The autopsy of a Christian man in Pakistan who died shortly after his release from police custody shows that he suffered torture and abuse, according to reports.
The victim, Amir Masih, worked as a gardener in Lahore and died days after he was summoned to the North Cantt Police Station on Aug. 28, according to a first information report filed by Masih’s brother.
The FIR states that Masih was summoned to the station by police sub-inspector Zeeshan on accusations of petty theft.
Masih was then taken to an undisclosed location and allegedly subjected to torture. And on Sept. 2, police officers were seen dragging Masih into a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries.
The family alleges that their loved one died as a result of injuries sustained during an assault by police officers. A post-mortem, made public on Sunday, found evidence of torture on Masih’s body.
According to the Pakistani English-language newspaper The News International, the post-mortem report confirmed marks of torture on Masih’s hands, back and arms. Additionally, Masih suffered broken ribs.
Security video from outside the hospital substantiates accusations that Masih was tortured. The footage shows police officers transporting Masih on a motorcycle. Once they pull up to the hospital's entrance, Masih is seen falling off a motorcycle and then officers kick him while he's on the ground before dragging him into the hospital.
Charges have been filed against Zeeshan and five other police officers for murder, wrongful confinement, and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.
Ejaz Alam Augustine, Punjab’s minister of human rights and minority affairs, visited Masih’s family and promised them that justice would prevail and that violations of human rights would not be tolerated, according to The Express Tribune.
Pakistan ranks as the fifth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
While Christian persecution in Pakistan continues to be a major problem, Masih’s death highlights another troubling trend: police abuse against minorities and suspected criminals. Masih’s death represents the third case of a person dying in police custody in Punjab in recent weeks.
“While the police typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, illness, or accident, victims’ family members who come forward frequently allege that the deaths were the result of torture or other ill-treatment,” a Human Rights Watch report published on Sept. 2 reads. “Human Rights Watch research has found that those from marginalized groups are particularly at risk of police abuse.”
“While Pakistan does not have any domestic laws criminalizing torture, Pakistan’s Constitution does prohibit the use of torture for extracting evidence,” the report adds. “But criminal suspects and their families justifiably worry about torture in custody, especially given the lack of accountability for police officers who commit abuses.”
On Sept. 1, Salahuddin Ayubi, a mentally disabled man accused of robbing an ATM machine, died while in police custody in Rahim Yar Khan.
According to Geo.TV, video footage emerged on social media last week showing police officers beating Ayubi. A murder case has been registered by Ayubi’s father against three police officials related to Ayubi’s death.
On the same day that Ayubi died, Dawn.com reports that a middle-aged man died as a result of the abuse he suffered while being kept in a torture cell in the Gujjarpura area of Lahore.
According to The Nation, the torture cell in Gujjarpura was discovered last month by journalists and local residents. In the torture cell surrounded by forest and bushes were five prisoners chained up.
According to a police spokesman, four police officers were suspended in Gujjarpura as a formal investigation has been launched.
One man who was held in the torture chamber told a news outlet that he was beaten in front of his family.
“We did not do anything wrong,” one man was quoted as saying. “The police wanted to extort cash from my family. They beat us only to get money.”
In the Punjab city of Vehari, eight police officers were arrested for allegedly electrocuting and beating a woman accused of the robbery in a torture cell. The woman was also said to have been hanged in the stairs.
Geo.TV reports that Punjab government spokesperson Shahbaz Gil promised that a draft resolution for police reforms is almost complete and a decision on whether to implement those reforms will be made in the next two to three weeks.