Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to outlaw the use of torture by security forces

Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to outlaw the use of torture by security forces
Pakistan has not decriminalised torture even though it has ratified multiple UN treaties that outlaw the practice.
2 min read
24 August, 2022
Pakistan's police and security forces have regularly used torture in the absence of legislation outlawing it [Getty]

Human Rights Watch has urged Pakistan in a report published on Tuesday to ‘urgently’ criminalise the use of torture.

The Pakistani parliament’s lower house passed the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act on 1 August.

If the bill is approved by the country’s upper house, it will criminalize torture by Pakistan’s security forces for the first time. 

There is no legislature in the South Asian country making torture a criminal offence, even though Pakistan has ratified several UN treaties that prohibit the use of torture and require signatories to criminalize the practice. 

Pakistan’s security forces are known for using torture and abuse on prisoners to get quick confessions, extract bribes and punish alleged crimes.

Torture methods include beating prisoners with batons and leather straps, crushing legs with metal rods, sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, and forcing detaining to watch others being tortured. 

Suspects from marginalized communities are especially at risk fo being tortured by security forces, according to the Human Rights Watch report. 

“The first step to ending Pakistan’s endemic torture problem is to criminalize it,” said John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director.

“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.”

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf political party, headed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, alleged that senior official Shehbaz Gill had been tortured in police custody, and that he was denied medical treatment for his asthma. The ruling government has denied these allegations. 

Pakistan signed the UN Convention against Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2010, and is therefore obligated to outlaw torture domestically. 

“By passing the torture bill, Pakistan will start a long-overdue process of reform to ensure that future allegations of torture are transparently investigated and that those responsible held accountable,” Sifton added.