 have been humiliated by the police department in Pakistan. News reports and case studies by local NGOs are often infused with accounts of brutal torture by police or other law agencies. The stories have become all too common.
Over 10,421 cases of torture in police custody were reported in Pakistan in fact, during the years 2000-2010, according to Madadgar, a UNICEF initiative, 695 cases of torture against women in police custody were reported during the first six months of 2009. According to local NGOs and prisoners, common acts of torture include falaka, (whipping of the foot with a rod or cane), ‘inverse strappado’ (being hung from a hook and kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), fingernails being pulled out, suffocation, being exposed to extreme temperatures, ropes used to pull the suspects legs apart and wood turned like a garrotte to effectively paralyze the legs.
There is no law prohibiting torture in Pakistan despite torture being forbidden by Article 14(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan which states: “No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.” There is no mention of torture in Pakistan’s two main criminal law codes which are the Pakistan Penal Code 1861 and Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. The two statutes which can be used to prosecute an act of torture do not focus on it as an independent criminal offence and do not impose a severe penalty for it. For example, Article 156(d) of the Police Order 2002 states that any police officer who inflicts torture or violence upon any person in his custody, shall upon conviction for every such an offence, face imprisonment for a term which may just extend to 5 years or more and a fine. Article 6 of the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance 1999 states that a person commits a terrorist act if he strikes fear and insecurity into people and Article 7 prescribes the punishment of imprisonment from seven years up to life imprisonment for this. Additionally, under the present law the judicial magistrate can grant up to 15 days in police custody for further investigation of the case.
FFR Files Writ Petition before Islamabad High Court against the Government of Pakistan for failing to protect victims of torture.
In the context of its work with individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system in Pakistan, the legal charity Foundation for Fundamental Rights, has become aware of a number of examples of brutal torture by police and other authorities across Pakistan, and of the systematic failure by the Government to take action to prevent such acts of torture, specifically the failure to ensure that when credible allegations of torture arise they are investigated appropriately.More than 100 persons die in police custody each year in Pakistan.The acts of police torture are a direct infringement of every individual’s constitutional right not to be subjected to torture for the purposes of extracting evidence under Article 14(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Further to this, Pakistan has signed and ratified international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, both of which emphasize the intention of the government of Pakistan to enforce the prohibition of torture. The unlawful actions of the police force and intelligence agencies and a failure to prevent such actions nevertheless continue to pose an on-going threat to the lives, safety and liberty of the citizens of Pakistan. FFR therefore, is seeking to bring a writ petition before the Islamabad High Court against the Government of Pakistan for failing to protect individuals from the blatant violation of their fundamental right not to be subjected to torture and seek justice and reparation for the victims.