ISLAMABAD: Representatives of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) visited the death cell of Adiala jail to probe the suicide case of a death row convict.

On the directions of NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha, the team visited the jail to follow up on the improvements made in the jail in the light of Islamabad High Court (IHC) directions.

The team visited the death cell and examined the investigation reports of the suicide case of prisoner Nadeem Ahmad. They met the witnesses and jail administration regarding the case.

In a statement issued here, the NCHR said Ahmad committed suicide by hanging himself in the washroom of cell No 8 on January 11 while other inmates were busy meeting their relatives during the visiting hours. The investigation report by the jail authorities showed that Ahmad was suffering from psychiatric issues and was on medical/psychiatric treatment. It said since Ahmad’s punishment, no family members had ever come to visit him.

“It appeared that he committed suicide due to severe depression,” the NHCR said in the statement.

Its team also met officials of the jail administration, jail doctors and physiologists and interviewed a number of prisoners.

Talking to the NCHR team, prisoners who had filed complaints in IHC and NCHR reported a considerable positive change in the behaviour of the jail officials.

The NCHR team said it noted that despite directions issued by IHC for improvement in medical facilities, only one doctor was available in the jail hospital and some of the basic medicines like insulin and psychiatric medications were out of stock. The team stated that there was only one female psychiatric officer working in the jail on attachment basis.

The team’s report said that crowding still existed in the jail as there were about 6,000 prisoners against the available space for about 2,200 prisoners. It mentioned that despite IHC directions, no action had been taken so far for the transfer of prisoners to their home districts, particularly to prisons in KP.

However, the jail administration informed the NCHR team that the construction work on the new barracks had been accelerated with the provision of sufficient funds from the Punjab government. The contractor and deputy superintendent jail assured the visiting team that the construction work on three barracks would be completed by June 30, 2023. The jail authorities said a separate jail for women was also under construction.

The report mentioned that following IHC directions, the number of telephone booths for prisoners had been increased from 20 to 50 but all 50 booths were not functional at the time of the visit due to some technical issue.

The in-charge of the facility assured NCHR team that all booths would be fully functional within a week. He also said separate telephone booth would be installed in each barrack.

The report recommended creation of permanent posts and appointment of psychiatrists as per the need of the inmates. It also urged for the provision of sufficient resources for construction of new barracks and recommended keeping drug addicts involved in heinous crimes separate from other children in the juvenile ward.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2023

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