Committee against Torture
19 April 2017
The Committee against Torture completed this afternoon its consideration of the initial report of Pakistan on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Introducing the report, Kamran Michael, Minister for Human Rights of Pakistan, said that public servants were prohibited from engaging in acts of torture under any circumstances, while the 2002 Police Order imposed penalties on police officers who tortured or abused a person in their custody. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 was the prime legislation covering the investigation and adjudication of acts of terrorism and it provided protection and safeguards in accordance with human rights norms and standards. The prohibition of torture was covered under the existing legal framework, and a new law, the prohibition of custodial torture bill, was currently being formulated by Parliament in order to provide for a comprehensive law covering all aspects of torture as outlined in the Convention. In February 2016, Pakistan had launched the historic national action plan on human rights which consisted of six thematic areas, including strengthening human and technical resources and capacity building of law enforcement agencies, improving the forensic sciences, and upgrading physical facilities and equipment to investigate human rights violations on specific grounds with the view to give impetus to speedy justice.
Committee Experts expressed concern about reports of widespread torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings - and the impunity for such acts - committed by State officials and forces associated with the State, including the military, the police and intelligence agents. Some 1,200 cases of enforced disappearances had been registered since 2010, while 487 cases of alleged torture had been documented by non-governmental organizations during the 2014 to 2016 period. The specific prohibition of torture in the law was very narrow, as it included only torture for purposes of extracting a confession. Some 90 per cent of women in Pakistan faced domestic violence, and women continued to be victims of so-called honour killings. Other issues of concern included the persecution of religious minorities and sectarian attacks such as the one in October 2016 which had killed 27 persons; lack of effective protection of women from domestic violence and honour killings; absence of legal safeguards against torture for persons detained pursuant to anti-terrorism legislation; and the fact that the newly adopted 23rd amendment to the Constitution allowed State agents to detain suspects at undisclosed locations on vague grounds without access to family and legal representation, thereby putting them at risk of torture.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Michael reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the prohibition of torture in all settings. Pakistan would allocate additional resources for the promotion and protection of human rights in line with its international obligations and national priorities, and would continue efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.
Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and urged Pakistan to ensure the safety of the non-governmental organizations which had cooperated and collaborated with the Committee.
The delegation of Pakistan included representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee’s next public meeting will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 April, when it is scheduled to begin its consideration of the initial report of Lebanon (CAT/C/LBN/1).
The initial report of Pakistan can be read here: CAT/C/PAK/1.
Presentation of the Report
KAMRAN MICHAEL, Minister for Human Rights of Pakistan, reiterated the view that torture was an abhorrent practice which violated human rights and fundamental freedoms and negated the principles of human dignity. Pakistan had made efforts to prohibit torture in all its forms and to implement the provisions of the Convention. Pakistan’s commitment to prohibit torture and protect human rights preceded the ratification of the Convention, as the Constitution guaranteed the protection of the fundamental freedoms of all citizens without discrimination; protection from torture was part of the human rights guarantees. Public servants were prohibited from engaging in any act of torture under any circumstances. The 2002 Police Order imposed penalties on police officers who tortured or abused a person in their custody and provided an oversight mechanism in the form of Public Safety and Police Complaints Commissions at all levels of government: federal, provincial and district.
Pakistan’s counter-terrorism laws were in compliance with its human rights obligations. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, the prime legislation covering the investigation and adjudication of acts of terrorism, provided protection in accordance with human rights norms and standards. The Investigation for Fair Trial Act and its fair trial rules had been codified in 2013, which promulgated additional guidelines for the fair application, issue and execution of warrants, and governed the admission of evidence obtained under the warrants. The prohibition of torture was covered under the existing legal framework, and a new law, the prohibition of custodial torture bill, was currently being formulated by Parliament in order to provide for a comprehensive law covering all aspects of torture as outlined in the Convention.
