Annual Activity Report 2019-2020
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
I’m proud to present the year 2019-2020 Annual Report, reporting on activities that were undertaken by LAW on the implementation child rights’ laws particularly Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 across Pakistan in view of saving people below the age of 18-year from inhuman punishment those housed in 104 prisons.
Most notable, after a great deal of shared thinking, consultation and refinement, Legal Awareness Watch-LAW published a Strategic Plan that will guide LAW and its partners within Pakistan, and aboard in year 2021. The strategy plan of year 2021 will possibly bring effective justice to juveniles in light of the United Nations Convention on Child Rights (CRC) which Pakistan ratified and signed in 1990 in line of Article 37 and Article 6 among others of the same convention disregarded awarding of life imprisonment without parole and use of the death penalty upon children even in rare of rarest circumstances. Despite ratification of UN (CRC) in 1990 and introduction of juvenile related law children still often subjected to gallows and/or mass incarceration or extra judicially murdered in Pakistan.
Throughout the pages of this Report, I invite you to reflect on LAW’s activities, through its individual cases, advocacy campaigning to lift stakeholders in order to help those in need of assistance housed in prisons.
“LEGAL AWARENESS WATCH”–LAW
ANNUAL ACTIVITY REPORT
Legal Awareness Watch-LAW was created under the law in year 1999 to protect rights of children and marginalized. Our annual activity report provides overview of activities of LAW planned across Punjab and Sindh in 2019-2020 concerning juvenile justice system based upon implementation of Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) 2018. This report entails the work of LAW, details of the joint work with partners across Punjab and Sindh. LAW had a two-fold strategy i.e. individual cases, awareness-raising advocacy (including research) in view of institutional development. This report has summarized conclusions and recommendations forwarded by the participants and stakeholders who participated in forums & sessions held across Punjab and Sindh in 2019-2020. It also compiled pictorial skeleton of events planned across Punjab and Sindh on the implementation of JJSA in 2019-2020.
JJSA repealed Juvenile Justice Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 with a view of further strengthening juvenile justice system of Pakistan prior to promulgation of JJSO 2000, there was no codified law for the protection of juvenile offenders accused of offences carrying the death penalty and life imprisonment. However, some laws found to have been in existence across Pakistan; but most of those remained dormant from the day of their promulgation those laws included reformatory Schools Act 1897, The Punjab Borstal Act 1926, The Sindh Children Act 1955, and The Probation of Offenders Ordinance 1960. The ratification of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Children (CRC) which the state of Pakistan ratified and signed in 1990, and promulgation of the JJSA were major landmarks for the protection of child rights in Pakistan, however, dissemination acquaintance with JJSA across Punjab and Sindh often subjected juvenile offenders to violence, discrimination, mass incarceration, or even some sent to gallows (arbitrarily, in absence of defense counsel, age determination, etc.) in sheer negation of the CRC and General Comment No. 10 on the UN CRC adopted in February 2007. The state of juvenile offenders across Pakistan had not been changed relevantly stated by Amnesty International in 2003 in a report on juveniles that “despite the promulgation of the JJSO the rights of young people accused of criminal offences continue to be denied stands unaltered.” It is thus reasonably safe to state that the state of juvenile offenders in 2019-2020 remained as same as it used to be before the promulgation of JJSA.
Despite slowness in implementing JJSA a few positives though had been witnessed across Punjab province for instance, Bahawalpur bench of Lahore High Court in Criminal Miscellaneous granted post arrest bail to a juvenile on statutory ground of six months in lines with section 6 (5) of JJSA. The Appellate court observed that a juvenile could not be kept in prison for more than six months from the date of his arrest-where delay in trial was caused by the prosecution/complainant. Moreover, a single-member bench comprised of the Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court set aside an anti-terrorism court’s order to determine the age of the suspected juvenile offender of an under-trial blasphemy accused and ordered his trial under the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018.
Somehow, it could not be established that courts across Pakistan implemented JJSA or decided cases in view of the same. In year 2019-2020 provisions of JJSA, for instance, section 3 provided every juvenile or child victim of an offence will have the right of legal assistance at the state expense and juvenile is to be informed about this right of legal assistance within 24 hours after being taken into custody. To our knowledge no fund to date had been allocated across Punjab in for legal assistance of juvenile offenders. Moreover, section 9 provided ‘diversion mechanism’ by referring the petty matters of young juvenile offenders to a juvenile justice committee, meant to be an alternative process of determining the responsibility and treatment of a juvenile on basis of his/her social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational background without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.
LAW’s interventions in Sindh with the support of its partner organisation Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) as warranted under section 10 had been notified in Shikarpur division of Sindh province in early February 2020. However, not a single such like committee (s) had been notified across Punjab, except Lahore but same had not conducted any session since its notification in year 2019 until the time of this report. In year 2021 a lot more will have to done to push administrations of Punjab and Sindh for notifying JJC at all session’s division.
