The Great Debate UK

The real torture is in the waiting


Marc Callcutt- Marc Callcutt is a casework lawyer for the Reprieve Death Penalty team. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Exactly five years ago, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, two Britons, Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman, were in Dadyal Police Station, in Pakistan having been arrested on murder charges.

The police used their usual interrogation techniques. Rehan was hung upside down, in what is known as an inverse strappado, and had one of his finger nails pulled out. Naheem was tied to a chair and had red chillies rubbed in his eyes. Both had the police attempt to break their legs, and both were subjected to hours of falaka – a torture that involves whipping of the feet with a rod or cane, used because it is incredibly painful but leaves few scars. The torture was such that in the end, both of them signed “confessions” accepting their role in the murders.

Yet, if you talk to the two men now, it is not the 14 days of torture they suffered at the hands of the police they will complain about, but rather their ongoing torture at the hands of the Pakistan criminal justice system. Five years on, they remain in prison, unconvicted, desperate for their trial. Every day they wake up uncertain of how long they will remain in prison – the potential of the death penalty hanging over them like the sword of Damocles. They will tell you that this torture is much crueller than anything that they faced at the hands of the police. Rehan in particular has been told Reprieve that if his case fails to progress by the end of the year he will be forced to “sentence himself”.