A Piece of Research on Legal Aid in Pakistan

Ahdi Hassan
Posted April 18, 2017 from Pakistan

I am sending you our Research work for your kind information. In Pakistan today, the vast majority of children in detention are under trial, that is they have not been convicted of any offence as yet but are awaiting the conclusion of their trials. Unfortunately it is children - Pakistan's most vulnerable denizens - that suffer the deficiencies of Pakistan's criminal justice system, which is fraught with delays and procedural abuse. Much has been written about the plight of children in detention, and while different organisations, both government and non-governmental, are working to alleviate the problem, the gap persists. Challenges Some of the challenges faced by the Juveniles are briefly discussed below. Lack of Effective Legal Representation for Children in Detention The problems inherent within the juvenile justice system, particularly the specific problem of juvenile detention, owe principally to the conspicuous absence of an effective state legal aid provider. We note that there may be a positive development with respect to the provision of Legal Services, as the Punjab Bar Council's Free Legal Aid Committee has initiated a pilot scheme in 2006. However, awareness in the public of this measure is presently low. Detention Culture Unfortunately, a culture of prolonged and unnecessary detention persists in Pakistan. This practice is often in contravention of the rights enshrined in law, which contain specific safeguards for ensuring that children are not needlessly detailed. Research has shown that children are often arrested without due cause owing either to the misdeed of an individual officer, or due to incorrect information. Moreover, the child is often not produced in front of a court within 24 hours upon arrest as required by law. The first statement of the child is recorded without the presence of their lawyer, and the child is not made aware of his right to legal representation or his right to remain silent. Once arrested for what are usually petty offences, the children are subjected to detention in conditions that usually have a detrimental effect upon the child's psychological and physical well being. Moreover the children face the very real threat of physical abuse, not only from investigating and detaining police officers, but from fellow inmates who may or may not be juveniles themselves. There is also currently no effective process of rehabilitation within the detention facilities. Lack of Rehabilitative Facilities during Detention and Following Release Juvenile detainees have all been through the harrowing experience of arrest, police custody and detention. The impact this has upon the psyche of the child is evident in the number of children in detention who have engaged in self harm and mutilation within the detention facilities themselves. A significant number of children have experienced substance abuse and may therefore also require drug rehabilitation. Psychological counselling and educational empowerment must therefore become an essential component of the justice that is to be accorded to the children. Not only would this serve the best interests of the child, but would have the crucial societal effect of preventing the child from returning to any criminal activity. While the need for mental rehabilitation remains paramount, attention must also be drawn to the immediate obligation to ensure that children within custody remain physically healthy. Many children within detention facilities have been exposed to skin diseases (primarily scabies) and run the risk of the blood diseases (HIV, Hepatitis) as a consequence of prison conditions and self mutilation. These require detection and treatment. The Means Tested Provision of Surety Most of the cases undertaken by the project (over 55%) involve bailable offences. Nonetheless, a serious problem exists with respect to the issue of the provision of surety money for bail. Please feel free to contact me if you need any information.

