Custodial deaths

September 10, 2019

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THE death of an alleged ATM robber in Gujranwala is a frightening example of the prevalent problem of custodial deaths in the Punjab police.

It is evident that Pakistan does not have any domestic laws criminalising torture. Article 14 (2) of the constitution prohibits the use of torture for extracting evidence. But criminals, suspects and their families justifiably worry about torture in custody, especially given the lack of accountability for police officers who commit these abuses.

Unfortunately, it is common in our country that those from marginalised groups are particularly at risk of police abuse. While the police typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, illness or accident, victims’ family members frequently allege that the deaths were the result of torture or other ill-treatment.

This brutal incident is a typical case of how ordinary people are treated by the police for petty crimes, whereas, corrupt and convicted politicians are treated like VIPs.

This is the reason a large number of people have a deep mistrust of the law enforcement institutions. An in-custody death automatically intensifies suspicion of police brutality. To bridge the trust deficit in the people-police relationship, there must be strict accountability of police officers who commit abuses on the suspects.

Raja Muhammad Kamran Ejaz
Lahore

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019