In a welcome move, the government has designated the District and Session Judges’ Courts (East and West) of Islamabad as Human Rights Courts to expedite the prosecution of offences relating to the people’s human right. The announcement came after the Islamabad High Court ordered the establishment of human rights courts to handle cases involving human rights violations.
The National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) Act 2012, enacted by the PPP government nearly a decade ago, mandates the establishment of such courts. However, successive federal administrations have failed to complete the process of establishing and notifying such courts.The Ministry of Law and Justice was responsible for establishing the courts, as it is under its jurisdiction. The NCHR Act clearly stated the need for these courts in order to expedite the prosecution of offences arising from human rights violations. A similar shift is required in the provinces.
The provincial governments should follow suit and designate Courts of Sessions as Human Rights Courts for all districts in their respective provinces to hear such cases. Furthermore, human right ministries are required in all provinces. It is worth noting that the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2010 delegated many responsibilities to provincial governments, including the implementation of human rights laws at the provincial level. Provincial human rights departments have been established, but they are usually linked to other entities. In Balochistan, for example, the Human Rights Wing collaborates with the Interprovincial Coordination Department, whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is concerned with law and parliamentary affairs.
Given the alarmingly high number of human rights violations in all provinces, it appears imperative that they establish human rights ministries and human rights courts to deal with the alarmingly high number of such cases.
For example, there are cases of custodial torture throughout the country, but there is no separate redress mechanism for such cases. If there is a human rights ministry at the provincial level and human rights courts at the district level, victims of such torture are more likely to receive prompt justice. The same is true for juvenile detainees, who are frequently victims of injustice throughout Pakistan.
These detainees deserve sympathetic ears and expedited trials, which are only possible if HR courts are established in each district of the country. Provincial governments must take proactive steps in this direction rather than waiting for their high courts to direct them. Human rights promotion and protection are the primary responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments. The constitution establishes our fundamental human rights; it is the state’s responsibility to protect us from their violation.