While robbing a cash machine in Faisalabad, Pakistan, last week, Salahuddin Ayubi cheekily stuck his tongue out at the surveillance camera. His act got him a lot of media attention – and got him arrested on August 30.
Two days later, Ayubi was dead. His family says that he was killed in custody.
In a leaked video of Ayubi in police custody in Rahim Yar Khan district, Punjab province, he initially appears fine. But since his death police say that Ayubi had been behaving like a “mad man” when he suddenly fell unconscious, and was dead by the time he was taken to a hospital. Ayubi’s family said he had a mental health condition and had his address tattooed on his arms so that the family could be informed in case of an emergency. The police never contacted them. On September 2, Ayubi’s father filed a criminal case against three police officials alleging that his son was tortured to death.
Ayubi’s death is the latest example of the widespread problem of custodial deaths in Punjab province. While the police typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, illness, or accident, victims’ family members who come forward frequently allege that the deaths were the result of torture or other ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch research has found that those from marginalized groups are particularly at risk of police abuse.
While Pakistan does not have any domestic laws criminalizing torture, Pakistan’s Constitution does prohibit the use of torture for extracting evidence. But criminal suspects and their families justifiably worry about torture in custody, especially given the lack of accountability for police officers who commit abuses.
As the leaked video goes on to show, Ayubi asks his interrogators: “Who taught you these torture methods?” It is a question the authorities also need to ask if they want to put an end to torture.