Reprieve launches investigation into systematic torture of British citizens by Pakistani police in Pakistan Police Torture Project

July 2, 2010

Reprieve has today launched a new investigative project tackling the culture of torture and impunity in police stations across Pakistan. 

The Pakistan Police Torture Project was inspired by Reprieve’s work defending British citizens on Pakistan’s death row, which has revealed consistent evidence of widespread police torture across the region.

With investigative teams based in Birmingham and Pakistan, Reprieve is collecting testimony from victims in both countries in order to uncover the full scale of the problem. We will use the testimony, along with expert medical support, to file legal challenges in the Pakistani courts and to engage the Pakistani government.

Reprieve can already confirm that it is standard practice in many Pakistan police stations to torture suspects until they confess. Standard abuses include falaka (foot whipping with a rod or cane), fingernails pulled out, hot chillies rubbed in eyes, endless beatings with sticks and being hung from the ceiling until shoulders dislocate.

Many British nationals have suffered such abuse whilst visiting family in Pakistan. In June 2004, Birmingham-born Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman were arrested in Kashmir and tortured into confessions and paying large bribes. Six years later, they are still awaiting trial in Mirpur prison. Glasgow’s Shabbir Zaib, now released, was subjected to falaka by the police until he confessed to murdering his wife.

As thousands of British nationals travel back and forth to Pakistan each year, many will have encountered legal difficulties during their stay and many more will know of incidents of abuse. Reprieve’s team of investigators are now seeking testimony from victims of Pakistani police abuse and appeal to anyone with information to come forward.

Marc Callcutt, Reprieve’s Casework Lawyer for Pakistan, said: “There is no doubt that in the dark back rooms of police stations across Pakistan, innocent people are being beaten with sticks, having chillies rubbed in their eyes and suffering shocking physical and psychological abuse. Reprieve’s Pakistan Police Torture Project will shed light on these medieval practices, and end the culture of impunity in which the police operate. I am sure we will also see the Pakistani people stand up and demand that these shameful practices be stopped.”

More information at www.reprieve.org.uk/pakistanpolicetortureproject or contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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