IHC seeks report about prisoners’ death

Updated December 15, 2019

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IHC CJ says that when a prisoner approached the court and complained about the lack of basic facilities it meant the government was not doing its job. — Reuters/File
IHC CJ says that when a prisoner approached the court and complained about the lack of basic facilities it meant the government was not doing its job. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday asked the federal human rights ministry for a report about the death of under-custody and condemned prisoners.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing the identical applications of two prisoners also asked the ministry to apprise the court about the condition of the inmates — especially those suffering from life-threatening diseases — and whether they were given proper medical treatment or not.

He observed that influential inmates got better treatment while common prisoners could not get even basic facilities.

He remarked that when a prisoner approached the court and complained about the lack of basic facilities it meant the government was not doing its job.

The judge advised the ministry to prepare a policy for providing medical treatment to seriously ill prisoners, adding that it was also in conformity with the teachings of Islam. He asked the jail authorities if any probe was carried out in case of death of an inmate.

CJ observes influential inmates get better treatment

The jail authorities said that the district and sessions judge concerned assigned the inquiry to a judicial magistrate over such an incident.

The doctor serving at Adiala Jail informed the court that he had dealt with five cases and they were given the treatment in accordance with prison rules.

Justice Minallah directed the jail authorities that in case a prisoner filed an application it should be forwarded to the commission constituted by the IHC.

The court ordered the ministry to notify the commission to examine the state of civil liberties for prisoners.

The ministry had on Nov 30 submitted the notification of the commission headed by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari. Secretaries to the ministries of human rights, health and interior, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s ex-chairperson Zohra Yousaf, journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, advocate Zia Awan, FIA’s former director general Tariq Khosa and all chief secretaries would be its members.

The representative of the ministry told the court that Mr Khosa and Ms Yousaf citing personal reasons recused to become part of the commission.

As per the terms of reference of the commission it can “investigate human rights violations in the prisons of Pakistan and lack of medical assistance and obstacles in access to a court of law of prisoners who do not have means or assistance in this regard”.

The commission will investigate “failure on part of the executive authorities and respective government to fulfil obligations and enforce the Prison Rules and the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 regarding the prisoners who suffer from illness and diseases”.

It will “carry out a review of the prison rules and other relevant laws with the objective of fulfilling the commitments of the State of Pakistan under the Constitution, international treaties and conventions and would propose solutions to deal with human rights violations in the prisons and amendments in any law, rules or regulation, appropriate governance and management system”.

According to the notification, the commission will suggest “how to ensure individual and institutional accountability” as well.

The hearing was adjourned to Jan 18.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2019