Islamabad, Pakistan (TFC) – Birmingham residents Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman face execution after being tortured into confessing to a double murder in Kashmir. Since 2004 British authorities have allegedly done nothing to help.
According to the defendants’ lawyer, Muhammad Mustafa of Bagri Law Associate, “The case against Naheem and Rehan stems from a dispute concerning Naheem’s family land in Pakistan. Naheem’s father, Fazal, was born and raised on this family land in the village of Ratta, in Azad-Kashmir. When Fazal moved to the UK, where he spent his working life as a small-business owner in Birmingham, he left the land in the care of his step-sister. Many years later Fazal retired and returned to the village, taking his son Naheem with him. When two men were shot, police arrested Fazal, Naheem and Naheem’s friend Rehan Zaman. The police said the land dispute provided the men with a motive.”
At Didyal police station, the police beat Naheem savagely and jumped on his stomach with boots on; Fazal and Rehan heard him screaming through the walls. When Naheem failed to confess, the police tortured all three men relentlessly for two weeks, frequently beating Naheem and Fazal in front of each other. Techniques used included falaka (whipping the foot with a rod ), ‘inverse strappado’ (being hung from a hook and kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), cigarettes extinguished on their skin and fingernails pulled out. Others involved ropes used to pull their legs apart and wood turned like a garrotte to effectively paralyze the legs. The police also threatened to shoot them.
After police threatened to nail his son to a tree, Fazal wrote the Police Chief a cheque for over £10,000 and signed a ‘confession’ stating that he had instigated the murders. Naheem was also forced to sign a document which he was unable to read as it was written in Urdu.
Fazal is now back in the UK but Naheem and Rehan still face the death penalty.
Pakistan is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Both treaties impose duties on states to prevent torture. But according to Justice Project Pakistan’s report Policing As Torture, “Police in the Faisalabad District have systematically committed torture…physicians’ assessments show 1,424 instances of police abuse [between 2006-2012]…victims explained to JPP that they had been reluctant to lodge complaints for fear of retaliation by the police.”
“Torture methods were varied and extreme: Police have beaten victims, suspended, stretched and crushed them, forced them to witness other people’s torture, put them in solitary confinement, subjected them to sleep and sensory deprivation, confined them to small spaces, exposed them to extreme temperatures, humiliated them by imposing culturally inappropriate or unpleasant circumstances, and sexually abused them. In a majority of the cases, physicians found scars, injuries, and other observable signs documenting the abuse.”
Human rights organisation Reprieve has also been involved in the case, working closely with lawyer Muhammad Mustafa. Reprieve‘s Catherine Higham said “In terms of the hope for ending torture I think that although we are a long way off at present this is something that can and should be thought of as a realistic goal. We know that there are mechanisms that can help to counter the use of police torture, which include instituting proper mechanisms for investigating torture allegations when raised, ensuring accountability for the perpetrators of torture, and providing police with training and resources to help them develop alternative (more effective!) methods of investigation. Although there will never be change overnight gradual change is possible. The British Government and the rest of the international community need to do everything they can to ensure that Pakistan takes the necessary steps towards ending these abuses.”
But the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not always provide an acceptable level of assistance to Brits facing torture abroad. According to the Foreign Affairs Select Committe’s 5th report into FCO consular services, “Fair Trials is aware of several reports of the FCO’s failure to take appropriate action in response to allegations of torture.”
“[Fair Trials] have also encountered various complaints from British citizens who reported that they were disappointed with the level of support they received when trying to seek assistance for torture…We also received detailed submissions from two groups of three individuals who had been held in Dubai in 2012-13 and Pakistan in 2004-11 respectively, and who alleged that FCO officials had been aware of their allegations of torture but had not taken appropriate action.”
In Naheem and Rehan’s case, their families contacted the British High Commission in Pakistan within a week of their arrest in June 2004, but no action was taken to stop the torture until after they had been transferred out of the police station. According to Reprieve, “The FCO stated that the reason they had not acted was because they had been advised not to by the men’s lawyer. However, internal emails released under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that they did not even talk to this lawyer until 3 months after they had been arrested.”
In 2009 the BBC reported that “Mr Hussain’s MP Clare Short rubbished the evidence and said UK authorities had done ‘absolutely nothing’ to help.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not respond to requests for comment.