Joint Press Release: UN Day for Victims of Torture - An urgent call to enact anti-torture legislation compliant with the UN Convention against Torture

Lahore–Geneva, 25 June 2015. On the occasion of theInternational Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, the WorldOrganization against Torture (OMCT) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan(HRCP) call on the government of Pakistan to adopt anti-torture legislation and provide for effective remedies to victims of torture.

Fiveyears ago, Pakistan ratified the UN Convention against Torture committing itself to enacting an effective legal frameworkpreventing and criminalizing torture as well as protecting torture victims.

This day should remind us all that tortureand other forms of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment are still a sadreality in our country”, said Zohra Yusuf, Chairperson of the HRCP.“Five years on it is time to translatecommitment into reality and adopt an effective anti-torture law”, sheadded.

Inan open letter submitted today to the National Assembly, OMCT and HRCP welcome thedraft Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape Bill that is currentlypending before the National Assembly. While the draft bill provides forimportant protections for torture victims, both organizations have set out keyamendments to render the law effective.

Theday commemorating torture victims reminds us that the very purpose of such lawsis to provide an effective framework for the protection of victims and theirright to a remedy and redress. Torture victims face an uphill battle to provetorture committed typically outside the public spotlight by state officials.Anti-torture legislation has to provide every possible means to make the rightto complain realistic and to protect victims and witnesses who take the courageto do so.

Clausessuch as in the draft law that punish malafide complaints will have a grosslyintimidating effect and run counter to the very idea of the law to ensureeffective remedies. Our experience shows that such provisions not only discouragevictims from coming forward, they are also abused in cases in which a torturecomplaint has been rejected for lack of evidence and not because of ill intent.

Likewiseimportant are prompt and impartial investigations. We are seriously concerned about the special protection extended to themilitary and intelligence agencies. If the investigating body has to seekinstruction and direction from the Federal Government upon receiving acomplaint directed against the military or intelligence agency, remedies willsystematically fail.

Our globalexperience in Asia and beyond has shown over and over that these type ofprovision produce a legacy of abuse. Military and intelligence agencies havebeen in many parts of the world notorious for human rights violations. We haveto understand that protecting torturers or rapists from accountability isneither good for the morale of the troops nor does it serve security”, saidGerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “Provisions such as this one haveserved in many places as licence for torture”.

Aneffective protection of torture victims also requires meaningful redressincluding compensation and rehabilitation. We therefore regret that compensationis the sole form of redress in the Draft Bill and only available once a personis found guilty which would limit the effect of such provision greatly. TheCommittee against Torture has repeatedly stated that the Convention requiresmember states to enact other forms of redress including restitution, access to rehabilitation,satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Anti-torture legislation needsto put the interests of the victims first. On the day dedicated to torturevictims it is time that Pakistan steps up to its responsibility and provides effectiveremedies and protection to those who suffer pain and trauma.

Toremind the government of its promises and international obligations, the HRCPconducts a series of events, including rallies in several districts as well aspublic awareness events. The events are also part of OMCT’s global campaign‘nothing can justify torture’ with similar actions around the globe.

For further information pleasecontact:

- Waqar Mustafa, OMCT-HRCP Project Coordinator,, Tel: (92-42) 35838341, 35864994, 35865969

- GeraldStaberock, OMCT Secretary General,, Tel: (0041) (0)22 809 49 23

The open letter to the National Assembly Secretariat can be found here: Pakistan_JointLetter_2015.06.26_English

The OMCT wishes to thank the European Commission and the National Endowmentfor Democracy for their financial support to the OMCT activities on June 26 thatare part of its campaign of “nothing can justify torture under anycircumstances”.