HRW urges Pakistan to criminalise torture


Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged the Senate to ‘urgently pass a bill’ that would make torture a criminal offense in the country.

New York-based HRW issued a statement on its official website wherein it maintained that Pakistan’s sedition law is “vague and overbroad and has often been used against political opponents”.

The statement comes days after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) alleged that security officials have physically and mentally tortured party leader Shahbaz Gill – who is facing sedition charges against him – in custody.

Gill was arrested in Islamabad on August 9 on charges of sedition and inciting the public against state institutions. His lawyer and PTI senior leaders have claimed that he was also denied medical treatment for his asthma condition.

However, Islamabad police as well as the government have denied the allegations and accused the former ruling party of trying to “divert public attention.”

In its statement, HRW also urged the government to conduct an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into the allegations.

“The first step to ending Pakistan’s endemic torture problem is to criminalise it,” said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at HRW.

“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,” he added.

HRW noted that Pakistan is a party to international human rights treaties that prohibit the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and mandate parties to the treaty to criminalise the practice.

“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