In February 2016, Pakistan had launched the historic national action plan on human rights which consisted of six thematic areas, while a budget of Rupees 750 million had been allocated to put in place institutional mechanisms for realizing the rights contained in the action plan; of the allocated budget, 400 million rupees would be used for human rights education, sensitization, awareness raising, research and communication; 250 million for the establishment of a human rights institute for research and training; and 100 million for the creation of the fund for free legal assistance to poor victims of human rights violations. A National Commission on Human Rights had been established in May 2015. The National Commission on the Status of Women had been strengthened: its financial autonomy had been increased and it was given suo-moto powers of a court to take action in case of violations of the rights of women. Parliament was very active in adopting legislation to address violence and discrimination against women, including the bills to amend the criminal laws with new provisions concerning rape and honour killings.
The human rights national action plan included activities related to the prohibition of torture, including strengthening human and technical resources and capacity building of law enforcement agencies, and the launching of a comprehensive jail inmates rehabilitation programme, which consisted of skills development, medical and psychological care, and legal counselling. It would also improve forensic sciences, and upgrade physical facilities and equipment to investigate human rights violations on specific grounds with the view to give impetus to speedy justice. In 2006, police reforms had been introduced in Pakistan which aimed to ensure training and capacity building of the police to ensure that their actions were based on the principles of equality, justice, and respect for all members of the community without discrimination.
Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs
FELICE GAER, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Pakistan, expressed surprise that the delegation of Pakistan did not include representatives from the military or intelligence services which had a particular role in the implementation of the obligations of Pakistan under the Convention. The initial report of Pakistan provided information on only a handful of cases reflecting the application of legislation in practice, and data were almost completely lacking, which would make it difficult for the Committee to assess the compliance of Pakistan with the provisions of the Convention.
Ms. Gaer then raised concerns about the problem of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, noting that the Committee had received allegations suggesting that State officials and forces associated with the State were practicing torture on a widespread scale. For example, from January 2014 to December 2016, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had documented 487 reported cases disclosing evidence of acts which would amount to torture. A study by Justice Project Pakistan found signs of abuse in more than 1,400 of approximately 1,800 reports it had surveyed. Credible sources alleged Pakistani police regularly use torture and ill-treatment to obtain confessions from witnesses, suspects, and accused persons.
During the 2010-2016 period, 1,200 cases of enforced disappearances had been registered; in 2016, the United Nations Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances had concluded that there was a climate of impunity with regard to enforced disappearances, and that the authorities were not sufficiently dedicated to investigating the cases and holding the perpetrators accountable.
Why was there such a stark difference in the picture of the country when one read the State party report compared to the information received from non-governmental organizations and publicly available sources?
Could the delegation provide information on the case of Muhammad Amin v State and whether the police officers in this case were convicted of a crime and if so, which punishments did they receive?
The Country Rapporteur further asked the delegation to provide more data on all reported allegations of torture attributed to the Pakistani police that had been registered since 2010, including on investigations, prosecutions and sanctions imposed. What disciplinary punishments were imposed on police officers after having been found to have perpetrated torture, including in the case of Iftikhar Ali vs. District Police Officer of 2009?
The Committee had been presented with very troubling statistics suggesting that the military and intelligence agencies had been implicated in a significant number of cases of suspected enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings involving torture. The military had the responsibility to investigate military personnel accused of torture, but very little data had been provided by Pakistan reflecting the results of investigations undertaken by the Army. How many cases of alleged torture and “offences ancillary to torture” had been attributed to members of the Pakistan Armed Forces since 2010? How many had led to a criminal or disciplinary investigation, by which authority and how many had led to prosecutions?
The delegation was also asked about the number of cases, as well as investigations, prosecutions and sanctions meted out to members of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency who were suspected of involvement in incidents, including the recent abduction and torture of human rights activists.
