05 May, 2011

Restorative Justice System can help reduce crime

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - “There are currently almost 80,000 people in prison in Pakistan, mostly under trial and belong to poor class” pointed out Anees Jillani, an advocate and SPARC board member. “Normally, a judge has to deal with an average of 150 cases per day” making justice almost impossible. And thus “implementation of restorative justice is the need of the hour” stressed the speakers at a conference on the ‘Restorative Justice System: A missing approach in the justice system of Pakistan’ organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) on Wednesday.

The objective of the conference was to initiate a debate on the existing justice system, promote the culture of restorative justice for juveniles and find gaps in the justice system of Pakistan and understand challenges of institutionalizing the restorative justice in Pakistani society.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a response to criminal justice that focuses on repairing harm. Howard Zehr, a pioneer in the field of RJ, states that “it is an attempt to correct some of the weakness of western legal system which focuses on punishing the offender and not repairing harm.”

Riaz Fatyana, Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights lamented that the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 exists only on paper. He said “the jails are transforming the minor offenders into professional criminals and “there is a need of a bill including provisions for establishment of rehabilitation centers for juveniles.”

Ms. Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Human Rights stressed for the need of rehabilitation for the children involved in the crimes. She invited civil society members to work with her for legislation with the Law Minister for implementation of restorative justice.

Abdul Khalique Shaikh, DIG Sindh Police emphasized that there must be separate justice system for the juveniles. He shared a thoughtful presentation on ‘how the impact of the adult criminal justice system on children who come into conflict with the law.’

Ehsan Sadiq, Assistant Inspector General of Islamabad Capital Territory Police, while discussing the challenges of institutionalizing restorative justice system said that the criminal justice system focuses on the offender and there is little scope for rehabilitation.

Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan Sherwani, Director Karachi Center for Dispute Resolution suggested ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) method which refers to a variety of techniques for resolving disputes without litigation.
Abdullah Khoso of SPARC, sharing the status of probation in Pakistan informed that “there are 37 probation officers (PO) in Punjab with 82 Juvenile Prisoners (JP), in Sindh there are 3 POs and 105 JPs, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there are 22 POs and 2 JPs while in Balochistan there are 11 POs and 2 JPs.”

Ali Gohar, Advisor Just Peace International (JPI) discussing the role of Masalihiti Committees shared that in international practice there are examples of circles which were quite similar to our traditional jirga system. While Hassan Mangi, Director NCCWD discussed implications of jirga system saying that in absence of any Juvenile Courts, there are a number of cases pending in the Courts.