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 In Pakistan today, the vast majority of children in detention are under trial, that is they have not been convicted of any offence as yet but are awaiting the conclusion of their trials. Unfortunately it is children - Pakistan's most vulnerable denizens - that suffer the deficiencies of Pakistan's criminal justice system, which is fraught with delays and procedural abuse. Much has been written about the plight of children in detention, and while different organisations, both government and non-governmental, are working to alleviate the problem, the gap persists. Challenges Some of the challenges faced by the Juveniles are briefly discussed below. Lack of Effective Legal Representation for Children in Detention The problems inherent within the juvenile justice system, particularly the specific problem of juvenile detention, owe principally to the conspicuous absence of an effective state legal aid provider. We note that there may be a positive development with respect to the provision of Legal Services, as the Punjab Bar Council's Free Legal Aid Committee has initiated a pilot scheme in 2006. However, awareness in the public of this measure is presently low. Detention Culture Unfortunately, a culture of prolonged and unnecessary detention persists in Pakistan. This practice is often in contravention of the rights enshrined in law, which contain specific safeguards for ensuring that children are not needlessly detailed. Research has shown that children are often arrested without due cause owing either to the misdeed of an individual officer, or due to incorrect information. Moreover, the child is often not produced in front of a court within 24 hours upon arrest as required by law. The first statement of the child is recorded without the presence of their lawyer, and the child is not made aware of his right to legal representation or his right to remain silent. Once arrested for what are usually petty offences, the children are subjected to detention in conditions that usually have a detrimental effect upon the child's psychological and physical well being. Moreover the children face the very real threat of physical abuse, not only from investigating and detaining police officers, but from fellow inmates who may or may not be juveniles themselves. There is also currently no effective process of rehabilitation within the detention facilities. Lack of Rehabilitative Facilities during Detention and Following Release Juvenile detainees have all been through the harrowing experience of arrest, police custody and detention. The impact this has upon the psyche of the child is evident in the number of children in detention who have engaged in self harm and mutilation within the detention facilities themselves. A significant number of children have experienced substance abuse and may therefore also require drug rehabilitation. Psychological counselling and educational empowerment must therefore become an essential component of the justice that is to be accorded to the children. Not only would this serve the best interests of the child, but would have the crucial societal effect of preventing the child from returning to any criminal activity. While the need for mental rehabilitation remains paramount, attention must also be drawn to the immediate obligation to ensure that children within custody remain physically healthy. Many children within detention facilities have been exposed to skin diseases (primarily scabies) and run the risk of the blood diseases (HIV, Hepatitis) as a consequence of prison conditions and self mutilation. These require detection and treatment. The Means Tested Provision of Surety Most of the cases undertaken by the project (over 55%) involve bailable offences. Nonetheless, a serious problem exists with respect to the issue of the provision of surety money for bail. Please feel free to contact me if you need any information.

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A Piece of Research on Legal Aid in Pakistan

Comments 8

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Jill Langhus
Apr 19, 2017
Apr 19, 2017

Hi Ahdi. Thanks for sharing your post about these unfortunate children. Why are these children in detention? Are most of them boys? It seems to me the best action to take would be addressing why there are so many children being in detention rather than focusing on the aftermath of their wellbeing. I agree that is important, but if there were better systems in place so they weren't going in the first place then the aftermath wouldn't be as crucial as a problem that it sounds like it is.

Ahdi Hassan
Apr 19, 2017
Apr 19, 2017

Thank you so much for encouraging,

These children are among the most traumatised. Children who are arrested and charged with offences are very likely to be coming from the same group of disabled and disadvantaged people. We must remember that every child in detention in over countries or Pakistan is a sign of our failure as a society. What external education was provided to children in detention ? It is time to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility so that children under 14 cannot be arrested.

Jill Langhus
Apr 20, 2017
Apr 20, 2017

You're welcome:) So, most of the children that are in detention are disabled and disadvantaged? Do you mean poor?

Ahdi Hassan
Apr 20, 2017
Apr 20, 2017

Dear jlanghus, I mean Disability-based disadvantage. It is just the last in a long series of bad experiences in which family and state have failed to protect them from harm and steer them out of trouble. I don't mean they are poor If offending by children is to be effectively tackled, their welfare needs must be addressed.

Jill Langhus
Apr 21, 2017
Apr 21, 2017

Oh, I think I see. What sort of disabilities? I'm still trying to figure out why disabled children would be taken to detention or prison, but yes, that would be a problem if they are falsely accused of crimes and then on top of that trauma their situations aren't being handled well in facilities, if that's what you're saying.

Ahdi Hassan
Apr 27, 2017
Apr 27, 2017

Different types of disabilities . Yes, you are right. We will need more energy to eradicate this issue.

Jill Langhus
Apr 28, 2017
Apr 28, 2017

I see. Thanks for clarifying. I hope you are able to improve/fix the situation for them:-)

Ahdi Hassan
Apr 19, 2017
Apr 19, 2017

Thank you so much for encouraging,

These children are among the most traumatised. Children who are arrested and charged with offences are very likely to be coming from the same group of disabled and disadvantaged people. We must remember that every child in detention in over countries or Pakistan is a sign of our failure as a society. What external education was provided to children in detention ? It is time to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility so that children under 14 cannot be arrested.