Pakistan had failed to prosecute for torture members of paramilitary forces operating in parts of the country, said Ms. Gaer. In October 2012, the Supreme Court had issued an interim order (“Balochistan Law and Order Case”) which held that there was overwhelming evidence implicating the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, in cases of missing persons in Balochistan. Had there been any inquiry into the responsibility of members of the Frontier Corps for disappearances in Balochistan, including investigations into alleged enforced disappearances of political leaders Shulam Mohammad Baloch, Lula Baloch, and Sher Mohammad Baloch? How many complaints of torture had been received against members of the Pakistan Rangers since 2010 and what measures had been taken to investigate and prosecute them?
The Committee was further concerned that Pakistan was not adequately exercising due diligence to prevent violence, including torture, by members of extremist groups, while its intelligence agencies had been accused of providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, and Kashmir-focused armed groups. The delegation was asked to provide data on the prosecution of members of those groups for abduction, sexual abuse and other related offenses?
Other issues of concern included the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, and sectarian attacks such as the one in October 2016 which had killed 27 persons, as well as the lack of effective action to prevent the infliction of serious pain and suffering of women in cases of domestic violence and so-called honour killings.
Ms. Gaer stressed that the Committee was interested in understanding the measures Pakistan was taking to address those issues but also to prevent their occurrence, thus she raised the issue of safeguards such as prompt access to a lawyer and others, and expressed concern that those were not systematically implemented in practice. Also of concern was the absence of legal safeguards against torture under the anti-terrorism act and protection of Pakistan act, as several safeguards against torture provided for in the general legal framework were not available to persons detained pursuant to anti-terrorism legislation.
The newly adopted 23rd amendment to the Constitution allowed State agents to detain suspects at undisclosed locations on vague grounds without access to family and legal representation thereby putting them at risk of torture. How many people were presently detained under this regime, and what measures would be taken to ensure that persons suspected of terrorism or related offences were not held in incommunicado detention.
During its 2012 Universal Periodic Review, Pakistan had agreed to ensure that all cases of abductions and enforced disappearances were investigated and prosecuted; what progress had been made in this regard and would enforced disappearances be made into a separate offence in the criminal code?
The National Human Rights Commission had received more than 500 complaints in its first 18 months of functioning. The delegation was asked whether the authorities had initiated any investigation or prosecution of torture in response to requests received by the Commission, and was also asked to explain the serious limitation of the Commission’s mandate which was not allowed to inquire into complaints against intelligence agencies or armed forces, but could only refer such complaints to the competent authorities. It was disappointing that the representatives of the National Human Rights Commission had not been granted permission to travel to Geneva to contribute to this dialogue.
Turning to violence against women, Ms. Gaer noted that some 90 per cent of women in Pakistan faced domestic violence and asked about the status of the Universal Periodic Review recommendation that Pakistan had agreed to in 2012, concerning the enactment of the legislation on domestic violence and the creation of effective monitoring and reporting mechanisms. What was being done to protect women from being subjected to violence sanctioned by parallel justice systems, and to ensure that the legislation in force forbade child marriage and set the age of marriage at 18 years for both girls and boys?
The Committee was gravely concerned about the capacity of the police to carry out their work, and the fact that there seemed to be systematic resort to torture; what was impeding the police officers from performing their duties in a professional manner, and which measures were being taken to ameliorate the working conditions of the police and provide them with required resources and training?
The Country Rapporteur raised concern about the conditions of detention, and asked the delegation to provide comprehensive data on all places of detention in Pakistan, their official capacity and current occupancy rates, and measures taken to address reports of extremely poor conditions in places of detention, including severe overcrowding, unsanitary facilities and insufficient access to medical facilities. Nearly 70 per cent of the prison population were pre-trial detainees, who were not separated from convicted criminals. What was being done to reduce long-term pre-trial detention, including the use of alternatives to detention? What measures were being taken to protect juveniles in detention from sexual abuse and to prosecute perpetrators? What was being done to set up an independent and systematic monitoring system at the national level for all detention facilities?