LAW has been involved in ‘Individual Cases’ of victims below the age of 18-year those facing barbaric and inhuman the death penalty and life imprisonment (blasphemy offence is one of those). LAW activated its working upon individual cases in year 2017 from submission of clemency plea to the former President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain of the condemned prisoner Muhammad Iqbal alias “Bali” on humanitarian ground having not attained the age of 18-year age at the time of his arrest in 1999.“Bali” had been released in July 2020 from prison after spending almost two decades-owing to extensive involvement of LAW until his release in July, 2020. LAW gave pro bono legal aid to “Bali’ that began in 2017 until July 2020, and remained associated with departments of government for follow up of his clemency plea. LAW may term his peaceful release from prison as “achievement” result of collective efforts of its partners’ aboard and within Pakistan.
On account of reception of financial stability LAW spread its legal defense to as many as possible to juveniles facing the DP & LI and the same spread to Sindh in 2019-20. From 2017, LAW had represented about 50 juveniles across Punjab and Sindh in courts and at administrative levels. LAW in collaboration with its partners & stakeholders hopes to continue working on individual cases in year 2021 to the reason that individual cases of juveniles formulate baseplate of its advocacy on the protection of children in conflict with law. It is clear that juvenile offenders in a position to face death penalty or life sentence are first victims of juvenile justice system failures, negligence and weaknesses. It is essential to work on training approach as prevention of such “legal crimes”. Following paras will provide synopsis of “special cases” handled during 2019-2020 in Punjab and Sindh.
LAW took up a miserable case of alleged juvenile offender Muhammad Rizwan-who was extra judicially murdered by the Investigation Officer (I.O) of police station in connection with First Information Report (FIR) therein his mother, father, and a brother sent to judicial lockup for keeping Muhammad Rizwan’s extra judicial killing in darkness. Owing to tireless efforts of LAW and its legal team 05 policemen were found guilty of murdering juvenile M. Rizwan in the judicial inquiry held and conducted by the Judicial Magistrate under section 176 of CrPC 1898. Moreover, Pakistan’s First Child Court (not exclusively juvenile court) notified on 19th December, 2017 pursuant of direction of the then Chief Justice of Lahore High Court acquitted one Yasser Rehmani about 14-year of age at the time of his arrest of a charge of rape under section 376 CrPC 1898 in year 2018 finding no incrimination evidence against alleged accuse Yasser Rehmani. Furthermore, in 2019 LAW assisted a family of juvenile Imran Shah-who was secretly buried in the local grave yard of Lahore by the police after causing extra judicial killing of him. In year 2019, LAW had a chance of getting involved in a case of Ahmed Ali-who was 14-year of age having allegedly charged with an offence carrying the death penalty. Ahmed Ali was acquitted of a charge in year 2019 on basis of compromise between parties. During trial proceedings the court directed police officials producing Ahmed Ali without handcuffed until the pendency of trial. Probation Officer at Sessions Court and members of LAW sought such directory orders from trial court against police. We applaud all those who assisted LAW in individual cases in year 2019-2020 including probation officer (s) of other districts of Punjab.
To the other hand, in Sindh dissemination and slowness in implementing JJSA had also affected juveniles for instance, a 14-year old juvenile named Abdul Raheem Vistro sentenced to life imprisonment under section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860 also convicted under section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. The trial court convicted him of terrorism related offence in sheer ignorance of provisions of JJSA. The Sindh High Court bench at Sukkur is due to take up Jail Appeal filed on behalf of Abdul Raheem Vistro in coming months. In another case a trial court of Jacobabad district sentenced one Imtiaz Abro to serve life imprisonment on 23-05-2019 without age determination test as warranted under section 8 of JJSA. Imtiaz claimed to be of less than 18-year of age on the day of his arrest.
In a bid to bring positive improvements in the existing despicable juvenile justice system awareness-raising advocacy campaign on the implementation of JJSA 2018 in the year 2019 had been launched across Punjab. Awareness-raising advocacy commenced from Lahore on 19th June, 2019 (Forum no.1)- where Pakistan’s first Child Court Judge inaugurated the forum on the implementation of JJSA and appeared as one of the Speakers among others. Thereafter, a same sort of forum after almost a month gap held on 17th July, 2019 (Forum no. 2) in Lahore. Needless to say forums held in year 2019 drew participants from the civil society organisations, Probation and Parole Service Department (then Reclamation and Probation Department), Lawyers, Prosecution Department, Judiciary, etc.
