Pakistan's National Assembly should quickly pass legislation that would make torture a criminal offense, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Justice Project Pakistan have urged, arguing it's crucial for protecting detainees from torture and death in police custody.
If passed, the bill, submitted by Senator Sherry Rehman and supported by the federal minister for human rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari, would, for the first time, outlaw torture by Pakistani police.
Pakistan's constitution does prohibit the use of torture to extract evidence, but no domestic law makes torture a criminal offense. Pakistan is a signatory to several international human rights treaties, including the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
"Pakistan needs to reform its police to end abuse and protect detainees from mistreatment," said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. "Passing the anti-torture bill would be an important first step."
Pakistan promised to define and criminalize torture in its June 2020 pledge as part of its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council.
"It is high time that Pakistan outlaws a practice that taints every facet of the criminal justice system," said Sarah Belal, executive director of Justice Project Pakistan. "The unanimous passing of this landmark legislation by the Senate indicates the broad political consensus to criminalize torture."
"The rule of law won't become a reality in Pakistan unless the police tasked with imposing the law are also held to it," Adams said. "Pakistan's National Assembly should pass this law and start the long-overdue process of reforming the criminal justice system."