LAHORE - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the government to adopt anti-torture legislation and provide effective remedies to victims of torture.

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture will be observed globally on June 26 (Friday). Five years ago, Pakistan ratified the UN Convention against Torture committing itself to enacting an effective legal framework preventing and criminalizing torture as well as protecting torture victims.

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

In an open letter submitted today to the National Assembly, HRCP welcome the draft Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape Bill that is currently pending before the National Assembly.

The day commemorating torture victims reminds that the very purpose of such laws is to provide an effective framework for the protection of victims and their right to a remedy and redress. Torture victims face an uphill battle to prove torture committed typically outside the public spotlight by state officials. Anti-torture legislation has to provide every possible means to make the right to complain realistic and to protect victims and witnesses who take the courage to do so. “Clauses such as in the draft law that punish malafide complaints will have a grossly intimidating effect and run counter to the very idea of the law to ensure effective remedies.”

Our experience shows that such provisions not only discourage victims from coming forward, they are also abused in cases in which a torture complaint has been rejected for lack of evidence and not because of ill intent,” she added.

The chairperson said: “An effective protection of torture victims also requires meaningful redress including compensation and rehabilitation. We therefore regret that compensation is the sole form of redress in the Draft Bill and only available once a person is found guilty which would limit the effect of such provision greatly.”

She said that the committee against torture repeatedly stated that the convention required member states to enact other forms of redress including restitution, access to rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Anti-torture legislation needs to put the interests of the victims first. On the day dedicated to torture victims it is time that Pakistan steps up to its responsibility and provides effective remedies and protection to those who suffer pain and trauma, she held.