It was of grave concern that the 2011 Actions (in aid of Civil Power) Regulations for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas had allowed the military to detain people in internment centres and gave the Army broad powers to detain a wide range of people without charge and judicial supervision. How many such internment centres were there, and how many people were held in each? Were family members, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and other independent monitors allowed access to internment centres?
ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Pakistan, raised the issue of the legal framework in Pakistan and asked about the specific prohibition of torture in legal texts. The definition of torture in the legislation seemed to be rather limited, noted the Country Co-Rapporteur and urged Pakistan to ensure that this definition was compliant with that enshrined in the Convention. Another issue of concern was that the ideas of normal functioning of institutions and the period of exceptional operation of those institutions, such as a state of emergency, were conflated. One such example was the 2014 Protection Act, adopted following a string of terrorist actions in Pakistan, which was conducive to the fact of secret and prolonged detention. How many individuals had been detained under this act, what was their status, where were they held, and did they have access to lawyers?
Were there any provisions in place to ensure that minors were not brought before special or military courts?
There were publicly available videos showing police engaging in torture, beating people who were screaming in pain – how was the police conducting its work in a professional manner?
The delegation was asked about the law on extradition and the legal underpinning of the extradition of a “criminal being sought by the authorities of the state, a fugitive”.
Could the delegation comment about the situation of Afghan refugees, whose homes and shops were being attacked and destroyed, who were arrested and extorted, or forcefully returned to Afghanistan?
Were the tribal areas an integral part of the territory of Pakistan or did they have a specific legal status?
There were cases in which Pakistan exercised its universal jurisdiction, but also cases in which it refused to apply its universal competence – could the delegation provide information about those cases?
There seemed to be a gap between the training provided to the security forces and the situation on the ground, which was not in conformity with Pakistan’s obligations under the Convention.
The burden of proof in criminal cases seemed to be resting on the shoulders of the accused; there were amendments in the law, for example in the burden of proof in cases of adultery, but in the case of torture, the burden rested on victims to prove they were tortured, while it should be the obligation of the State.
Questions by the Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the reasons which had led Pakistan not to recognize the competence of the Committee in the inquiry procedure and asked about its current position in this regard.
The specific prohibition of torture in the law was very narrow, as it included only torture for purposes of extracting a confession. When would Pakistan adopt a wide and comprehensive prohibition of torture? What was the position of the 2002 Police Order in the law and was it applicable throughout the country? What legal ground was available to anyone to refuse an order to torture by a superior, and what protection from retaliation was available to such persons?
A recent study alleged that 80 per cent of prisoners and detainees had been tortured; 72 per cent of those failed to report torture fearing repercussions. What measures were in place to ensure full and impeded access to complaint mechanisms for detainees? The statute of limitation on reporting an act of torture was six months following the commission of the act, which was insufficient for a victim of torture who had to overcome trauma and find courage to denounce the author of the crime.
There were several legal initiatives on corporal punishment under discussion in Pakistan. The recently adopted law prohibiting corporal punishment only applied to the Islamabad area and not the whole country, and it failed to prohibit corporal punishment at home.
The application of the law of Pakistan was the responsibility of provincial governments, but this risked a conflict between federal and provincial law, and added to the complexity of the legal system marked by colonial and sharia laws overlapping and influencing contemporary laws.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, referred to medical examination boards in districts and asked who ensured the independent investigation of cases in which torture had been medically established. Mr. Modvig welcomed the introduction of modern forensic techniques and tools and asked for evidence and data that it was having a positive impact on the reduction of custodial torture.
FELICE GAER, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Pakistan, took up the existence of an independent complaint mechanism for rights violations of persons in detention, including torture. How many complaints had been made, what were their outcomes and were any members of the prison service punished on the basis of such complaints? What measures were being considered to ensure that victims had an independent and confidential access to complaint mechanisms for torture or ill treatment? What were the intentions to put in place an independent body for the investigation of torture by police officers?
