Fri, 01 Dec 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], November 23 (ANI): Expressing concern over the growing cases of custodial torture in the country, human rights activists in Pakistan have urged authorities to give due regard to principles of criminal justice to ensure a fair trial.

The Pakistan Senate last month passed a bill that criminalised torture of under-custody accused. However, rights groups have pointed out several loopholes in the law. Activists asked for effective implementation of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2022, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Joseph Jansen, chairperson of the rights group "Voice for Justice" said that the existing blasphemy laws do not guarantee a fair trial and religious freedom, and the accuser enjoyed impunity despite presenting false evidence and false testimony, the newspaper said.

Despite this, neither any law was amended, nor was any measure introduced to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws except procedural changes. Jansen noted that Pakistan's blasphemy laws were incompatible with international human rights standards.

"The accuser who levels blasphemy allegations against any person is bound to prove malicious intent, but this stipulation is missing in legislation and is not taken into account during blasphemy trials," he was quoted as saying by Dawn.

Ashiknaz Khokhar, a human rights activist based in the country, said that the digital media and social platforms in Pakistan had become a source to make false accusations of blasphemy and target religious minorities. According to the rights activist, innocent blasphemy accused were made to face imprisonment for years.

Even Human Rights Watch (HRW) in August had raised corned about the criminal justice system in Pakistan, saying the first step to ending Pakistan's endemic torture problem is to criminalize it.

"Justice and accountability in cases of torture will only be possible if parliament passes the torture bill and the government enforces the law by carrying out transparent and impartial investigations into torture allegations," said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based rights watchdog has long documented the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by the Pakistani police during criminal investigations.

"Criminal suspects from marginalized groups are at particular risk of police abuse. Methods of torture include beatings with batons and littars (leather straps), stretching and crushing legs with roola (metal rods), sexual violence, prolonged sleep deprivation, and causing severe mental anguish, including by forcing detainees to watch other people being tortured," HRW report said. (ANI)

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