EU stresses use of forensic evidence to achieve justice

LAHORE: Asserting that the use of forensic evidence in the judicial process is still underestimated in Pakistan, European Union (EU) Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain said the recent horrific crime in Kasur highlights how fundamental good quality forensic evidence is to achieving justice

“I will like to call for the government of Punjab to encourage them to further develop and strengthen the legal base for utilising forensic evidence in criminal justice system,” Mr Cautain said at a ceremony held at the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) here on Monday to announce €2.5 million for the agency.

“I am very happy to announce the second phase of European Union’s support to the Counter Terrorism Associated Prosecutorial Reform Initiative (CAPRI) Programme,” he said. A comprehensive legislation in place when this project would end in December 2020 would certainly be a major achievement.

William Middleton, political counsellor at the British High Commission in Islamabad; PFSA Director General Dr Ashraf Tahir; and the additional chief secretary also attended the ceremony.

Ambassador announces €2.5m for PFSA to strengthen criminal justice system

This support by the EU/British High Commission to the PFSA will focus on increasing the quality and contribution of forensic science to achieve sound justice outcomes.

Ambassador Cautain said supporting the proceedings of terrorism-related cases from a rule of law perspective was one of the priority areas for the EU alongside countering finance to terrorism, increasing preparedness and response capacities to terrorism threat, supporting Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) initiatives, and preventing and countering violent extremism.

“The European Union assistance to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency began in July 2012 and was focused on improving criminal justice system through more rigorous analysis of forensic evidence,” he explained.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between the agency and the EU/British High Commission. Ambassador Cautain said the EU was committed to contributing to a better criminal justice system in Pakistan.

Major achievements in the first phase included the improved quality and increase of use of forensic evidence by various actors in the criminal justice chain. One of the PFSA’s achievements was the recent international accreditation in firearms and toolmarks, meaning the evidence analysed at the authority could be admissible in other countries, including Europe.

The second phase of EU support to CAPRI in the field of forensics included cooperation and sharing best practices with other provincial forensic institutions. This phase would also emphasise strongly on mobilising a variety of expertise from EU member states.

“Forensic investigation and the evidence it produces play an increasingly important role in criminal justice system,” Dr Tahir said.

“Since its establishment in 2011, the PFSA with its young team of scientists and support staff has generated more than 360,000 forensic reports and those reports had been given due weight in the court of law,” he added.

In this perspective, the EU and British High Commission had always been committed to supporting the PFSA since its inception under the umbrella of CAPRI. The agency was now delivering technical training on behalf of international donor community and had delivered operational forensic work in cases from the US, UK, Norway, Egypt and many other countries, he claimed.

“The CAPRI project has sponsored reviews of many departments of PFSA, including latent finger prints, DNA and serology, firearms and toolmarks, trace chemistry, computer forensics, questioned documents etc,” he said.

“I hope that this cooperation between the PFSA and EU/British High Commission will prove to be fruitful to keep pace with advances in the field and to continue providing high-quality services to the judicial system in Pakistan,” Dr Tahir added.