The law allowed for a retroactive immunity for torture for members of the military and paramilitary forces, for example the 2011 Actions (in aid of Civil Power) Regulations for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, or the legislation allowing retroactive immunity for torture to military personnel for all actions “taken in good faith”.
Could the delegation explain the composition of military courts, and whether those serving were lawyers and had security of tenure? The military court system seemed to have sole jurisdiction over soldiers who committed crimes over civilians – was there any intention of giving jurisdiction to civilian courts for crimes committed over civilians? What measures were in place to protect judges from threats and pressure by extremists and others?
The Country Rapporteur asked the delegation to comment on the case of a person in Punjab accused of blasphemy in 2013 and held in solitary confinement since May 2014.
ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Pakistan, referred to the judicial system in Pakistan and asked about the place and make-up of the Senior Court vis-a-vis other courts in the country.
Responses by the Delegation
In response to the questions and comments raised by the Experts, the delegation underlined that Pakistan had a democratically elected government with a very progressive agenda, which included the promotion and protection of human rights. The initial report had laid down the general principles and legal framework, without providing too much data. The questions raised by the Committee went beyond its scope and some of them were in the remit of other human rights conventions.
Torture was defined in a number of laws in Pakistan, which criminalized the act. There were some attempts to make a new law which would further define torture, and a draft law which contained a very expansive definition of torture was now in the advanced stages of the legislative process.
Pakistan refused some of the data and statistics that the Committee Experts presented yesterday, noting that for example, when Pakistan had been fighting against the so-called Islamic laws, there were those who had claimed that 18,000 women were in prison – it turned out that only 1,000 had been imprisoned under those laws. Equally false was the statement that 10 per cent of juveniles in detention were on death row.
Restitution for torture by State officials could be obtained under the police regulations and under the law of the land. The newly established Commission for Human Rights had been given investigative powers in such cases, the vibrant media ensured accountability of the State, and the courts were effective, independent and efficient. The application of a direct complaint with the court against a public official was the most effective way to obtain remedy.
The law concerning burden of proof was equal to that of England, with one notable exception: Pakistan did not accept confession before the police. Those who alleged had to prove, and those who prosecuted had to prove.
Pakistan was employing efforts to decolonize the police forces and make them more friendly and was on the way to a more friendly and human culture. This was being done through training in the police academy, training courses for those in the force and cooperation with police forces of other countries.
A judicial independent inquiry had been opened into the death of a person at the hands of Pakistani ranger, who was now in custody.
With regard to military courts, the delegation said that Pakistan was spending more than Rupees 100 billion per annum on the fight against the menace of the terrorism and terrorists who to date had killed 30,000 Pakistanis. A decision had been made against rendition of the arrested terrorists; they were tried in the country, and only acts of terrorism in the name of religion were referred to the military court. To date 308 trials had taken place and of those 161 had resulted in convictions. All those tried and convicted had the right to appeal to the highest court of the land. Pakistan would continue its fight against terrorism in order to make the country safe.
Pakistan was in the process of transitioning from its current anti-terrorism legal framework and the use of military courts; a 30-member committee had been established to oversee the two-year reform agenda to reform the law, the judicial system and the police, including the establishment of “faceless trials” modelled against the experiences of the United Kingdom in the fight against the Irish Republican Army. It was expected that the complete transition to the civilian system would be completed in two years.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas would be fully integrated with the territory of Pakistan on an equal footing with other provinces within 10 years. The elections in 2018 would already include candidates from those Areas.
The police pay had been doubled in 2016, new training systems were in place to fight terrorism, and new anti-terrorism police units were being created to enable the police to fight terrorism and avoid long-term engagement of the Army and the Rangers.
Pakistan was in the process of modernizing its forensic science and investigative methods.
Confession given before the police was not admissible in any court, and this provision provided a protection against torture. The confession had to be made before a magistrate.
Pakistan had launched a large military operation against militants and terrorists, which was now entering its second phase, called, the “anti-disorder” which aimed to stop all those who aided and abated sleeper cells; they would be stopped and brought to justice, as Pakistan was committed to a safe country and to making the country and the world a better place.
