U.N. Set to Review Pakistan for its Compliance with the Convention Against Torture
GENEVA, 17 April 2017: The Government of Pakistan is set to be reviewed on 18 and 19, April 2017 by the United Nations Committee Against Torture on its compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.
This will be the first time Pakistan is reviewed by the CAT ever since Pakistan signed on and ratified the Convention in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
Pakistan ratified the CAT to qualify for its GSP+ scheme, a preferential trade status that has seen Pakistan’s exports rise by 22 percent[i] and €5.5 billion in 2014, making it one of the largest countries to reap benefits from the GSP+ status granted to the country on January 1, 2014. In fact, Pakistani exports under the GSP+ scheme increased to €6.2 billion from Jan to Dec. 2016. Failing to comply with these requirements can put these economic advantages at risk.
In its Initial State Report, submitted five years after it was due, Pakistan has argued that its pre-existing legal framework is in line with the provisions of the Convention. It underscores that torture is prohibited and prevented in Pakistan, with allegations of abuse effectively investigated and prosecuted.
However, to support these claims, the report only reiterates sections in the law that bear little connection to torture and fails to address any reported cases of torture.
The bold claims of the State Report only obfuscate the fact that nothing has been done to combat the endemic of torture in Pakistan. To pretend that torture in custody is not an accepted method of criminal investigation in Pakistan is a dangerous folly, with numerous well-documented cases in the public domain that disprove the assertions of the report.
Justice Project Pakistan and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Clinic documented the pervasive culture of police brutality in a 2014 report Policing as Torture. Researchers examined 1,867 medical-legal certificates of independent physical examinations of criminal defendants from Faisalabad. The figures were striking; physicians found conclusive evidence of severe torture and abuse in 1,424 of the 1,867 cases.
Police were documented as having “beaten victims, suspended, stretched and crushed them, forced them to witness other people’s torture, put them in solitary confinement, subjected them to sleep and sensory deprivation, confined them to small spaces, exposed them to extreme temperatures, humiliated them by imposing culturally inappropriate or unpleasant circumstances, and sexually abused them.”
Moreover, in the seven years since the ratification of the Convention, Pakistan has failed to pass a single piece of legislation that comprehensively addresses the issue of torture. Several private member bills that have sought to criminalize torture have since lapsed.
As such, torture remains ill-defined in the Pakistani jurisprudence as the only mention of torture in the Constitution, in Article 14(2), does not define the scope of torture. Both the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan do not mention torture by name, and the offences and punishments highlighted by the state in its report only concern the “hurt principle” which deals with the severest of bodily injuries resulting in permanent damage.
And so, the law in Pakistan does not consider any act of mental torture, cultural humiliation, or any act of physical torture that does not leave any lasting marks a punishable offence.
JPP has submitted a pre-shadow report with Reprieve and OMCT evaluating Pakistan’s compliance to CAT in 2015 and a report on the violations of CAT in Government’s application of the death penalty in March 2017. Our findings underscore Pakistan’s violation of the Convention, and how the most vulnerable members of our society, like the poor, juvenile offenders and mentally ill are the most likely to be subjected to abuse.
This year alone, Pakistan will have to answer for its use of the death penalty and the manner in which it executes before three U.N. Treaty Bodies as well as undergo its Universal Periodic Review. The CAT review is the first of these reviews for Pakistan.
The meeting between the government representatives and the Committee Against Torture is public and webcasted. It takes place in the Palais Wilson and starts at 6:00 pm PST, 18 April, 2017. It can also be watched live under http://webtv.un.org/. We encourage you to share this live stream.
Sarah Belal, JPP Executive Director adds: “In Pakistan, torture at the hands of the police is widespread, systemic and rarely punished. It is an unfortunate state of affairs when the ones who are meant to protect you are the ones you need protecting from. We hope that this review provokes some much needed introspection about the dire need for reform in our criminal justice system, particularly when torture-induced confessions have led to wrongful executions.”
1. Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) is a human rights organization that provides pro bono legal representation to the most vulnerable Pakistani prisoners facing the harshest punishments. Our clients include those facing the death penalty, the mentally ill, victims of police torture and detainees of the ‘War on Terror’. JPP was established in December 2009 and is based in Lahore, Pakistan.
2. For details contact: Wassam Waheed (+92 346 9177771), Rimmel Mohydin (+92 321 4224941) or Muhammad Shoaib (+92 333 4913629).
3. Help us save lives – join the #BringItBack campaign here