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Press Release: NCHR Inquiry Report on Custodial Torture at Central Jail (Adiala), Rawalpindi

ISLAMABAD, Tuesday, October 25, 2022: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) presented its inquiry report on custodial torture at Central Jail (Adiala), Rawalpindi before the Honourable Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The inquiry report was prepared by NCHR, at the behest of Chief Justice Minallah on the basis of a complaint of custodial torture filed by Ms. Imtiaz Bibi before IHC.

NCHR is an independent, federal statutory body established under the National Commission for Human Rights Act, 2012. It is the outcome of Pakistan’s Constitutional commitments and its international treaty commitments to promote and protect human rights. Section 9 (a) of the NCHR Act, 2012 endows the Commission with the power to inquire suo motu or upon petitions by victims or any person on their behalf, into complaints of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof; or (ii) negligence, in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant.

NCHR’s team comprising Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha, Member Punjab Nadeem Ashraf, and Legal Counsel Waqar Ahmad visited Adiala Jail eight times during the course of this investigation and met with numerous inmates to take their statements. Through these inspections NCHR uncovered various issues from administrative incapacities to the blatant torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners: 74% spoke of instances of torture and extortion whereas 100% corroborated instances of financial extortion for every rightful facility provided at the jail.

Adiala Jail experiences overcrowding (6,098 inmates housed in a jail built for 2,174), a lack of medical personnel (one doctor for 5,851 prisoners) and medical budget (1/7 of its demand), inedible food, and a system steeped in financial extortion to get access to basic rights and facilities within the jail. Accounts of torture range from physical beatings to solitary confinement – a violation of Rule 44 of the Mandela Rules which have been ratified by Pakistan.

Another issue uncovered by this investigation was the plight of juvenile prisoners due to the lack of implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018: 79 out of 82 juveniles are under trial, 29 of whom are without legal representation which is in contravention to Section 3(1) of the JJSA, 2018. 75% of juveniles have no father and come from the most impoverished sections of society. With no support from family or state, even those granted bail have no recourse to sureties, no place to go, and will often remain incarcerated with habitual and hardened juvenile offenders.

Chief Justice Minallah lauded the report as a detailed and comprehensive look into the true face of the prison system in Pakistan, likening Adiala Jail to a “concentration camp” rather than a reformatory institution, where “justice is denied to the weak and vulnerable because the prevailing system allows its exploitation by the privileged and those who wield influence.”

Chief Justice Minallah noted the lack of resources and manpower available to NCHR and pressed the Federal Government in his order to “take urgent measures to facilitate the Commission to effectively undertake its functions” as an independent oversight body.

The court order directed that the inquiry report be published and shared with the Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet, as well as the Chief Minister of the Government of Punjab to take immediate action against the public servants responsible for the human rights abuses detailed within the report.

The order also directed the Federal Ministry to reactivate the Implementation Commission to submit an inquiry report on the impunity against custodial torture at Adiala Jail. In addition to this, he ordered the setting up of a complaint cell within Adiala Jail as well as oversight to ensure none of the prisoners interviewed for the report have retaliatory action taken against them.

With regard to the situation of juvenile prisoners detailed in the inquiry report, Chief Justice Minallah ordered the Federal Government and the Government of Punjab to take measures to accommodate the nine children that have received bail through the intervention of NCHR at appropriate child protection centres.

Finally, the court order also called for “establishing and notifying human rights courts under section 21 of the Act of 2012 within 10 days from the date of receiving this order.”