February 25, 2018 - Comments Off on Statement: Civil society strongly condemns behaviour of LEAs in blasphemy case
February 26, 2018
Subject: Civil society strongly condemns behaviour of law enforcement authorities in alleged blasphemy case
Civil society organisations and concerned citizens have issued a strong condemnation of the torture, inhumane treatment and sexual abuse of Patras Masih and Sajid Masih by the Cyber Crime Wing, FIA in Lahore. The statement in its entirety can be found here: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/demands-to-the-ministry-civil-society-strongly-condemns-behaviour-of-law-enforcement-authorities-in-blasphemy-case/.
The 17 year-old accused, Patras Masih, was accused of allegedly posting blasphemous material on social media. Masih belongs to the Christian community in Shahdara, which has been under siege since the last week by the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and other religious parties who demanded Masid be punished and incited violence against the family. These threats have endangered the entire Christian community living in Dhir village in Shahdara Town, resulting in some fleeing their homes. An FIR was registered against Patras (FIR No. 174/18) on February 19 at the Shahdara Town Police Station under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On February 23, 2018, Patras Masih and his cousin, Sajid Masih, were in the custody of the FIA at the Lahore headquarters when the abuse by law enforcement officials took place. Around 6:00 PM, Sajid fell off the fourth floor of the FIA building resulting in serious injuries to his head and body. It has come to light that Sajid and Patras were tortured by officers of the cyber crime wing and were coerced into sexually assaulting one another. Sajid, pleaded with them to stop. As a last resort, in order to escape the torture and sexual abuse, he jumped off the fourth floor of the FIA building, where the cyber crime wing is located. Sajid is currently in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Nighat Dad, Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, pointed out that “as a law enforcement body, it is the duty of the FIA to ensure that there are safeguards in place to ensure that the accused are accorded their rights. It is the bedrock of the criminal justice system and the FIA has failed to do so in this case.”
In a statement signed by more than 150 collectives, civil society organisations and concerned citizens serious concerns were raised regarding the treatment of marginalised groups by law enforcement agencies, specifically religious minorities. The state has a heightened duty to protect persecuted groups. Given the history of the blasphemy law being misused to target minority groups, it is egregious that the FIA completely failed to provide any security to the accused and the family. The law enforcement authorities have not only failed in their duty to protect minorities, but have actively participated in violence against them.
In a series of demands, the government has been called upon to immediately withdraw the FIR for attempted suicide against Sajid and ensure that the accused and their family are provided with effective security. Demands has also been made to conduct an independent inquiry into the matter and penalise any abuse of power by the concerned officials. The statement also calls for effective oversight of law enforcement agencies to hold them accountable and prevent abuse of power. Special protocols and procedures should be in place to deal with cases, such as blasphemy, where the lives of the accused are in danger. Lastly, the statement cautions against the proposed amendments to add blasphemy offences to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, given the inability of the state to protect those accused under the law.
The statement has been endorsed by organisations such as Huma Rights Commission of Pakistan, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Bolo Bhi, National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), South Asian Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), Shirkatgah, Minorities Rights Watch as well as collectives including Girls at Dhabas, Women’s Action Forum Chapters of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad and Peshawar, the Feminist Collective, Network of Journalists for Digital Rights and Women United for Digital Rights.