A Pakistan court today stayed the execution of Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death as a juvenile and due to be executed tomorrow (Wednesday), after declaring the government’s inquiry into his age ‘prima facie illegal’.
In order to suggest that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his conviction - which was based on a forced 'confession' extracted after days of torture - the government's Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) led inquiry relied almost exclusively on the trial record in making its assessment of Shafqat’s age. A recent Supreme Court judgment acknowledged the unreliability of such documents and warned: “Recording of an accused person’s age at the time of recording his statement under s.342 CrPC is invariably based upon a cursory visual assessment which can substantially be off the mark, as proverbially, appearances can be deceptive.”
The FIA also relied on school records confiscated from Shafqat’s village to undermine the testimony of his family members. However, a copy of these same school records obtained from media sources shows that they put Shafqat’s date of birth as 20.08.1986, which would make him 17 when he was convicted.
During their inquiry the government also did not allow Shafqat’s lawyers to be present when they interviewed him, or when they interviewed his parents, and other witnesses were reportedly subject to intimidation during interviews with the investigation team.
Today the Islamabad High Court described the Pakistani government’s decision to use the Federal Investigation Authority to conduct the inquiry into Shafqat’s age as ‘prima facie illegal’, and stayed his execution until the case has been resolved. The IHC has given the government until tomorrow to respond.
Shafqat was convicted of kidnap and murder and sentenced to death in 2004 following days of torture by police including brutal beatings with sticks and fists, electrocution, and being burnt with cigarettes. Shafqat has always maintained his innocence and he was under 18 at the time. The execution of juveniles is illegal under both Pakistani and international law.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at Reprieve, said: “Shafqat Hussain was convicted following horrific torture by police when he was just a child, yet the government is trying to execute him. The High Court has acknowledged that the Pakistani government’s inquiry into his age is entirely unfit for purpose. The government’s response to the serious issues in this case – trying to rush through an illegitimate and non-transparent enquiry process and proceed with the execution – has been truly shocking. Today’s ruling should be taken as an opportunity to step back and ensure that a serious review of the issues raised in this case, and many others like it, can now take place.”
Source: Reprieve, May 5, 2015
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