In response to questions about honour killings, the delegation said that in 1980 certain provisions had been introduced in the law which allowed a waiver and compounding, in line with Islamic values. As those provisions were sometimes abused, the tightening of the provisions had started in 2004; today, no one who killed in “the name of honour” would remain free; they would serve life in prison.
There were 86 prisons in Pakistan, and four were exclusively women prisons; in provinces without female prisons, women were held in separate barracks. All prisons had female wardens and there was no interaction between male and female inmates at all. At the moment, there were 1,304 women in detention, representing 14 per cent of the prison population. Most women deprived of liberty were first time offenders, they were young, uneducated, unemployed and mostly married, and were in prison primarily for murder or narcotics. Detained women could keep children up to the age of six with them, although smaller prisons did not have childcare capacity.
In response to the question on the existence of a parallel justice system, and the case in which a child rapist had been “punished” by providing an amount of wheat to the child’s family, the delegation said that the perpetrator had been immediately arrested by the police, prosecuted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Jirgas and other alternative dispute resolution systems and indigenous justice mechanisms were deemed illegal by Pakistan; local councils had been established to apply alternative dispute mechanisms and so address the backlog of cases in the courts. Those councils could adjudicate in civil and some criminal cases, they were composed of nine members of which two were women, and there was a possibility of appealing the decision to the court. This mechanism had effectively replaced Jirgas as the ultimate justice body.
The National Human Rights Commission was a national statutory independent body, and there had never been any denial of the travel of the Chairperson of the Commission. Pakistan was working hard to strengthen the mechanism to address human rights violations in the country and provide effective redress.
In 2016, efforts to address internal trafficking had resulted in the interception of more than 8,000 cases, and the Government was looking into the establishment of a comprehensive anti-trafficking framework.
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
FELICE GAER, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Pakistan, recalled the words of the Secretary-General in a recent statement that issues of peace and security could not be addressed without looking into the situation of human rights. Pakistan had taken a number of positive and progressive steps since the adoption of the Convention in 2010, particularly in its legal framework, but the problem remained that the picture of the situation in the country presented by the Government differed starkly from the picture that emerged after consultation with other sources.
State officials, military and police officers remained unaccountable for alleged acts of torture, and information about oversight mechanisms of the security forces was not provided. What mechanisms and support were in place to support the work of the National Human Rights Commission in bringing to justice the perpetrators of police torture?
The definition of torture in the draft anti-torture law seemed to only apply to victims held in custody by officials, introduced sanctions for baseless accusations of torture, and provided exemption from accountability for the military and police, who were instructed to “seek direction” from the federal authorities before launching an investigation into allegations of torture.
Could the delegation comment on the coercive expulsion of Afghans? Human Rights Watch had reported that between July 2016 and February 2017, the authorities had driven out 600,000 Afghans, including 365,000 registered refugees.
ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Pakistan, noted that many questions that the Committee Experts had raised remained unanswered, including those on the definition of torture, as well as measures in place to ensure fair trials by all courts, including under the anti-terrorism law which provided a very broad definition of terrorism.
Pakistan should improve the age determination procedure in drug or terrorism courts, in order to avoid that juveniles were sentenced to death.
On corporal punishment – flogging, caning, and amputation – there were videos of police applying flogging.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation stressed that Pakistan was before the Committee in a dialogue, and not in a trial, and said its views must be respected with the same force and vigour as those of the non-governmental organizations. Pakistan needed to be encouraged and not demolished and discouraged. Pakistan was a nation of 200 million people who had self-respect and national pride, and Pakistan deserved to be treated better by the Committee.
The definition of torture would be addressed by the draft anti-torture law.
Pakistan was making use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in order to deal with the backlog in the courts; the law to this effect had been recently adopted and would soon officially become part of the positive law of the land. The decisions by Jirga were unlawful and Pakistan was addressing the issue; the Jirga system in the tribal areas, which was legal, was being replaced by the jury system.
