Lowenstein Clinic Report Details Faisalabad Police Abuse Toward Juveniles

Working closely with the NGO Justice Project Pakistan, students from The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic at Yale Law School have published a report documenting widespread police abuse of juveniles by the Faisalabad, Pakistan, police force.

The report analyzed 1,867 medical records uncovered by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which document police abuse. Many of the records showed an alarming number of children had suffered from severe physical and psychological abuse.

Students from the Lowenstein Clinic, including Kristine Beckerle ’15, Ignacio Mujica Torres ’13 LLM, Babur Khwaja ’14, and Deborah Francois ’14 analyzed the data from these medical records and information contained from comprehensive interviews, eventually writing three substantive reports on police brutality and torture in Faisalabad. The first report, Policing as Torture, was released in May 2014. The newest report, Abuse of Juveniles by the Faisalabad Police, was published in June 2014 and only recently released in Pakistan. A third report focused on the treatment of women. The issue was further spotlighted in August 2014 when the students published an op-ed on the topic in the Baltimore Sun.

According to records from the latest report, of the 1,424 individuals abused by the Faisalabad police, 58 were under 18, or juveniles. Because children often do not report police brutality, the actual number of victims is likely higher, students said. Faisalabad is the third largest city in Pakistan.

“The incidents documented in this report constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” said Beckerle. “In many cases, the abuse constituted torture.”

Based on the data, the report found that the police assaulted children in much the same way they assaulted adults, thereby disregarding the special protective measures that Pakistani and international law afford children. As they did with adults, police frequently arrested children for no cause, physically and psychologically abused them, and denied them access to medical care and contact with their families or legal assistance, according to the report.

The report documents how police used various methods to abuse children. In some instances, they applied a “strappado,” hanging victims by their wrists with their arms pulled behind their backs, and left the victims in this position for lengthy periods of time until the victims' limbs grew numb. In other cases, police used the the tactic known as “falaka,” in which police officers beat victims on the bottoms of their feet with clubs and other objects, damaging the sensitive nerve endings there and making it painful for the victims to walk or even stand.

By publishing these findings, students from the Lowenstein clinic seek to give a voice to the children and families who have suffered abuse and were met with silence or retaliation by the Pakistan government when they spoke up.

“The hope in publishing the report is to draw attention to police abuse in Faisalabad, but also to provide clear and convincing evidence that this abuse is widespread, and not the work of a few rogue officers,” said Beckerle. “All three reports call for an end to police impunity and provide details on both the Pakistani and international legal norms the police are violating.”

Justice Project Pakistan, or JPP, is a non-profit human rights law firm established in Lahore in December 2009. JPP provides direct pro bono legal and investigative services to the most vulnerable prisoners in the Pakistani justice system, particularly those facing the death penalty, victims of police torture, mentally ill prisoners and victims of the “War on Terror.”

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic is a Yale Law School course that gives students first-hand experience in human rights advocacy under the supervision of international human rights lawyers. The Clinic undertakes litigation and research projects on behalf of human rights organizations and individual victims of human rights abuses.