‘Brutish trend of extrajudicial killings unacceptable’


–HRCP demands rectification of ‘distorted mechanism betraying little coordination between various branches of state’

–NHRJ demands judicial commission to probe Sahiwal tragedy

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that it is “horrified” at the recent incident in which four individuals were killed by an elite force of the Punjab police, allegedly in a counter-terrorism operation.

“Increasingly, it appears that what was initially termed ‘an encounter with terrorists’ was the unnecessary, violent death of four people, including two parents and their teenage daughter,” HRCP said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“This incident is deeply troubling at several levels. The first is the alleged absence of any sign of due process. There is no question that the violence perpetrated by terrorist organisations must be eliminated.  However, ‘encounter killings’ that rapidly resurface as ‘extrajudicial murders’ – once more and more facts emerge and are verified – simply cannot continue to be argued as a “necessary evil” to uphold the rule of law,” the statement read.

“Second, this incident should initially have been brushed off as “collateral damage” is a dire sign of how high our tolerance for impunity – as a state and society – has risen. Third, the rate at which accounts of the incident have changed and the contradictions therein point to a distorted mechanism that betrays little coordination between the various branches of the state concerned. This needs to be rectified swiftly,” demanded the human rights watchdog.

“HRCP reiterates the need for investing heavily and sensibly in law enforcement agency reforms and training that will help minimise the incidence of ‘encounter’ killings. Equally, all law enforcement personnel as well as the public, the media and the people’s elected representatives must be sensitised to the state’s constitutional duty to ensure that no person should be ‘deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law’.”

The statement added that a key part of this implies understanding that the second clause of the fundamental right was not an excuse to widen the net to include ‘encounter’ killings.

“It goes without saying that perpetrators of extrajudicial killings at the highest level must be punished under the law – and not protected – if this brutish trend is to be curtailed. HRCP welcomes the Senate Standing Committee on Interior’s demand for a judicial probe into the incident, and hopes that this will be conducted transparently and its recommendations made public,” it concluded.

Meanwhile, Network for Human Rights and Justice (NHRJ) also condemned the Sahiwal tragedy and demanded that a judicial commission is formed to thoroughly investigate the issue involving police brutality.

“We demand the government to form a judicial commission headed by a sitting judge to investigate the issue and to award exemplary punishment to those responsible for the deaths. We believe the joint investigation team (JIT) will not fix any responsibility,” NHRJ CEO Muhammad Zulqarnain Sulehria said while speaking to journalists.