The core mandate of the Sindh Human Rights Commission is cited under Section (4) of the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011 which empowers it to inquire into cases of “violation of human rights or abetment thereof, and negligence in the prevention of such a violation by a public servant”. The inquiries are taken up suo-moto or on filing of complaints by the victims or their families. The Commission has powers to propose remedial measures including action to be taken against the persons found to be in violation or in negligence of ensuring human rights.
Cases received and addressed by the Commission included murder, gender-based violence, blasphemy allegations, torture, property disputes, child marriage, rape, suicide, mistreatment in hospitals, police brutality, shortage of water and basic amenities, absence or disrepair of school buildings and environmental issues.
The Commission is guided by the definition of human rights as provided in the 2011 Act as, “the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and enforceable by the law”. For cases of Gender Based Violence, the Commission follows the UN definition that states, “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
The SHRC follows the Commission’s Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to pursue these cases and intervenes directly when required to facilitate access to justice. A complainant is asked to submit an application and record her/his case to an officer of the SHRC. A log book of complaints is maintained. On review, a formal letter is drafted to the concerned authorities to comment and respond. The SHRC reviews the status of the case and records the performance and progress of the concerned department. The Commission may visit a complainant during a field visit to various districts and also taps focal persons in select districts to receive information and progress on cases.
If the Commission is not satisfied with the proceedings, or details provided, the authority may be summoned to present an explanation. The Commission can further conduct an on-the-spot inquiry. Once the investigation is completed, the Commission files recommendations that are sent to the Government of Sindh with copies to the concerned departments for a follow up.