by Mira Naseer J.D.’22
This past winter term, I completed a placement with Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). JPP is a non-profit organization based in Lahore that represents the most vulnerable Pakistani prisoners facing the harshest punishments, at home and abroad. The organization’s areas of work include death penalty, overseas Pakistani prisoners, police torture victims, prisoners with intellectual disabilities and juvenile offenders. JPP investigates, advocates, educates, and litigates – building public and political support as well as legal precedent that will lead to systemic reform of the criminal justice system in Pakistan. The organization’s work combines strategic litigation, domestic and international policy advocacy campaigns, and building the capacity of stakeholders who can improve the representation and treatment of individuals at risk of execution.
Over the course of the placement, I worked with both the policy and advocacy team, and the legal team. I helped formulate an action plan for prison authorities in Pakistan to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, and safeguard the most vulnerable prisoners, including those with life sentences and those on Pakistan’s death row. My research focused on proposed testing models for prisons in Pakistan, delineating best practices implemented in correctional facilities globally, as well as key strategies for prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons in line with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States CDC.
I also had the opportunity to work on a civil society shadow report for Pakistan’s upcoming review by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Specifically, I helped draft the submission sections on the right to health for prisoners with disabilities, and the right to be free from torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. As part of this work, I was able to better familiarize myself with domestic Pakistani law, regional human rights jurisprudence, and international human rights obligations. This report was even more important in light of the pandemic, which has exacerbated preexisting inequities within the justice system, especially for the most vulnerable prisoners.
Working with JPP was an incredible opportunity to bridge my interests in human rights law and criminal justice. Having studied capital punishment in the U.S. during the fall semester, I was able to bring insights from that course into a comparative setting. The placement was conducted remotely, which brings with it unique challenges that we have all become far too accustomed to. However, it was still a great opportunity to work with an advocacy organization in my home country that is doing some of the most critical work on criminal justice reform.