National Commission for Human Rights visits jails to investigate allegations of torture, sexual abuse

NationalNational Commission for Human Rights visits jails to investigate allegations of torture,...

ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has issued a detailed report of jail visits conducted by NCHR team across the Country, to investigate allegations of torture and sexual abuse of prisoners in connection with May 9 protest.

Jails visited included; Central Jails Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta and jails of Nowshera, Swat and Sheikhupura.

   

The visit was aimed at investigating the authenticity of these allegations, to gauge the conditions of confinement, whether such prisoners had been tortured or not, and to check on the medical records of the prisoners – whether they were screened for illnesses or denied any of their rights and privileges as per law.

The NCHR team comprised of NCHR team and members of civil society including of Justice Project Pakistan and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The report mentions that during investigations, the NCHR team received no reports of torture or sexual abuse of any male or female prisoner in either police or judicial custody.

The prisoners reported late night arrests and use of disproportionate force at the time of arrest intended to intimidate and cause fear. Several prisoners reported breakages in their homes, confiscation of laptops and verbal harassment.

The report says that majority of political prisoners were not aware of their rights in the jail as per jail rules (Rule 64 PPR) and were not informed about the grounds of arrest.

On May 9, 2023 protests were carried out in the wake of the arrest of the Chairperson of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Later on, the media reported incidents of violence and arson by the protesters in which private and public properties were targeted.

Apart from attacks on civil government infrastructure and properties, some protesters entered high-security areas including army and air force installations where acts of violence were committed.

During, and after these protests, the provincial authorities initiated widespread arrests in different cities. A larger number of people were detained, and later on, charged under various statutory provisions.

Subsequent to the arrests, a number of social media statements and allegations appeared regarding torture, including sexual abuse, of PTI female protesters during arrest and incarceration in the various jails of Pakistan.

In view of growing concerns, the Commission approached government authorities to ensure due process of law by issuing official communication to the various government stakeholders on May 10, 2023.

Since no direct complaint was received by the Commission nor was forwarded by any government complaint mechanisms, therefore, a formal investigation was initiated under Sec 9 (C) of the NCHR Act 2012 which empowers it to “visit any jail, place of detention or any other institution where convicts, under trial prisoners, detainees or other persons are lodged or detained.”

At the time of the visit, 28 female under-trial prisoners and 1322 male under-trial prisoners were confined in jails across Punjab. NCHR team met and personally interviewed all women present in the jails at the time of their visit. In Central Jail Peshawar, the Committee was told that 68 citizens had been charged under Section 3 of the Maintenance and Public Order Ordinance, 1960 (3 MPO) due to the activities of 9th May 2023, out of which 48 have been released. Of the 20 remaining prisoners at Peshawar, 13 were juveniles. No female was arrested in Peshawar. There were 33 males but no female PTI protesters detained at Central Jail Quetta. In Central Jail Karachi, the 2 females arrested after the May 9th protests were initially shifted to Sukkur jail and have now been released. Majority of protesters incarcerated in Lahore had provision of legal aid however the 300+ male protesters housed in Central Jail Rawalpindi had no recourse to legal aid or sureties. Majority of juveniles in Peshawar also had no legal aid or counsel.

Although the prisoners did not make any statement alleging torture or sexual abuse, the Commission has expressed concerns over lapses in upholding safeguards as to arrest, gaps in procedures relating to prison standards especially those that are prescribed by law or fundamental rights given under the Constitution of Pakistan and international guidelines. These gaps include delay in the process of Identification parades, lack of information on prisoner’s rights and details on the sections under which they have been booked. The Commission calls upon the government to take immediate remedial action; Information on rights; identification parade; medical screening of prisoners; and establishment of oversight and complaint mechanisms.

Mati
Mati
Mati-Ullah is the Online Editor For DND. He is the real man to handle the team around the Country and get news from them and provide to you instantly.

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