Thereafter, LAW planned a training workshop at Police Training College, Chung in the same year on 10th October, 2019; whereby 40 policemen received training in light of JJSA. However, in year 2020 on 28th February LAW organized training workshop with prison police at National Academy of Prison Administration (NAPA) with prison police-whereby 40 prison police officials got trained by experts including members of LAW, 07 sessions in seven different districts of Punjab province in collaboration with diverse stakeholders those appeared to have roles in JJSA 2018 in 2020. Most recent of those sessions held in Bahawalpur district of Punjab on 15th October, 2020.
Needless to say, that LAW after reception of successful feed-back, and response from stakeholders substantiated its mission of implementation of JJSA 2018 to Sindh province of Pakistan in year 2020 with the support of Sindh based organisation. We thank Marvi Rural Development Organisation (MRDO) for having a partnership with LAW on such an important project on saving juveniles for barbarism in shape of the death penalty and life imprisonment. Until the time of drafting of this report LAW had collaborated with its partner organisation in 02 forums held in Sukkur and Ghotki districts, and 01 is due to take place in coming weeks in Shikarpur district. It is safely estimated that in 2019-2020, LAW and its partner organization by means of forums, sessions and training workshops mobilized, and advocated about 310 relevant folks directly and in another way around 3,000 folks in 2019-2020 through 11 events in year 2020 and 03 in 2019.
Research Survey I:
At the zenith of deadly Covid-19 pandemic early this year, LAW and its partner organization in Sindh launched a research survey on ‘Tracing of Juveniles those facing and/or convicted of the Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment” across Punjab and Sindh. In the wake of the Covid-19 within prisons across Pakistan authorities in April 2020 had submitted a report to the Apex Court of Pakistan stating that Punjab has 41 prisons including 02 prisons for juveniles having a total capacity of keeping 32,47700 prisoners. However, 45,000 prisoners had been detained in them. Sindh had 23 prisons having a capacity of detaining 13,538 prisoners instead keeping 16, 315 prisoners had been kept. KPK province has total 20 prisons with capacity of 4519 prisoners instead 9900 had been kept. Balochistan had a capacity of keeping 2122 prisoners instead 25000 prisoners have been housed. The report submitted to the Apex Court of Pakistan provided no data on juveniles/youth those facing the life imprisonment or death penalty across Pakistan.
In consideration to above in completed figures LAW elected to conduct a research survey with a mission of tracing total number of juveniles housed across 104 prisons of Pakistan. However, owing to limited financial restrictions research survey only targeted 10 prisons (out of 104 prisons) 05 prisons from each province. Thus, the research activity started in April 2020 concluded and printed in June 2020 with following figures (briefly) that: 3 girls and 84 boys as having a major penalty, contrary to international legal provisions. Of these young 6 have already been sentenced while 81 awaited their trial. Upon such findings, it could be safely assumed that population of juveniles facing and/or convicted of all criminal offences might be in thousands presumably 2,000 across 104 prisons of Pakistan. The research survey further noted those traced out had no legal representation at all having not being represented in the judicial proceedings in sheer violation of Article 10 (A) of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 and Article 40 (2) CRC which contained an important list of rights or guarantees that every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law “receives” a fair treatment and trial. Most of those guarantees can also be found in Article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). To receive legal representation in court is a human right that cannot be denied at all. However, LAW and its partner noted that juvenile offenders had been without legal representation in courts despite accuse of offence (s) carrying barbaric the death penalty and life imprisonment. Had there been implementation of section 3 of JJSA those juvenile offenders might had received legal representation at the state expense.
The research survey concluded that traced out juvenile offenders had no facility of probation officer (s) as required to have one under JJSA. Not a single juvenile offender had received services of probation officer (s) in the court’s proceedings or after conviction as warranted section 5. However, in few cases probation officer (s) got into the picture- where arrested juvenile offender alleged to infringed penal law carrying prison sentence up to seven years or carrying mere fines. In offences carrying sentence of life imprisonment or death penalty probation officer (s) either had no information of those cases either due to ignorance of law or reluctantly stayed away from assisting juvenile (s) standing trial.
Strategic Plan for the year 2021:
The scope of strategic year 2021 shall be broaden to child’s rights in juvenile justice in view of General Comment No.10 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child interpreted the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Adopted in February 2007 General Comment No.10 demanded comprehensive juvenile justice policy from member States. This comprehensive approach should not be limited to the implementation of the specific provisions contained in Articles 37 and 40 of CRC, but should also take into account the general principles enshrined in Articles 2, 3, 6 and 12 CRC, and all other relevant Articles of the CRC. Thus, following procedures will be adopted in strategic year 2021 in connection with advocacy campaigning.
