Pakistani police have arrested 25 members of an informal village council accused of ordering the rape of a teenage girl as revenge for a sexual assault committed by her brother.
The village elders were detained in multiple raids over two days after allegedly sanctioning the 16-year-old’s rape.
The council was called in after a family accused a 16-year-old boy of raping his 12-year-old neighbour earlier this month.
The council ruled the sister of the boy should be handed over to the initial victim’s brother to be raped. The punishment was carried out on 17 July after the girl’s family handed her over.
The rapes took place in Muzaffarabad, a village near the city of Multan in the province of of Punjab. Both rapists have also been arrested.
“A total of 29 people were involved in this ghastly crime, and we have 25 of them in our custody,” Multan city police officer Ahsan Younus told Reuters.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has also requested a report on the case, which echoed a notorious case from 2002 in which another teenager was gang-raped on a local council’s order.
The new case came to light when both families filed criminal charges with police accusing the other family’s son of rape.
Police questioned both families and soon learned the role of the informal village council, Mr Younus said.
“All the village council elders who ordered the revenge rape have been arrested,” he added.
Both victims and their mothers have been sent to a women’s protection centre, he added.
A regional police chief and other officers have been suspended for delaying arrests.
Pakistan has a centuries-old tradition of quick justice handed down by gatherings of local elders, known as jirgas or panchayats, seen by many villagers as preferable to the often cumbersome and corrupt formal legal system.
In most of the country, jirgas are tolerated but not recognised by the formal courts and police.
The jirgas and the practice of “revenge rape” drew international attention in 2002 when a woman was ordered to be gang-raped by a local council for a male relative’s alleged crime.
Mukhtaran Mai took the rare step of filing criminal charges against her attackers and six men were convicted and sentenced to death later that year, although five of them were later freed on appeal.
Ms Mai went on to become a high-profile campaigner for women’s rights in Pakistan.
“Another tribe court (panchayat) in south Punjab Multan and another girl was raped. We are still in 2002,” she tweeted this week.
Nadia Rahman, Amnesty International’s campaigner in Pakistan, appealed to authorities in Islamabad to crack down on village councils that issue the punishments.