Lahore, Aug 6 (ANI): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged India and Pakistan reconsider the plight of each other's nationals incarcerated in prisons across the border, as both the governments exhibit a welcome resolve to resume dialogue.
The HRCP asked the two countries to institute long-term policies to de-criminalise minor visa or border-crossing violations and stop violating Article 73 (enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal state) of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that prohibits the arrest of fishermen crossing maritime boundaries.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the HRCP urged an early resumption of the process of exchange of prisoners, on hold since the Mumbai attacks.
"HRCP endorses the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum's demand for a permanent solution that includes a policy in which Pakistan and India stop arresting each other's fishermen for maritime boundary violations. Such detentions routinely violate Article 73 of UNCLOS, according to which penalties for violations may not include imprisonment, in the absence of agreements to the contrary by the states concerned, or any other form of corporal punishment," it said.
When making such arrests, security agencies also seize boats, equipment and catch worth lakhs of rupees," the commission said, adding that dozens of such boats, representing the hard work and sweat of the poor, lie rotting in harbours on either side.
The HRCP said Pakistan and India allow each other's arrested citizens no access to consular services until after they complete their prison terms, with many languishing for years in brutal conditions.
"They have no legal rights or the ability to challenge their arrest or engage a lawyer. Normally their families remain oblivious of their arrests, location of prisons and the conditions there," it added.
"Cases come to public notice when prisoners' families or friends are lucky to acquire information, take up the issue and notify the media. Difficulties in engaging lawyers across the divide also add to the woes of the incarcerated prisoners and their families." (ANI)