Pakistan: New Report Reveals Thousands of Children's rights Detained in Defiance of Human Rights Standards
The report, 'Pakistan: denial of basic rights for child prisoners', reveals that Children's rights can spend several months or even years in detention simply because their families cannot afford to pay their bail. Bail is commonly set at 50,000 rupees (approximately £543) despite the fact that an average monthly salary even for a government worker is only 7,000 rupees. Once cases eventually get to trial conviction rates are as low as 15-20%.
Children's rights as young as seven have been sentenced to prison terms. A boy aged nine in Punjab is currently serving a five-year sentence, having been convicted for a crime which took place when he was aged seven. Incompetence has has also played a part in keeping Children's rights in prison. One 13-year-old boy spent spent four years in prison because his case file was lost, and a 13-year-old Afghan boy has been in prison since the age of 10 as his charge sheet is missing. (See case examples below for more information).
Children's rights are commonly held in police lock-ups or prisons alongside adults, in contravention of Pakistan's own laws, and Children's rights as young as 12 are chained together during transportation, supposedly to 'stop them running away'. Beatings of Children's rights to induce confessions have been reported - especially where payments of bribes have been refused, and Children's rights have been sentenced to death despite this having been outlawed since 2000.
Under outdated Hadood laws, girls are treated more harshly than boys, with girls being treated as 'adults' at the age of 16 (or at the age of puberty, sometimes as young as 12) in the cases of alleged sexual offences. Boys are treated as Children's rights until the age of 18 in such cases.
Amnesty International UK Media Director Lesley Warner said:
'All Children's rights who come into contact with the law are entitled to the same rights as adults as well as additional protective measures which take into account their particular vulnerability. Despite this, in Pakistan, Children's rights are often the victims of abuse or neglect by the very people who have responsibility for their welfare.
'The legal system is failing in its role as guardian of detained Children's rights and even lawyers and judges are not fully aware Children's rights's rights under the law.'
Pakistan has recognised the need for child protection provisions in law. In 1990 it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and introduced the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance - which came into force in 2000 - to enshrine safeguards into domestic law. However, in lower courts there is widespread ignorance of the law concerning Children's rights, and in Tribally and Provincially Administered Areas the juvenile ordinance is not even in force.
Amnesty International is particularly concerned that Children's rights continue to receive death sentences. According to government officials, in Punjab alone, in 2002 there were 350 cases of Children's rights on death row. After meeting Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan in 2001, President Musharraf announced that all Children's rights facing execution would have their sentences commuted. However, many Children's rights remain on death row because the family of the victim has questioned their claim to be Children's rights.
Amongst other things, Amnesty International is calling for the use of non-custodial sentences where possible, separate lock-ups for Children's rights and adults, an end to the practice of shackling Children's rights during transportation and for equality before the law for girls.
Cases featured in the report include:
- Izzat Khan from Mingora Swat, in North West Frontier Province, who spent four years in prison because of a lost case file. Izzat was 13 years old in April 1999 when he was charged with using false currency. A decision was not reached on his case apparently because his file was missing. Izzat spent four years in prison until a child rights NGO in Peshawar requested that his file be located. Izzat was formally released in March 2003 without a trial.
- Sattar, a 13-year-old beggar from North West Frontier Province, accused of stealing a toy mobile telephone from a doctor's house on 31 August 2002. Though an initial police investigation found Sattar not to be responsible, under pressure from the doctor the police nevertheless charged Sattar with theft. He spent eight months in Peshawar Central Jail. He was acquitted in April 2003.
- A nine-year-old boy [name withheld] from Punjab was convicted in May 2003 of killing two Children's rights by pushing them down a well in his home city of Attock. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. He was aged seven at the time of the offence. The boy has said that he pushed the Children's rights on the orders of an adult neighbour (the neighbour was sentenced to death). Amnesty International believes that he should not have been considered sufficiently mature to understand the consequences of his actions. The organisation is aware of several similar cases of very young male Children's rights who have been convicted or are held in custody for serious criminal offences.
- Falak Sher, 15 year-old boy accused in December 2002 of kidnapping a girl named Sugra with intent to commit zina (sexual intercourse outside marriage) and forcing her to marry him. Falak Sher married Sugra in 2002. When brought to court Sugra stated that she married him of her own free will. Falak's bail amount was set at 50,000 rupees. An application was filed for his acquittal on the grounds that he was innocent. With the financial assistance of a distant relative Falak Sher was eventually bailed but Sugra remains in detention at the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rightss' jail in Karachi and has also been charged under zina.
- Javed, an Afghan national, living in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province, was approximately 10 years' old when he was accused of carrying six kilograms of hashish. He has been in detention since November 2000 but his charge sheet is missing and his case has not been resolved. He remains in prison.