Lahore, April 22: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed its alarm and disappointment at the Supreme Court verdict acquitting the men accused of raping Mukhtaran Mai nine years ago and has stated that the decision would add to difficulties that rape victims face in bringing their tormentors to justice.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said, “It is utterly disappointing that insufficient police investigation and delay in registering a case with the police have been made basis for acquittal of the accused. HRCP also has serious concerns that the courts lack the capacity and the sensitivity to properly appraise evidence in rape cases.
Members of the jirga that had decreed that Mukhtaran should be raped were publicly identified, as were her rapists. It is neither unusual for police to submit flawed challans to facilitate acquittal, nor rare for courts to demand better investigation where they are not satisfied with the probe. The idea that delay in the registration of the rape case created doubts about the veracity of the charge ignores the trauma and harassment rape victims face. Both these aspects have also been acknowledged in the dissenting note by one of the judges on the three-member Supreme Court bench.
HRCP has serious concerns over safety of Mukhtaran Mai and urges the government to see to it that adequate steps are taken to ensure that she is not harmed in any way by the influential accused. HRCP also hopes that the government would seek a review of the verdict and that the court will do all that it can to ensure that flaws in the police investigation are removed.
The most distressing aspect of the outcome of Mukhtaran Mai’s case is that in a country where rape remains widespread and often goes unreported verdicts such as these would discourage victims from speaking out against their tormentors or reporting the crime for fear of further agony for themselves and their families. It could also lead to increase in crimes against women as perpetrators will be confident of getting away scot free.”