ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Saturday discussed overcrowding of suspects with convicts in prisons and their human rights violations.
They discussed this during the hearing of the case pertaining to ‘human rights violations in the prison cells’.
In Nov 2019, the IHC had constituted a commission, headed by Shireen Mazari, to probe the HR violations in jails. The commission was formed during hearing of the petition filed by an inmate after he lost his eyesight during his jail term.
The federal minister for human rights said she wanted to personally submit the final report about it in the court. Condition of jails would not be improved until issues of under trial prisoners were not resolved, she said.
The CJ high court said until a suspect was convicted, he was considered an accused.
Shireeen said 70 percent inmates in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 60 percent in Punjab, 55 percent in Balochistan were only suspects and not convicts.
“A suspect is considered innocent until he is proven guilty and sentenced for his crime,” the CJ said adding that the first canon of the human rights was to segregate suspects from the convicts.
Athar Minallah said the authority of arresting was being misused, while the Supreme Court had already said that arrest without concrete evidence was misuse of authority. He said the investigation officers were either untrained or oblivious of the law. They needed to see that unnecessary arrests were swelling the number of prisoners, which eventually rose the problems of human rights, he said. He said many of the suspects under trial would not flee after getting a bail.
Shireen Mazari noted that even facilities of toilets and ramps for disabled prisoners were missing in the jails. She said she had requested separate jails for transgender.
The human rights minister said work for rehabilitation of industries was being done in jails and the inmates were not given emolument for this rather their sentence duration was deducted.
She said families of the missing persons had not committed any crime but they were under severe mental and financial pressure for enforced disappearances of their loved ones. While, she said, political personalities involved in crimes had been bailed.
The medical officer of the commission said 249 such inmates had been identified who needed immediate medical assistance.
Mazari said the government had made a committee for jail reforms comprising Law Minister Barrister Farough Naseem and Barrister Ali Zafar.
The CJ said the government had the responsibility and authority to release a convict if he fell seriously ill. “The complete philosophy of Islam is that a human being should be treated as a human being. Islam’s philosophy is that no matter a hundred guilty persons are escaped, but not a single innocent person should be given punishment,” he said.
Mazari said the government had run awareness campaign on child abuse cases also. The CJ IHC asked if the ministry had done something for the children in jails too. Mazari responded affirmatively saying that there was mention of issues and rights of children and women in the commission report.
Athar Minallah said he not only hoped but had complete faith in the government that it would bring the change.