The delegation rejected the unfounded allegations that courts under the anti-terrorism act courts deliberated in private – all their sessions were open, insisted the delegation.
No minor could be sentenced to death; complaints could be filed at all three levels of the courts in Pakistan.
Pakistan was aware of the shortcomings and was doing its level best; in this, Pakistan needed encouragement and not castigation, which would not help but would rather discourage.
With regard to the refugee issue, Pakistan said that when 10,000 refugees had entered Europe, the whole continent shook; Pakistan was hosting 2.5 million – and five million for 30 years without a single penny from the international community. The generosity of Pakistan must be acknowledged and respected. Pakistan was a poor country, and it had done what it could, and shouldered its responsibilities. Some incidents had taken place, the Cabinet had taken notice, and the Afghans were given an extension of 1.5 years before having to leave the country.
Questions by the Experts
In their follow-up questions, the Committee Experts asked about the position of the Police Order 2002 in the legal framework; the functioning, composition and remit of the jail committees; and the training in international humanitarian law and international human rights law provided to the Pakistani armed forces operating outside of the borders.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, agreed that data about cases and statistics, which would indicate the implementation of the laws in practice, was still lacking. Pakistan was aware that there were issues to still address which included strengthening the accountability mechanisms for the law enforcement personnel, and the police in particular, which was the key issue. And yet, such initiatives seemed not to be on the national agenda and were not included in the national action plan.
FELICE GAER, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Pakistan, stressed that the Committee was not a court; the Experts asked a series of questions on the material provided to them by the Government and other sources, and they asked the delegation to provide data and information which would help explain discrepancies. The Committee considered torture as one of the most heinous acts which destroyed individuals and communities, and it would always ask pertinent questions.
The Country Rapporteur noted that no information had been provided in the dialogue so far on situations in which police officers or other agents of State were held accountable for acts of torture.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the Government was very serious about addressing allegations against the police department. Many reforms had been introduced to enhance the capacity, professionalism and accountability of the police. During the colonial system, the purpose of the authority had been to collect revenue and the police had been its main arm; this would explain the strong arm and coercion culture. The Police Order of 2002 was still in force in the Punjab, the province of Sindh had reverted to the Police Act of 1861 due to its own particular features, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province came up with its own police act in 2016 which was the amalgamation of the 1861 act and the Police Order of 2002, and this was also the case in Baluchistan which had adopted its own police act in 2011.
In terms of complaint and oversight mechanisms, there were three level bodies: the District Public Safety Commission, Provincial Commissions, and the Islamabad Public Safety Commission which was at the national level. In addition, there was a federal police complaint authority. Thousands of constables, head constables, inspectors, and other police officers had been sanctioned for torture, death in custody, and other related offences.
For over 50 years, the Pakistani armed forces had participated in the United Nations peacekeeping efforts, and the troops were well trained in international humanitarian and human rights law.
Pakistan had consistently retained the policy of open doors to refugees and had been a host to millions of Afghans for more than 30 years. Pakistan was shouldering this responsibility alone and it had been a huge financial undertaking, even if Pakistan was not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The delegation explained that voluntary repatriation was a shared initiative between the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency. The year 2016 had seen a spike in voluntary returns, due to a number of factors, such as the perception of the improved situation in Afghanistan, the welcoming narrative by the Government of Afghanistan, and the increase of the voluntary repatriation assistance by the United Nations Refugee Agency. There was no policy of coercion on the part of the Government of Pakistan which remained committed to the voluntary repatriation process that was in the best interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region. The international community should assist those two countries in resolving the long-standing refugee issue and ensure the sustainable voluntary return and reintegration of Afghani returnees.
There were separate juvenile detention facilities, including for remand detention; currently there were 1,222 juveniles in detention. Pakistan had adopted the juvenile justice reform bill which would soon enter into force.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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