Sessions & Training Workshops (s) with Probation Officer (s):
Onus of un-implementation of JJSA would not wholly be placed upon the shoulders of the bureaucracy, police or judiciary instead all pillars of juvenile justice system appeared to have been reluctant in improving already sordid juvenile justice system in lines with provisions of JJSA and CRC. Probation and Parole Service found to be unsuccessful in working pro-actively all across Punjab to the reason that JJSA or other enabling provisions of law placed no legal restriction upon it from working proactively in the interest of the welfare of juvenile coming to the court being accused of violating penal laws. Section 5 required that investigation officer to inform the concerned probation officer about arrest of juvenile within 24 hours of arrest of juvenile, it is (fairly presumed) reception of information about the arrest of juvenile could be received from any channel or even by probation officer (s) themselves via media or other means. Looking for information from police (having arrested juvenile) might simply be unacquaintance with JJSA due to lack of capacity building thus, they required to have capacity building through presentations and lectures on JJSA delivered by profound legal experts, police officials, etc. enhancing of mental capacity in order to deal with juvenile related cases pro-actively where police fail to informed probation officer (s) in violation of section 5 of JJSA. Therefore, in strategic year 2021, LAW proposed to have 07 sessions having mixed audience for discussion on JJSA in strategic year 2021 with an objective of giving theoretical knowledge upon CRC & JJSA to enhance mental capacity of stakeholders. It is contemplated that small sessions will be financially achievable & sustainable than training workshops. However, 02 training workshops likely to be planned in year 2021 for probation officer (s) in Punjab and Sindh. In year 2021, LAW will extensively get engaged with probation officer (s) to make them act pro-actively in fulfilment of their duties rising under JJSA for protection of children in conflict with law.
Sessions & Training Workshop (s) with Policemen:
LAW planned to have training workshops with policemen in strategic year 2021 as well sessions on reason that 90% of police officers those participated in our sessions and trainings had no information about the probation officer (s) on account of lack of communication as well as unawareness on JJSA among stakeholders of juvenile justice, 2 % expressed to avoid legal complications & in order to complete investigation as quickly as possible they mentioned incorrect age of juveniles on police file papers, and 5% admitted they had no awareness on JJSA prior to this. In 2019-2020, it had also been observed that policemen and defense lawyers-who participated in our sessions and forums had no idea of age determination under JJSA 2018 to the reason that police tend to pay attention facial expression of arrested juvenile for determination of age and lawyers believed that requirement of age determination meant nothing in juvenile justice. Thus, to these reasons LAW required to have training workshops with policemen approximately 02 with objective of explaining and making them aware of their roles & duties through practical activities and case study learnt from individual cases. It is also stated that LAW and its partner MRDO could not implemented as many sessions and training in 2020 due to outbreak of Covid-19.
Research Survey II:
In year 2021, LAW planned to target at least 20 prisons (10 from each province) subject to availability of financial resources in continuation of research survey I. At LAW, we believe that juvenile offenders views and voices should be included in any laws, policies, or decisions that will impact on their lives. Such participation is not possible if policy makers have no information on population of juvenile offenders in prisons across Pakistan.
One problem is no one knows, even roughly, how many children who are facing LI & DP across 104 prisons of Pakistan. Outdated and unreliable estimates are frequently referred to, but these often have no basis in reliable research. As one of the world’s most marginalized population groups, juvenile offenders are almost completely excluded from the data that is used by policy makers, donors and practitioners to make decisions and plan interventions. This results in them being left behind by development programs. Juvenile offenders are one of the most hidden and invisible populations in the world. This is because so far governments mainly collect information without adhering to proper research mechanism. This lack of inclusive research methods means that juvenile offenders are at risk of being excluded when the UN, governments and other institutions and organizations develop their strategies and policies based on flawed data.
For example, if juvenile offenders are not counted when vaccination campaigns are being planned, they will also not be reached when the vaccines are being delivered, leaving them – and as a result other child – vulnerable to disease in prevailing Covid-19 situation and implementation of juvenile related will remain unaddressed.
Developing Juvenile Justice Network Pakistan (JJNP):
Contacts developed with stakeholders, and individuals in 2019-2020 shall be considered in the year 2021 for initiating a network, it would be a novel attempt of starting a network of this sort in Pakistan. Non profitable NGOs, departments, lawyers, prosecutors, district and higher judiciary members, probation and parole service department shall be brought under the umbrella of network to make our awareness connected advocacy on the implementation of JJSA and child rights be heard and considered within the Parliament of Pakistan and other decision-making bodies. Parents of juveniles those acquitted of criminal charges shall also be requested to join JJNP to have their experiences and difficulties attained in the justice system-while defending their children be heard to decision-making bodies. Needless to say, that LAW had already created a social media group/ Whatsapp group in year 2019-2020 having members from all across Pakistan and aboard majority of those who participated in our sessions and training workshops in year 2019-2020. The Whatsapp group is growing at present 77 folks from diverse departments had become member to that.
Strategic plan for the year 2021 shall only be implemented subject to the availability of financial resources as estimated will require about 80,000 (US dollars) in the year 2021 for smooth running of above proposed advocacy campaigning, research survey, and individual cases.