Activists chant slogans in support of Mukhtar Mai during a protest in Lahore.—AFP

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict acquitting the men who had raped Mukhtar Mai nine years ago and said the decision would add to difficulties the rape victims were already facing in bringing their tormentors to justice.

“It is utterly disappointing that insufficient police investigation and delay in registering a case with police have been made basis for acquittal of the accused,” the HRCP said in a statement issued on Friday.

The commission also expressed concern over courts’ lack of capacity and sensitivity to properly appraise evidence in rape cases.

It urged the government to take adequate steps to ensure that Mukhtar Mai was not harmed in any way by the influential accused. The HRCP expressed the hope that the government would seek a review of the verdict and the court would do all it could to ensure that flaws in police investigation were removed.

“The most distressing aspect of the outcome of the Mukhtar Mai case is that in a country where rape remains widespread and often goes unreported, such verdicts will discourage the victims from speaking out against their tormentors or reporting the crime for fear of further agony for themselves and their families,” the commission said, adding that it could also lead to increase in crimes against women because perpetrators would be confident of getting away scot-free.

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