LAHORE, June 25: Alarming trends were witnessed regarding torture in official custody in Pakistan where more than 57 per cent of the accused said they were tortured during investigation.

And 51 per cent said their families bribed police to ensure their safety during detention; also despite clear court verdicts 44 per cent of the women accused were made to stay overnight at the police station.

These findings were shared by Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD) that carried out a study ‘on the right to fair trial: a journey through criminal justice system in Pakistan’ on the eve of International Day against Torture.

The DCHD along with Institute for Peace and Secular Studies and FC College announced launching a national campaign against torture which would run for two years. The campaign is being run in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute Pakistan (FOSIP).

Addressing a news conference at the Lahore Press Club to kick off the campaign, DCHD Executive Director Tanveer Jahan said there was a dire need to make the criminal justice system in Pakistan compatible with international standards of fair trial.

“Pakistan is a signatory to United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and meeting the obligations of the convention was its sovereign responsibility,” Jahan said.

Prominent academic and rights activist Wajahat Masood said the study found that all main pillars of the criminal justice system in Pakistan – prosecution, police, judiciary and prison - were found lacking in their duty towards state and the society.

“As many as 51 per cent of the accused were formally arrested after 10 days of detention and in vast majority of the cases magistrates remanded the accused without looking at the records and 81 per cent of the accused were not asked by magistrate about torture,” he said.

Moreover, 92 per cent of the accused were not medically examined after the remand. He said a legal research and analysis group would also be formed along with an expert committee that would oversee and enhance the capacity of the campaign.

“The drive is designed to reach out to people through media where it would entail print, electronic and broadcast media to join the campaign against torture,” he said.

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