PTI leader Shahbaz Gill in court during a hearing of a sedition case filed against him. — Screengrab via Geo News

HRW demands immediate, independent, transparent investigation into Gill’s alleged torture

by Pakistan News
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PTI leader Shahbaz Gill in court during a hearing of a sedition case filed against him. — Screengrab via Geo News
  • HRW demands Senate urgently pass bill criminalising torture.
  • Gill has been in police custody since Aug 9 in a sedition case.
  • HRW says it has documented torture of people in custody.

NEW YORK: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday demanded an immediate, independent, and transparent investigation into the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s in police custody.

The demand comes after Gill’s lawyers and PTI colleagues repeatedly alleged that security officials beat and otherwise tortured Gill in custody.

They also assert that he was denied medical treatment for his asthma condition; however, the federal government and police have denied the allegations.

Gill was arrested on August 9 in Islamabad after a sedition case was filed against him at a police station in the federal capital for inciting mutiny in the Pakistan Army.

In a bid to end the ordeal, John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, urged the Senate to urgently pass a bill that would make torture a criminal offence.

On August 1, 2022, the National Assembly passed the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act, which, if enacted into law, will for the first time criminalise torture by Pakistan’s security forces.

The bill has been sent to the standing committee and can be considered as early as in the next Senate session later in August, the HRW official said.

“The first step to ending Pakistan’s endemic torture problem is to criminalize it,” said Sifton.

“Justice and accountability in cases of torture will only be possible if parliament passes the torture bill and the government enforces the law by carrying out transparent and impartial investigations into torture allegations.”

It said that the HRW has long documented the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by the police during criminal investigations.

Criminal suspects from marginalised groups are at particular risk of police abuse, the watchdog said, adding methods of torture include beatings with batons and littars (leather straps), stretching and crushing legs with roola (metal rods), sexual violence, prolonged sleep deprivation, and causing severe mental anguish, including by forcing detainees to watch other people being tortured.

Allegations of torture in political cases need to be investigated by authorities independently of the political interests of the governing authorities, Human Rights Watch said.

During previous governments, there have been numerous credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment of political opponents or critics of the government.

The use of torture in political cases has received recent attention, the HRW said.

“By passing the torture bill, Pakistan will start a long-overdue process of reform to ensure that future allegations of torture are transparently investigated and that those responsible held accountable,” Sifton said.


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