AI concerned about child detentions
ISLAMABAD: Up to 4,500 children are in detention in Pakistan, more than two-thirds of whom have not been convicted of an offence, Amnesty International said.
A report by the rights watchdog called Pakistan: denial of basic rights for child prisoners said children stayed in jails for years because their parents could afford to pay their bail, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“However, when their cases come to court, the conviction rate can be as low as 15%. The legal system is failing in its role as guardian of detained children and even lawyers and judges are not fully aware of children’s rights under the law,” said Amnesty International UK Media Director Lesley Warner.
The report lists various case studies to highlight its findings, including that of a 13-year-old boy who spent four years in prison because his case file was lost. Another 13-year-old Afghan boy has been in prison since he was10 because his charge sheet is missing.
Bail is often set at around Rs 50,000 (about $878), while the average monthly pay of even a government worker is only Rs 7,000. The report said children could be locked up alongside adults, contravening Pakistan’s own laws. Children as young as 12 are chained together during transportation.
Amnesty said last year 350 children were on death row in the Punjab and many remained there despite President Gen Pervez Musharraf commuting their sentences. Crime victims’ families dispute that the defendants are children. “The tribal areas even fail to apply the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance that Pakistan introduced after ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Amnesty says. It urges authorities to use non-custodial sentences where possible. —SANA