OMCT and HRCP call upon the government to implement the UN Convention against Torture

Geneva, 24 November 2014. At the conclusion of a mission to Pakistan, the WorldOrganisation against Torture (OMCT) and its partner the Human Rights Commission ofPakistan (HRCP) call for the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture andthe follow-up to its announcement to submit its overdue initial report to the UNCommittee against Torture.

Over the first two weeks of November, the OMCT and the HRCP held two consultations on theimplementation of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) in Karachi and Islamabad. The twoconsultations brought together experts and stakeholders from almost all parts of the country.At the consultation in Islamabad, Law and Justice Secretary Barrister Zafarullah Khan reportedthat the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights had finalized Pakistan’s initial report andwas committed to submitting it to the Committee against Torture in the next months after theconclusion of the inter-agency consultation process.

The OMCT and HRCP further appreciate that Awami National Party leader and Senate StandingCommittee on Human Rights Chairperson Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Taj Haider fromthe Pakistan Peoples Party, and Muttahida Quami Movement leader Khawaja Izhar Ul Hassanparticipated in the consultations and promised to propose a draft bill and resolution inparliament urging the national and provincial governments to implement the CAT.

Representatives from civil society, trade unions, journalists, lawyers, government officials,members of provincial and national parliaments, and academics, who participated in theconsultations, discussed the challenges the state was facing and formulated severalrecommendations in order to improve the implementation of the CAT.

Legal Reforms
Although Pakistan has laws in place that allow for the prevention of torture and protection ofvictims, its legislation and practice lacks several important features and safeguards. First, thePakistan Penal Code does not criminalize torture and therefore does not provide accountabilityfor torture and ill-treatment. Second, despite supposed safeguards against the use of torture toextract confessions in the constitution, the Criminal Procedure Code and in the evidence law(Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984), coercion and torture are widely used during investigation,with a view to obtain information or a confession. Third, the right of reparation is notimplemented in the existing legal framework. This means that the possibility of compensationas an entitlement is lacking and rehabilitation structures are non-existent.

Participants therefore recommended an urgent amendment of the Pakistan Penal Code tointroduce a provision on torture that fully complies with the CAT. They also recommendedimplementation of the right to rehabilitation resulting from Article 14 of the CAT.

Police Reforms
Torture and ill-treatment in police detention and during police interaction with the citizens ingeneral, including protesters, are frequent and systemic. Yet, almost no actions are brought tocourt. In most cases, victims fear reprisals as often the police unit accused of torture is alsotasked with conducting inquiries into torture allegations. Participants were also concernedabout the fatalities that result from custodial torture and other police encounters.

Poverty and inequality have been identified as a root cause for torture by the police and for thelack of judicial and political responses. Victims of torture and ill-treatment are usually ordinarycriminal suspects from the very low-income sector who cannot afford a lawyer and whosefamily do not have the standing and connection to be taken seriously by the police, prosecutoror judges. They usually also lack knowledge about their human rights.

Police officers are also not well trained to be exposed to poverty and situations that come withit. They themselves are negatively affected by poverty and inequality. Also their basic humanrights are impeded as they are chronically overworked, poorly renumerated andunderequipped. Participants therefore proposed to invest in the training of police officers andequip them with modern forensic means.

Law and Order and Countering Terrorism
A combination of criminal and terrorist activity, turf wars of criminal gangs with politicalpatronage pose a serious threat in several regions of Pakistan. Especially in FATA and in partsof Balochistan, attacks, forced disappearance, and targeted killings affect a huge number offamilies. Participants therefore recommended an independent commission to probeaccusations of torture, killings, and disappearances.

In order to react to these threats Pakistan enacted the Pakistan Protection Act earlier this year.Participants expressed their concern over the provision that allows for administrativedetention for up to 90 days. Participants are also worried about the application of the anti-terrorism law towards political and human rights activists who protest against this law. It hasthus been recommended that the Pakistan Protection Act be applied in compliance withPakistan’s obligations under the CAT and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Background of the mission
The consultations were undertaken within the framework of a three-year OMCT project called“Towards Implementation and Accountability”. It aims at the implementation of the UNConvention against Torture and is financially supported by the European Commission and theNational Endowment for Democracy.

For further information please contact:

Nicole Buerli, Human Rights Advisor OMCT,, Tel: +41 (0)22 809 49 39
Waqar Mustafa, OMCT-HRCP Project,, Tel: (92-42) 35838341,35864994, 35865969

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