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Provincial Conference on Access to Justice for Vulnerable Groups in Criminal Justice System in Sindh

 The Provincial Conference was organized by the Legal Rights Forum (LRF) under the Project “Supporting Mechanisms for Vulnerable Groups in Criminal Justice System that was supported by GIZ-CIS II.

This Provincial level conference was attended by Head of Program of GIZ-CIS II, Home Secretary Sindh, DG Sindh Judicial Academy, Secretary P&D, Secretary Social Welfare Department, Secretary Women Development Department, Member NCHR, Chairperson Sindh Commission on Status of Women, President Karachi Bar Association, Member Sindh Bar Council, MIT Sindh High Court, representative of IG Prison, DIG Police Training, Additional Prosecutor General Sindh, Former IGP Sindh, Chairperson Sindh Human Rights Commission, UNDP SDGs Coordinator and representatives of civil society organizations, academia, lawyer forums and media.

The Executive Director of LRF Mr. Tahir Iqbal welcomed the participants and assured that the day-long Conference will help discuss important issues of the criminal justice system in favor of vulnerable group in getting easy access to justice. We, under the project, developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and have tried to capacitate relevant stakeholders to provide the required services to the vulnerable groups of the society particularity juveniles in criminal justice system existing in Sindh, he continued. According to him, these SOPs have drawn lines of the mandated roles of the relevant stakeholders to facilitate the juveniles in getting access to justice. Besides, legal aid has been provided to under-trial juveniles and a database has been developed with help of Home Department Government of Sindh to follow the cases of juveniles for better resolution.

Dr. Astrid Bosch, Head of Program-German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ-CIS II) said that rule of law is unavoidable for protection of human rights of the citizens and there is need to prioritize the vulnerable groups of the society to access justice based on legal frameworks existing at local, provincial, national and international level.

Mr. Qazi Shahid Pervez, Secretary Home Department Government of Sindh, shared that financial poverty is the root cause of the multiple vulnerabilities and in our Sindh Province it is perpetuated in more than half of the population. He appreciated the SOPs, developed in consultation with Sindh Judicial Academy and other juvenile justice state actors, and hoped that these would make positive difference in performance of relevant stakeholders in criminal justice system for juveniles. He assured that the Home Department will support such initiatives and the SOPs will be adopted and implemented as per spirit of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000 in Sindh.

Honorable Justice Sindh High Court Mr. Muhammad Ali Mazhar said that laws and rules are brilliant but there is need to keep eye on implementation of laws at provincial and district level. He shared that the legal aid mechanism needs adequate funding from government and existing provision of funding on free legal aid need to be revisited and institutionalized. According to him, the state departments are not working as per their given role and therefore a lot of grievances are coming to the courts.

Justice Khillji Arif Hussain, Director General-Sindh Judiciary Academy, invited the relevant stakeholders to focus on the question how legally denied people can better be protected particularly poor and vulnerable groups of the society. He stressed on the need to raise awareness among the society as most vulnerable groups of the society do not know their basic rights.

Justice (R) Majida Razvi, Chairperson Sindh Human Rights Commission, highlighted that if the duty bearers work honestly and with commitment, the existing laws have the strength to give access to justice to vulnerable segments of the society. She stressed on the need to strengthen coordination between the public departments to holistically address the issue of human rights violations.

Mr. Abdul Razaq, MIT Sindh High Court, appreciated the development of precise SOPs to strengthen the juvenile criminal justice system. He said that there is lot of room to improve the system and invited the LRF to rout the SOPs through High Court of the Sindh to make sure that the related government departments take these SOPs seriously.

Ms. Aliya Shahid, Secretary Social Welfare Department-Government of Sindh, welcomed the SOPs to facilitate the juveniles in getting justice and transforming them into responsible citizens. She assured that the Social Welfare Department would own it and play its role to rehabilitate and reintegrate juveniles back in the society.

Mr. Niaz Ahmed Siddiqi, former IG Sindh Police, called for strengthening prosecution services in order to make sure the access to justice for the vulnerable groups in criminal justice system in Sindh.

Mr. Sharjeel Kharal, DIG Training Sindh Police, highlighted the need for training to the police on investigation and laws for vulnerable groups of the society. Police need to know the existing referral mechanism for facilitation to the victims with regard to the access to justice, he said.

Additional Prosecutor General Sindh Mr. Saleem Akhtar, P&D Secretary Ms. Rehana Memon, Secretary WDD Mr. Haroon Ahmed, Member of NCHR Ms. Anis Haroon, President Karachi Bar Association Mr. Haider Imam Rizvi, SPP-Special Prison for Women Ms. Sheeba Shah, Senior Technical Advisor GIZ-CIS II Mr. Shuakat Hussain, Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Ms. Nuzhat Shirin, UNDP SDGs Coordinator, Mr. Naveed Sheikh, Director Programs LRF Mr. Tahir Hasnain Shah and Mr. Ghulam Ali of GIZ-CIS II also spoke in the event.