Tuesday, 14 December 2010


This is a guest post by Afshaan Hena who campaigns with REPRIEVE

Reprieves Pakistan Police Torture Project

The reputation of legal action charity Reprieve is well known; their founding director Clive Stafford-Smith was, after all, one on the first attorneys to gain access to Guantanamo Bay. He fought for nine months to be able to represent those detained in the so called “War on Terror”. Reprieve's most notable clients have included Moazzam Begg and Binyam Mohammed. They continue with passion and dedication representing those in Guantanamo Bay and British citizens facing the death penalty abroad.

They have recently launched a new project, which is one the first of its kind, called the Pakistan Police Torture Project. Through their work fighting injustice around the world, they became aware of appalling stories of abuse at the hands of some police officers in the Pakistani Police force. Put simply, they wish to eradicate the use of torture in police detention in Pakistan by proving that it is indeed systemic and endemic. The evidence they gather will be used in three ways: to assist, prevent and reform.

The information they collect is used to assist those currently detained in Pakistan as a result of confessions extracted through torture, to prevent detention and further mistreatment of others following such confessions and to reform the police officers who are responsible for such abuse through public, political and legal intervention.

The inspiration for the project came from Reprieve clients Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman, where “confessions” were extracted from them after they were made to undergo severe and medieval forms of torture, from their fingernails being pulled out with pliers to undergoing excruciating reverse and inverse strappado.

As a Reprieve ‘fan’ on Facebook I became aware of this fascinating new project and made immediate contact to become involved. Since being on board the Project has published a number of articles (please go to the links below to read some of these articles):


The vast majority of British Pakistanis know, understand and have even suffered abuse at the hands of the Pakistani police. But the sheer depth of the problem relating to police abuse in Pakistan is unbeknownst to the majority of Britons. Bridging this gap of knowledge is just one of many aims and objectives of the Project.

Provided Reprieve gathers enough witness statements, they can aid the abolition of torture. This will primarily, but not exclusively, be in the form of obtaining a Supreme Court verdict which abolishes the use of evidence extracted through torture. This verdict can then be used as legal precedent, binding on each and every court below the Supreme Court. The Governments of Pakistan and Britain will also undoubtedly do more if Reprieve can prove what is common knowledge to most British Pakistanis – torture can be routine in Pakistani police stations.

The project has ambitions to make Pakistan a safer place for all Pakistanis, British Pakistanis included.

For years, Reprieve has scrutinised and often embarrassed the US and UK into changing their abhorrent ways in regards to the torture of innocents, the incarceration of innocents and the deaths of innocents. Over the past few years, Reprieve has expanded its worked in Pakistan because of the alarming rise in cases of torture. It also strives to represent 'disappeared prisoners' in the War on Terror but also those facing the death penalty in Pakistan.

To find out more about the Project, please go to: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/pakistanpolicetortureproject

If you are a victim or know of a victim, you can speak to afshaan.hena@reprieve.org.uk, nawaz.hanif@reprieve.org.uk or owen.watkins@reprieve.org.uk confidentially and securely.